Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Methyl vs denatured alcohol


#1

As relates to jewelry use, that is: boric acid and alcohol, cleaning
agent, pitch solvent, fuel for jewelers alcohol lamps, etc., what is
the practical difference between methyl and denatured alcohol?

I have read that denatured is ethyl alcohol that has been made unfit
for drinking by the addition of small amounts of toxic additives.
That it is flammable and can be used as a cleaning solvent for
example.

And that methyl alcohol is a very simple alcohol linked, I believe
to oxygen molecules. This is also flammable and good for use in
certain types of camping stoves, jewelers alcohol lamps, etc.

Both are toxic.

But in practical usage in the jewelry studio does it matter which
one is used?

Thanks for your informed answers.

Joseph Bloyd
Bloomington, Indiana


#2
As relates to jewelry use, that is: boric acid and alcohol,
cleaning agent, pitch solvent, fuel for jewelers alcohol lamps,
etc., what is the practical difference between methyl and denatured
alcohol? 

The main differences are toxicity and solvent abilities. Boric acid
is much more soluble in methyl alcohol than ethyl alcohol. This means
that you will end up with much more boric acid on your work when the
methyl evaporates than when using ethyl alcohol. It is a significant
difference. Second while denatured alcohol is made to be toxic it is
nowhere near as poisonous as methyl alcohol. SO you need much
greater care when handling methyl alcohol as you can absorb it from
skin contact, breathing the vapors as well as ingestion.

I use methyl in my firecoat but nowhere else. For other uses I rely
on denatured for safety reasons.

Jim
James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#3

I suggest Methyl. The denatured alcohol has a water content so I was
told years ago. I tried denatured many many years ago and had
problems with it not dissolving with the boric as I wanted it to. I
switched to Methyl and never looked back. As far as other things
that might be added, I really couldn’t tell you… just don’t know.

Dan
http://www.dearmondtool.com


#4

Joseph,

Methyl is just plain toxic, denatured is ethyl (drinking kind) with
some methyl, gasoline and other nasties added. Denatured is probably
safer, or you can just pay the tax and buy damn near pure ethanol
(90% +) at the liquor store.

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#5

Ethanol is a strange duck. To get it above ~96% purity, you have to
use drying agents. Once above that purity, it will draw moisture from
the air until it gets back to ~96%. The most common denaturing
additive is camphor, not terribly toxic but it will make you very
sick. Methanol has one carbon, while ethanol has two.

Paul Anderson


#6

they are the same thing: methyl is denatured alcohol


#7
I suggest Methyl. The denatured alcohol has a water content so I
was told years ago. 

There is not any water added to Denatured Alcohol. If left open the
ethyl alcohol it will tend to pull a little water out of the air but
not enough to be a problem.

I tried denatured many many years ago and had problems with it not
dissolving with the boric as I wanted it to. I switched to Methyl
and never looked back. 

This is the biggest difference and it is like night and day. Methyl
is much better at dissolving boric acid. And as long as you are
careful with you industrial hygiene it is the first choice for fire
coat. But it is also no joke poisonous, and will enter the body
through the skin, lungs and of course by mouth if you are foolish
enough to ingest it. Ten ml can cause blindness and 30 ml can be
fatal, every bit you get into you does damage to your liver and other
organs.

Ethyl is a poison as well but you can metabolize it into something
less toxic.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#8
they are the same thing: methyl is denatured alcohol 

No they are not. Denatured Alcohol sold in the US is ethyl alcohol
with some denaturing agent added to it. This agent can be methyl
alcohol but more often then not is gasoline or ethyl acetate.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#9
they are the same thing: methyl is denatured alcohol 

Methanol doesn’t need to be denatured, it’s already poisonous.
Methanol, ethanol and isopropanol are all commonly sold under the
name rubbing alcohol, depending on where you get it. Neither methanol
nor isopropanol are drinkable.

Paul Anderson


#10
they are the same thing: methyl is denatured alcohol 

WRONG WRONG and WRONG

Two different chemicals. Methyl will kill ya from fumes, thru your
skin, injestion, or probably another 1/2 dozen ways. Denatured is
ethanol with added poisions (methyl, MEK and gasoline are common) Not
nearly as bad as methyl.

In fact a number of nice beverages are based on ethanol. Ya might
fall over but won’t die today.

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#11
they are the same thing: methyl is denatured alcohol 

Sort of. Most of the denatured alcohol I’ve seen available, in the
U.S. at any rate, is ethyl alcohol for the most part. Ethyl (grain)
alcohol of course is what’s in alcoholic beverages, and the intent of
"denaturing" it is to render it undrinkable. While a number of things
can be added to do this, the most common is methyl (wood) alcohol,
which is highly toxic stuff. it does not take a large addition of
methyl alcohol to the ethyl to render the ethyl sufficiently toxic
as to be both undrinkable, and also as a result, no longer subject to
the various taxes on drinkable alcohol products. So while there is
methyl alcohol in there as the denaturing agent, it’s still mostly
ethyl alcohol usually. This may vary in other locations, but I’ve not
seen different anywhere in the U.S.

Peter Rowe


#12

Hi R.E.

they are the same thing: methyl is denatured alcohol 

Beg to differ…Denatured alcohol refers to ethanol or ethyl
alcohol rendered undrinkable…

Methyl alcohol or methanol, also referred to as wood alcohol, is a
completely different entity…

Sometimes methyl alcohol is used to denature ethyl alcohol…It’s
that much more toxic…

Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) = C2H5OH

Methanol (methyl alcohol) = CH3OH

One is an ethyl with a hydroxide tacked on…

The other is a methyl with a hydroxide tacked on…

There some forms of chemical notation where they almost look the
same…

Ethyl being CH3-CH2-OH a methyl and a methylene with a hydroxide,
but they are definitely very different creatures…

Gary W. Bourbonais
L’Hermite Aromatique
A.J.P. (GIA)
http://www.facebook.com/Le.Hermite


#13

Hi Jeff, Folks…

Methyl is just plain toxic, denatured is ethyl (drinking kind)
with some methyl, gasoline and other nasties added. Denatured is
probably safer, or you can just pay the tax and buy damn near pure
ethanol (90% +) at the liquor store. 

By far the most common ethanol in the liquor store is something
called Everclear Grain Alcohol, 190 Proof…A proof works out to 1/2
of a percent…So 190 proof is 95%…

The denatured, as Jeff says, is relatively safe…You just cannot
drink it…

Note: though the methyl alcohol is desirable moreso in some aspects,
e.g. its solubility characteristics, this stuff is bad juju…

It can poison you through your skin, even…Handle with extreme
care…

The Optimum solution…I once came across a 190 proof (95%) ethanol,
a vodka called Ambur…Worked in a lamp, etc…Since it was a
Vodka rather than a grain alcohol, it had been refined somewhat…

Made great Bloody Marys and Screwdrivers too…You use about half of
what you would use 100 proof vodka for…An additional function for
the stuff…

Happy New Year to One and All…

Gary W. Bourbonais
L’Hermite Aromatique
A.J.P. (GIA)
http://www.facebook.com/Le.Hermite


#14
Sort of. 

The use of the word denatured applies only to the ethyl to indicate
it is made non drinkable.

Most of the denatured alcohol I've seen available, in the U.S. at
any rate, is ethyl alcohol for the most part. Ethyl (grain) alcohol
of course is what's in alcoholic beverages, and the intent of
"denaturing" it is to render it undrinkable. While a number of
things can be added to do this, the most common is methyl (wood)
alcohol, which is highly toxic stuff. 

I looked at quite a few MSDS to see what is being used. Most of them
are about 90% ethanol, 5% methanol and depending on the brand
isopropyl, ethyl acetate, naphtha, gasoline, heptane etc to make up
the balance. I did find one brand (Kleen-Strip S-L-X Denatured
Alcohol) that listed 45-50% methanol content. But all the others
were in the 5% range for methanol. There was actually one that I
found that listed water as an ingredient so Dan whoever told you that
it had water in it must have been using that brand.

My guess is they keep the methanol content down to reduce the
exposure of users to the fumes. Methanol has a permitted exposure
level (PEL) of 200 ppm as opposed to ethanol’s 1000 ppm PEL. And
possibly to limit the likelihood of actually killing someone who is
desperate enough to drink the damn stuff.

Jim

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#15

If in doubt about the meanings of common names for members of the
alcohol group, you should ask your friendly druggist (not the sales
person). In North American countries it has been a long time since
"poisonous "substances have been used in denaturing alcohol. The
sustance used most often till recently was phenothaline which is the
same substance that was used in exlax or that you remember from your
high school chemistry as an acid indicater turning pink. This
substance or other nausea producing substances don’t kill though you
might wish they did if you are affected. As to the toxicity of this
or that alcohol, they are all toxic. Ethanol is less toxic than
most,but the buzz you get from drinking it is the first stage of
acute poisoning. Fortunately our bodies excrite alcohol as fast as
possible, but if your rate of consumption exceeds the rate of
excretion you will die just as surely as if you ate rat poison.

Ethanol makes a very good solvent for organic compounds and some
other compounds containing phosphorus and boron. It is better than
methanol which tends to be a strong dipole. Isopropanol is less
useful as a solvent because it is actually a mixture of two isomers,
1propanol and 2propanol hense the term iso-propanol. methanol when
burned under certain conditions will produce formaldehyde (a nasty
substance) so in addition to not being as good a solvent as ethanol
for boric acid, its nasty to burn in the confines of your bench.
Anything that has substances added ie denatured will leave residues
behind which you dont need in a flux. I use reagent grade ethanol
obtained from the druggist. The price is shocking but it will last
thru thousands of flux applications per litre if you keep it
covered. If you heat a jar of ethanol in a water bath it will
dissolve much more flux than cold and if you cool it slowly you will
form a supersaturated solution


#16

A site which has recipies for denatured alchol in the US.
http://www.logwell.com/tech/servtips/CDA_formulas.html

Fun stuff

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#17
I looked at quite a few MSDS to see what is being used. Most of
them are about 90% ethanol, 5% methanol and depending on the brand
isopropyl, ethyl acetate, naphtha, gasoline, heptane etc to make
up the balance. 

Interesting. I quit using denatured many years ago because the fumes
made me slightly nauseous. After our discussion a year or two ago I
started using denatured again with no problem. What you are saying
confirms my suspicion that the denaturing agent is not the same in
the material I am using now as what was bugging me in the past.


#18
Methanol, ethanol and isopropanol are all commonly sold under the
name rubbing alcohol 

Jim’s been doing such a good job on this thread there’s no real
reason to expand… Only isopropanol (isopropryl alcohol) is called
(or used as) “rubbing alcohol” in the US. I’ll point out as a bit of
trivia that there’s usually some sort of emetic added to denatured,
so if you DO drink it, you’ll throw it up.


#19
If in doubt about the meanings of common names for members of the
alcohol group, you should ask your friendly druggist (not the
sales person). In North American countries it has been a long time
since "poisonous "substances have been used in denaturing alcohol. 

Spend 5 min on Google and see if you can find a denatured alcohol
MSDS that does not contain deadly poison use to denature it. Every
one I have looked at in the past couple of days has at least 5%
methanol. Maybe in Canada they don’t use poison to denature ethanol
but in the US it looks like every one I can find does and none of the
MSDS I could find would support your assertion. Now there does seem
to be some use of denatured alcohol in drugs, that might be the place
you would find the variety that is denatured with less toxic
substances. So a pharmacist might possibly say that the denaturing
agents are not poison but that would only apply to denatured used for
drug uses. Most people are going to get there denatured alcohol from
a source other than a pharmacy. And at the hardware store or even
chemical supply house it is going to have methanol in it.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#20
Every one I have looked at in the past couple of days has at least
5% methanol. Maybe in Canada they don't use poison to denature
ethanol but in the US it looks like every one I can find does and
none of the MSDS I could find would support your assertion. 

Here in canada, in every bottle of ethanol sold at the pharmacy the
denaturant has been camphor. It’s one of those chemicals that’s in
the sweet spot of toxic enough to make you wish you were dead, but
not toxic enough to actually finish you off. I’ve seen methanol,
ethanol and isopropanol sold under the name “rubbing alcohol”, I do
not believe that methanol or isopropanol are denatured.

As an aside, moonshiners running a still always throw away the first
bit to come out. Because the boiling point of methanol is lower than
ethanol, the first bit to come out of the still is most likely to
contain it.

Paul Anderson