Denatured Alcohol Uses (or Methylated Spirits)

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Denatured alcohol is a common household chemical, also known as Methylated Spirits. Denatured Alcohol uses are varied and under-appreciated, and you can save alot of time and hassle by using this greener alternative for your everyday household needs.


Uses of Denatured Alcohol

  1. Heating Fuel
  2. Window Cleaning
  3. Cleaning Paint Brushes and Oil Based Paint
  4. Removing Makeup Stains
  5. Cleaning Permanent Marker, Ink marks and Grass Stains
  6. Removing sticky things (glues and stickers)
  7. Woodworking and Restoring Furniture
  8. Clean Plastics and Metal (even instrument strings)
  9. Cleaning off Crayon Marks

What is Denatured Alcohol?

Denatured Alcohol is a combination of two substances: Ethyl Alcohol or Ethanol, which is basically drinking alcohol, and an additive chemical. The additive has a strong unpleasant smell and is toxic to consume.

The most common additive is 10% Methanol, used to produce Methylated Spirits. Denatured Alcohol usually also have brightly colored dyes to identify from other household chemicals.

Why is it More Eco-friendly?

white flower

The Ethyl Alcohol in Denatured Alcohol is derived from grains and corn starch. The rest is Methanol which comes from wood stock. This combination makes Denatured Alcohol a more sustainable alternative. This is because many other cleaning products are a cocktail of fossil fuels.

Mineral Spirits vs Denatured Alcohol – What is the difference?

Is mineral spirits the same as denatured alcohol? The short answer is no. Mineral Spirits, also known as White Spirit, like denatured alcohol is also a solvent.

There are two main differences between mineral spirits and denatured alcohol. The first is that they have different combinations of hydrocarbons. The second is that mineral spirits are distilled from petroleum.

So this gives Mineral Spirits different chemical properties, and it is made from less sustainable ingredients. The primary use of Mineral Spirits is as a paint thinner.

Can I use Denatured Alcohol as Paint Thinner?

Denatured Alcohol as paint thinner is not the best choice. It can be used to clean paint from brushes, but mineral spirits or other specialised paint thinners are better suited to this task. Denatured alcohol as a paint thinner may not be an option, but it is possible to use it to thin shellacs.

What about Rubbing Alcohol, is it the same as Denatured Alcohol?

In most countries, Rubbing Alcohol is Isopropyl alcohol, a totally different chemical compound to Denatured Alcohol. Rubbing Alcohol, like Mineral Spirits, is also derived from non-renewable Petroleum based chemicals. Denatured Alcohol is also toxic, and therefore should not be used interchangeably with Rubbing Alcohol in most situations.

Can I use Denatured Alcohol to make Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer?

No, definitely do not use Denatured Alcohol to make hand sanitizer, antiseptic, or any other products that come in contact with the human body.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, Denatured Alcohol is toxic to humans. You should never drink denatured alcohol and avoid contact with your skin and eyes.


Denatured Alcohol Uses include:

1. Heating Fuel

You can use Denatured alcohol as a fuel for oil heaters, because it burns more cleanly than other traditional fossil fuels. The flame burns so cleanly that it is almost clear, letting off very little smoke and visible carcinogens into the air. The denatured alcohol fuel below can be used for this purpose.

Klean-Strip QSL26 Denatured Alcohol, 1-Quart “Packaging may vary”
  • Produces A Hot, Clean, Odorless And Smokeless Flame
  • Ideal For Marine Stoves And Other Alcohol-Burning Appliances
  • Warning: This Product Can Expose You To Chemicals Including Methanol, Carbon Monoxide And Methyl Isobutyl Ketone, Which Are Known To The State Of California To Cause Birth Defects Or Other Reproductive Harm, And Methyl Isobutyl Ketone, Which Is Known To The State Of California To Cause Cancer.  This Product And Its By-Products Contain Soot Which Is Known To The State Of California To Cause Cancer.
  • Brand Name: Klean-Strip

2. Window Cleaning

Denatured Alcohol works as a de-greasing agent. So you can remove oil based substances which are not affected by regular soaps and detergents.

Around the home use Denatured Alcohol to remove oily and greasy substances from glass for a clear, streak free finish. Dilute the denatured alcohol with 50% water for the best result.

Other Denatured Alcohol uses include cleaning smooth finishes such as tiled floors.

3. Cleaning Paint Brushes and Oil Based Paint

What is denatured alcohol used for in painting? Turns out it is great for cleaning up paint.

Cleaning paint and paintbrushes can be a major chore without the right cleaner, as the usual hot soapy water can take days to work.

After wiping off the excess paint, soak brushes overnight in denatured alcohol solution and rinse with warm soapy water the following day. Other equipment can usually be wiped down on the spot.

denatured alcohol uses cleaning paint
Cleaning Paint – Denatured Alcohol Uses

4. Removing Makeup Stains

Lipstick on your best white shirt? As I mentioned before, denatured alcohol is great for removing oil based substances like makeup. Dab a small amount of the denatured alcohol on the stain, rub it in, then put the clothing through a cool wash. Be sure not to use a hot wash, as this may “set” the stain in the fabric.

5.Cleaning Permanent Marker, Ink marks and Grass Stains

Denatured Alcohol is very effective at taking ink and grass stains off fabrics.  Ever used a permanent marker on a whiteboard? Luckily Denatured alcohol can help save the day. It takes permanent ink off most smooth hard plastics (like PVC) and painted surfaces.

denatured alcohol uses Sticky ryan mcguire
Removing gums and stickers – Denatured Alcohol Uses

6. Removing sticky things (glues and stickers)

If you need to get a dodgy bumper sticker off your windscreen, Denatured alcohol is the stuff to use. It will dissolve the glue and get rid of that sticky residue from the glass. Methylated Spirits can also dissolve other strong adhesives like super glue.


7. Woodworking and Restoring Furniture

Denatured alcohol uses include manufacturing French Polish, a high quality stain applied to wooden furniture. You can also use denatured alcohol to wipe away excess dust in your workshop. It helps to dry the wood and then evaporates much quicker than regular water.

A simple patch test with Denatured Alcohol can also tell you the difference between shellac, lacquer and varnish on a existing piece of furniture. Denatured alcohol can be used to create custom shellacs, as it works so well as a solvent.

8.Cleaning Plastics and Metal (even instrument strings)

Unlike bleach you can use Denatured alcohol as a cleaner on plastics like PVC without destroying it. It’s also a great cleaner for sensitive metal parts such as instrument strings, and video or tape recorder heads.

9. Cleaning off Crayon Marks

Most crayons are oil based, so you can use diluted denatured alcohol to dissolve an unwanted masterpiece on your couch or wall. If you don’t want to use strong substance around your children’s play area, you can use diluted Rubbing Alcohol instead.

 Denatured Alcohol uses Cleaning crayon marks
Crayon Marks – Denatured Alcohol Uses

Now I know how to use it, which Denatured Alcohol do I buy?

Denatured Alcohol can come in many different varieties, depending on the additive. Methylated Spirits with Methanol as the additive like this one is the most common.

Klean-Strip QSL26 Denatured Alcohol, 1-Quart “Packaging may vary”
  • Produces A Hot, Clean, Odorless And Smokeless Flame
  • Ideal For Marine Stoves And Other Alcohol-Burning Appliances
  • Warning: This Product Can Expose You To Chemicals Including Methanol, Carbon Monoxide And Methyl Isobutyl Ketone, Which Are Known To The State Of California To Cause Birth Defects Or Other Reproductive Harm, And Methyl Isobutyl Ketone, Which Is Known To The State Of California To Cause Cancer.  This Product And Its By-Products Contain Soot Which Is Known To The State Of California To Cause Cancer.
  • Brand Name: Klean-Strip

Work out what percentage of Ethyl Alcohol is required for your project, and dilute the Denatured Alcohol with water if needed. For specific advice on your needs always consult the seller or manufacturer of the Denatured Alcohol.

How to dispose of Denatured Alcohol?

Denatured Alcohol dries very quickly and easily, so you have to store it correctly or it will evaporate. Take care to store it in shade and seal all bottles and containers to prevent evaporation.

If it is taking up space, don’t just pour it down the sink! It is just as poisonous for your local water source as it is for your consumption. Most local councils or local rubbish tips offer a household chemical clean up program that disposes of chemicals in an environmentally friendly way.

PLEASE NOTE: Denatured Alcohol is toxic and flammable. Do not consume, or avoid contact with eyes or skin, and take care not to use to clean areas where family members may regularly touch or consume / prepare food. Wear protective gloves and clothing and always use in a well ventilated area. For further information for safe use of Denatured Alcohol, please follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the packaging and the Material Safety Data Sheet for their product.

For more tips on green cleaning products, check out my article on the best natural stain removers for your home.


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6 thoughts on “Denatured Alcohol Uses (or Methylated Spirits)”

    • Hi David,

      NP could stand for any number of things, but most likely it is referring to the solvent being “Non-Polar”. You can find out more about Non-Polar solvents here.

      Thanks,
      Bel H

      Reply
  1. Is it safe to use denatured alcohol on clear plastics or optical plastics, such as headlights, gauges and tail lights. If so, what is the recommended strength or dilution ratio. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Emiliano,
      Thanks for your comment, if the plastic you are cleaning is something like polycarbonate, which is commonly used for headlights, it should be fine to use diluted mehtylated spirits for light cleaning. You could start by testing a 1:1 ratio of water and methylated spirits on a small area to see its effectiveness, and if it is likely to cause any damage to the surface.

      Reply
  2. If I use it to get the paraffin/oil/mud off of my oilfield work clothes before washing them, will it make my clothes more flammable it combustible?

    Reply

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