Denatured Alcohol Uses (or Methylated Spirits)

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Denatured alcohol is a common household chemical, more well 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, therefore discouraging any recreational drinkers.

The most common additive is 10% Methanol, used to produce Methylated Spirits. Denatured Alcohol uses brightly coloured dyes as well to identify themselves from other household chemicals.

Why is it more eco-friendly?

denatured alcohol uses

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

What is the difference between Mineral Turpentine, and Denatured Alcohol?

Mineral Turpentine, or White Spirit, like denatured alcohol is also a solvent. However it is a different chemical mix of hydrocarbons and is distilled from petroleum, giving it slightly different chemical properties, and a less sustainable starting point. The primary use of Mineral Turpentine is as a Paint Thinner.

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

In most cases, Rubbing Alcohol is Isopropyl alcohol, a totally different chemical compound to Denatured Alcohol. Rubbing Alcohol, like Mineral Turpentine, 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

Denatured alcohol can be used as a fuel for oil heaters which burn 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.

2. Window Cleaning

Denatured Alcohol works as a de-greasing agent, and can remove oil based substances which are not affected by regular soaps and detergents. Around the home Denatured Alcohol can be used 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 other smooth finishes such as tiled floors.

3. Cleaning Paint Brushes and Oil Based 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, and that includes lifting makeup stains. 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 with the same method as I have outlined above. Permanent ink from some smooth textures such as PVC plastic can also be removed using Denatured Alcohol. Using permanent marker on a whiteboard happens to the best of us, luckily Denatured alcohol can be used to save an important presentation.

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 one to use. It will work to dissolve the glue and get rid of that sticky residue from the glass.

Methylated Spirits can also be used to dissolve other types of glue, including super glue.

7. Woodworking and Restoring Furniture

Denatured alcohol uses include manufacturing French Polish, a high quality stain applied to wooden furniture and wiping away excess dust in your workshop, as it dries the wood and then evaporates much quicker than regular water. Denatured alcohol can also be used to identify what type of finish you a have on an old piece of furniture you wish to have restored.

A simple patch test with Denatured Alcohol can tell you the difference between shellac, lacquer and varnish, and can be used as a last resort to remove the last two. Denatured alcohol can even be used to create custom shellacs, as it works so well as a solvent.

8.Cleaning Plastics and Metal (even instrument strings)

Denatured alcohol, unlike bleach, can be used as a non-destructive cleaner on certain plastics such as PVC. It is also very efficient on sensitive metal parts such as instrument strings, and video or tape recorder heads.

9. Cleaning off Crayon Marks

Most crayons are oil based, therefore you can use diluted denatured alcohol to efficient dissolve an unwanted masterpiece on your couch or wall. If you are unsure about using such a strong substance around your children’s play area, you could 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 is the most common, and can be applied in most of the situations outlined above. You should also consider what percentage of Ethyl Alcohol is required, and whether you need to dilute the Denatured Alcohol with water for your specific use. For specific advice on your need always consider consulting the seller or manufacturer of the Denatured Alcohol.

How to dispose of Denatured Alcohol?

Denatured Alcohol dries very quickly and easily, therefore if not stored correctly it can evaporate. Take care to store in shade and seal all bottles and containers to prevent evaporation.

If it is no longer required and is just 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, where you may donate your unused chemicals so that they may be re-used or disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

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 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.

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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.

      Bel H

  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.

    • 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.

  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?


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