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Denatured Alcohol

Denatured Alcohol


Denatured alcohol or “methylated spirits” is ethanol for non-drinking purposes with added substances (denaturants) that makes it disgustingly bitter and thus inedible.


Common denaturants used in denatured alcohol include methanol (up to 55%), isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol), methyl isobutyl ketone, pyridine, pyronate, kerosene, acetone, turpentine, amyl alcohol, naphtha (petroleum oil) or denatonium [1].


  • Cleaning agent
  • Solvent
  • Paint removal
  • Fuel additive
  • Sanding aid
  • Exterminator
  • Disinfectant (rubbing alcohol)

Is denatured alcohol the same as rubbing or isopropyl alcohol?

Denatured alcohol is an umbrella term for all alcohol products that have been made inedible by adding denaturants.

Rubbing alcohol is an example of denatured alcohol that is intended as disinfectant to be applied on the skin or as a cleaning agent. The main ingredient in rubbing alcohol is either ethyl alcohol (ethanol) or propyl alcohol.

In the United Kingdom, rubbing alcohol is also called surgical spirit, which can be used as a skin disinfectant in medicine [4].

In the United States, rubbing alcohol has a composition that makes it toxic for any use, including applying on the skin [4].

The proper use of rubbing alcohol should be clearly described on the product’s label.


Denatured alcohol that contains methanol is highly toxic and drinking it can cause blindness, coma or death; other adverse effects may include dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, loss of coordination, stupor, facial flushing, liver, kidney and heart damage [2].

Drinking rubbing alcohol that contains propyl alcohol can cause flushing, nausea, vomiting, depression of the central nervous system and, eventually, coma or death [3].

A person who has ingested denatured alcohol should call local emergency service and ask for instructions how to induce vomiting.

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