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alcohol fuel hazard - can someone summarize?
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john flanagan
(jackfl) - F

Locale: New England
alcohol fuel hazard - can someone summarize? on 11/24/2007 18:43:58 MST Print View

Here's the current state of my understanding - I'd love to have someone more knowledgable boil it down for us :~p

Most hardware store alcohol sold as solvent or even alcohol stove fuel for boats is approx 50/50 ethyl and methyl alcohols

Methyl alcohol is a known carcinigen and quite toxic - therefore to some extent not a benign choice of fuels (as if there is such a thing)

The closer to pure ethynol you can get the better (leaving aside any mix with isopropyl, which I understand to be basically benign)

Relatively pure etthynol seems relatively easy to come by throught the net (e.g. from Some links to potential suppliers include:!6456&keyword=denatured+alcohol&match_type=

I'm just curious what the whole story is and why more people don't use purer ethynol. I assume that I'm missing something...

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Alcoholzzzz on 11/24/2007 19:47:21 MST Print View

I looked at quite a few brands of denatured alcohol and they varied a lot. Many of the MSDS listings were written so that the proportion of ethanol vs methanol could be varied at the whim of the manufacturer; in other words, you never really know what the real mix is.

I suspect you won't be able to buy pure ethanol directly from the lab supply. To my knowledge, the only source for "civilians" is something like Everclear drinking alcohol and that is not available in every state. It is expensive due to taxes, distribution chain, and the food grade handling and packaging.

With all the press about ethanol fuels, it really gets me that we can't buy pure forms and it should be relatively cheap.

Mark Hurd
(markhurd) - M

Locale: South Texas
Re: alcohol fuel hazard - can someone summarize? on 11/24/2007 21:41:34 MST Print View


There are several types of easily available alcohols
--Ethanol (aka -grain alcohol, Everclear),
--Denatured ethanol (ethanol mixed with methanol, etc. so you can't drink it),
--Methanol (aka -wood alcohol and HEET-yellow bottle),
--Isopropyl alcohol (aka -rubbing alcohol)

They are all toxic.

OSHA publishes the recommended PEL (Permissible Exposure Limits) for various substances. Ethanol is 1000 ppm, isopropyl alcohol is 400 ppm, methanol only 200 ppm, and in denatured alcohol they often add a percent or two of methyl isobutyl ketone which is only 100 ppm. The lower the number the less safe (more poisonous) the substance is.

So pure ethanol is the least toxic of this group. It is expensive due to liquor taxes, etc and hard to get in some states.

That said, the others have been safely used by tens of thousands of campers and boater for decades (probably centuries). Avoiding prolonged skin and vapor exposure, using it outside in well ventilated areas, and keeping them out of your eyes and mouth is the key.

I would bet that it is much more likely that you will get burned by your stove than suffer a toxic exposure.


Edited by markhurd on 11/25/2007 18:18:09 MST.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Ethanol Availability on 11/25/2007 08:39:28 MST Print View


The Sunnyside brand of Denatured Alcohol commonly sold in Colorado is 85% Ethanol. It's about $12 a gallon.