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Safest alcohol for stoves - US perspective
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Phillip Asby
(PGAsby) - M

Locale: North Carolina
Safest alcohol for stoves - US perspective on 11/06/2013 08:35:17 MST Print View

I just got my first alcohol stove and I've read some of the really great articles here and on other sites on the various efficiencies and science behind the different fuel choices with pros and cons to each - but with a strong focus on the fuel that works best for the least volume.

I admit I'll take an efficiency hit in the interest of lowered toxicity. Methanol I think I'm ruling out just due to the hazardous nature of the product. I'd otherwise prefer something less sooty so it seems like given that Everclear is no longer available in NC that the overall best selection is the SLX denatured alcohol?

Is that a reasonable starting place and try to get Diesel/Everclear when I'm in SC at some point?

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Safest alcohol for stoves - US perspective on 11/06/2013 08:45:27 MST Print View

Go the the store and get the product's name and UPC/SKU code, then google the MSDS (material safety data sheet) to see the alcohol mix. You're looking for the highest ethanol content possible, which right now with the ethanol-car-fuel stupidity going on, is around 50%.

None the less, if you are just a little careful when handling the stuff, and don't cook in enclosed places, it's not a big problem. IMHO.

(If, per chance you can hook up with the alcohol-burning dragster crowd you might be able to find some 95% ethanol.)

Edited by greg23 on 11/06/2013 08:50:05 MST.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: Safest alcohol on 11/06/2013 08:46:41 MST Print View

I stock up on everclear when traveling to states that have it, but also use Klean Strip Green (available at Lowes) when needed. This is >90% ethanol and burns well with minimal odor and no residue.

robert v
(mtnbob123) - F

Locale: Upstate South Carolina
Run to the Border!! on 11/06/2013 10:51:31 MST Print View

You just need to do a short road trip to Rock Hill SC and pick up some of the 95% ethanol(Everclear). We still have the good stuff down here!!

Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: Safest alcohol for stoves - US perspective on 11/06/2013 10:56:24 MST Print View


You should ask your local ABC to make sure it's no longer available, since they may simply not be stocking it anymore. I've seen it recently appear in stores in my area, where they didn't previously have any.

If it's still on the list, and you ask them to get it, they will.

Phillip Asby
(PGAsby) - M

Locale: North Carolina
Re: Run to the Border!! on 11/06/2013 11:12:52 MST Print View

My in-laws live off 521 in the Palmetto state - so I do visit Southern Spirits from time to time for not other reason than selection and price... but I appreciate confirmation that the good stuff is still for sale there!

That is the safest bet I think...

I also admit that I am basing my theory on the availability of 195 in NC based on news reports that the Mecklenburg ABC and NC ABC broadly had stopped carrying any versions due to the skewed sales around college campuses. I admit I haven't bought any since the 90s in law school ... but do appreciate the potential multi purpose benefits (I normally carry a wee dram of scotch or bourbon - but can adjust to cut some ounces!)

Phillip Asby
(PGAsby) - M

Locale: North Carolina
NC ABC on 11/06/2013 11:15:07 MST Print View

Javan - thanks for the heads up on NC ABC stores... If I recall they are regulated by the State but ultimately each county board is somewhat autonomous... i'd be happy if Mecklenburg would still source it as price aside it has to be the safest available fuel and it runs pretty cleanly as I understand it.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Detox on 11/06/2013 11:23:56 MST Print View

As per safety, you're exposed to more toxins breathing the diesel exhaust of a truck driving by than you will be on a hike in the woods burning a little methanol.

Sure it may not be the safest approach, but the amount of crap we're exposed to living in cities (or even relatively rural areas) from industry, day to day products, and exhaust fumes is staggering.

Getting into the woods is better than any juice detox you could do.

Worry less, hike more ;)

Jeffrey List
(jlist) - M

Locale: Cape Cod
Safest alcohol for stoves - US perspective on 11/06/2013 12:40:08 MST Print View

Get the 95% Everclear if you can, as it's multipurpose.
1. Fuel
2. disinfectant
3. skin and gear cleaner (to make tape stick better)
4. comfort while awaiting rescue

I have to get mine out of state too, but it's worth it.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Safest alcohol for stoves - US perspective on 11/06/2013 14:17:52 MST Print View

Methanol: toxic to humans, including the vapour.
Ethanol: safe for humans up to a point: it's what's in alco beverages.
Propanol: the liquid is not toxic but the combustion by-products are.

The BIG problem in America is that there are no legal limits to what can be put in 'denatured' alcohol. Unbelievably toxic chemicals are routinely found in most versions. You might find a 'denatured ethanol' with 30% methanol, but that is mild compared to some products. It's a failure of government regulation which allows unscrupulous manufacturers to get away with 'murder'.

In many other countries around the world there are very tight health regulations concerning what can be in denatured or methylated alcohol, and these ARE enforced. To be sure, a nasty taste is added to deter drinking, but they recognise that some will still drink it so it has to still be 'safe'.


James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Safest alcohol for stoves - US perspective on 11/06/2013 14:25:08 MST Print View

Philip, Everclear(ethanol) is somewhat better as a fuel than HEET(methanol.) I think I remember around 12500BTU/lb and 9500 BTU/lb, respectivly. Don't forget the 5% water if you bother checking this. SLX is around 50/50 or about 11000BTU/lb.

Not a lot of heat, but close to what is in a canister + the can at around 13000- 13500 (if it has propane in it.)

But, with a very efficient stove, you get more "heating" of the water...less waste.
Generally, they come out pretty close to even in use.

Toppers tend to be a lot less efficient. External or remote stoves are far better.

SLX is far prefered. Some of the others have some strange stuff in them. Gasoline for starters. SLX is just industrial stuff. Nothing added, thest the blended ethanol/methanol and some byproducts from the production.

If you cannot get Everclear, SLX works in most stoves. Be aware that some stoves have trouble burning ethanol.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Safest alcohol for stoves - US perspective on 11/06/2013 14:35:35 MST Print View

"Be aware that some stoves have trouble burning ethanol."

Can you name a couple commercially available stoves that don't handle ethanol well?

I'm curious what design characteristics make a difference.


(edit: Phillip, I see the Evernew Ti just specifies "denatured", so I think ethanol would be just fine.)

Edited by greg23 on 11/06/2013 14:40:26 MST.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Methanol Panic on 11/06/2013 14:44:36 MST Print View

I have to agree that the worry about methanol is overblown a bit. A bit. Is it ideal? No. But marine stoves have been burning it for, what, a century? Yes, it is toxic, but burning it for a few days for 20 minutes a day is not going to kill you. The reference dose is something like 0.5mg/kg/day (that's a DAILY dose throughout an entire LIFETIME) and you are quite unlikely to absorb that much unless you ingest it. 10mL at once can cause blindness, 30mL can kill. So don't burn it in an enclosed space. Don't drink it. Or- my preferred method- be sure to drink some ethanol (methanol's antidote) while using it. :)

That said, why take chances? Like others I've sort of settled on Clean Strip Green, which is something like 95% ethanol with just a touch of methanol and other adulterants. Ethanol holds more BTUs than methanol. And is a HECK of a lot cheaper than Everclear (which I have also used in the past). It should be available in Lowes, Home Depot, and other such stores.

I still wouldn't think twice about using HEET as an emergency fuel if I needed to restock on the trail.

Edited by acrosome on 11/07/2013 06:05:24 MST.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: Re: Safest alcohol for stoves - US perspective on 11/06/2013 16:23:32 MST Print View

I don't know of any *commercial* stoves. But I know Hikin Jim had quite a problem getting ethanol to burn in a series of stoves he was working on a few years ago.

I believe he decided to go with slightly smaller jets.

Zorg Zumo
(BurnNotice) - F
Re: Safest alcohol for stoves - US perspective on 11/06/2013 18:22:26 MST Print View

Bad reasoning in my opinion because you haven't assessed the relative risk of methanol correctly. The very best all-around blend is the 50/50 mix found in SLX. Yellow bottle HEET (almost pure Methanol) works slightly better in extreme cold (iditarod racer's water heaters).

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Safest alcohol for stoves - US perspective on 11/06/2013 19:17:52 MST Print View


"Bad reasoning in my opinion because you haven't assessed the relative risk of methanol correctly. "

Please....enlighten us ---

"The very best all-around blend is the 50/50 mix found in SLX."

Based on what criteria? Ethanol has a higher heat content, and is less toxic.
Please....enlighten us ---

Edited by greg23 on 11/06/2013 20:23:56 MST.

Jon Fong
(jonfong) - F - M

Re: Safest alcohol for stoves - US perspective on 11/06/2013 22:08:16 MST Print View

By safest alcohol for stove, I am assuming that you mean for handling and accidental contact with skin. My reason being that just burning any alcohol is not a great thing for you.

Now onto safest fuels.

1) Isopropyl alcohol - a number of us make rubbing alcohol stoves that burn clean (no soot)
2) Ethanol - 190 Everclear works fine, but I dilute it down ~10% to get a cleaner burn. Everclear 151 can work, but it is slow.
3) Ethanol - +90% hand cleaner. I find that it works pretty well but it depends on the type of stove that you are using. There are some other gelled alcohol fuels (fireplace and such) but they are not cheap.

Best regards,


Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Re: Re: Re: Safest alcohol for stoves - US perspective on 11/07/2013 06:09:41 MST Print View

@ Greg-

Well, the point that methanol lights easier in extreme cold probably IS true- it vaporizes at a lower temperature than does ethanol, and there is a lot of empirical experience on this forum to back that up. I know that some folks here like the S-L-X because the methanol component makes it easier to light in the cold, but the ethanol component holds more BTUs. (Though I have my doubts about the degree of benefit this mix allows.) And, as I've said, I agree that the methanol panic is a bit overblown.

That said, I'd probably just commit and use pure HEET, myself. But I'm rarely out in such severe cold, anyway.

And, on the other hand, I kind of agree with your point that boldly declaring a "very best all around blend" without explanation is useless, if not hubris.

Edited by acrosome on 11/07/2013 06:14:41 MST.

Phillip Asby
(PGAsby) - M

Locale: North Carolina
Consistency on 11/07/2013 07:40:41 MST Print View

As a new user one of the puzzling components as Roger points out is the mystery involved in many of these blends... and a lot of discussions about the effectiveness and in some cases problems (some perhaps apocryphal) about different blends.

The Klean Strip Green seems like an appealing blend given the high ethanol content and relatively low percentage of "others" including methanol. However, I believe I read at least one report that was imputed to a known and reliable stove maker of Klean Strip green producing bubbling brown goop that clogged stove jets. Not really encouraging. Now that is one report - who knows if that was a bad batch - whatever.

The SLX is only three components - one of them methanol but still ...

As many have noted - perhaps if you're cooking in an open area its all much ado about nothing - use the HEET or SLX or Green and stay upwind if possible. I suppose part of my concern is that I was going to use the stove on a maiden voyage next weekend with my sons boy scout troop on a backpacking trip that based on description of the trail will encourage packing light (not that I don't always have that in mind - but this is a 5 mile climb pretty much straight up to the campsite - certainly the most challenging terrain either of us have gone one). I'm not as concerned about the Scouts knocking it over - etc... during cooking time the adults are in a separate area and the boys are well policed in terms of rough behavior, plus this trip's description has scared off most of the younger scouts, my son excepted. I'd rather use the cleanest stuff even if outdoors - almost certainly overkill but i'll search out some Everclear just to be on the safe(r) side...

Zorg Zumo
(BurnNotice) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Safest alcohol for stoves - US perspective on 11/07/2013 08:54:49 MST Print View

Ok, I shouldn't assume much in a thread by a bunch of alky noobs. I've been alcohol-stoving for 6 years now and I've tried many different fuels. Ultimately I've settled on slx and I've burned many gallons of the stuff. I also use Yellow bottle HEET from time to time. In all my playing around with various burner types I've found slx to be the best performer - and experienced stovers will tell you the same.

High-proof ethanol has the highest BTU's but it doesn't burn as well as a methanol mix. Tell you what, go ask Tinny of Minibull designs what he uses.

And the dogfood water heaters carried by the racers uses HEET - methanol. Fact.

Methanol is toxic but you weren't planning on bathing with the stuff - right? The tiny amount you might absorb through the skin from stove handling is inconsequential. And you weren't planning on using your alchy stove in a closed up tent - right?