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Ethyl alcohol (ethanol) is a versatile ingredient and tool that can be used in a variety of practices and projects. Oftentimes where a project calls for denatured alcohol, pure ethanol (like Culinary Solvent) can be a safer, equally-if-not-more effective substitute. Whether you’re a crafter, maker, artisan, DIY enthusiast, or life-hacker, 100% food grade ethanol has the potential to be a vital tool in your toolbox.
Ethanol is alcohol, but not all alcohol is ethanol.
Perhaps the biggest difference between ethanol and other alcohols (like isopropyl and methyl) is safety. Unlike isopropyl and methyl alcohol, ethanol is food grade, meaning it is completely safe for the skin and for consumption. Isopropyl alcohol is safe to be applied to the skin for short-term use but is not safe for consumption, while methyl alcohol is not safe for consumption or for the skin. Denatuerd alcohol is ethanol with denaturants (toxic additives) added to it to make the ethanol unsafe for consumption. In fact, both isopropyl and methyl alcohol are used as denaturants.
The key difference between denatured and non-denatured alcohol is their chemical composition and overall safety, quality, and end-use.
The primary appeal of denatured alcohol is cost. Because denatured alcohol contains toxic additives rendering it unsafe for consumption (i.e., it is intended for non-beverage use), it is not subject to federal excise tax, which can make it much easier to find and purchase. However, denaturants can sometimes affect the end product, such as leaving residues or altering the final finish of your work or projects.
Non-denatured alcohol is pure ethanol. Since ethanol (and possibly water, depending on the proof of your alcohol) is the only ingredient, there is very little possibility that the final product might be impacted by its use. Ethanol does not leave a residue and is an excellent option for varnish preparations or delicate cleaning processes. Additionally, ethanol doesn't emit harmful fumes associated with denatured alcohol, making it preferable for environments where ventilation or exposure is a concern. While ethanol vapors are flammable under certain conditions, they are perfectly safe for inhalation, skin contact, and ingestion.
For best results, it is recommended to use the highest proof alcohol available for your project and dilute as needed from there. 200 proof alcohol is 100% alcohol by volume (ABV). It is pure ethanol with no water added and any additional water remaining from the distilling process has been dehydrated out of it (note: only non-chemically dehydrated ethanol – such as using a molecular sieve – is non-denatured; chemically dehydrated ethanol is denatured and not food grade). 200 proof is the highest proof available.
Many – not all – denatured alcohols contain petroleum byproducts, which are chemicals that are derived in the production of petroleum products. Non-denatured alcohol products distilled from food ingredients, like corn, are naturally sustainable and renewable. Choosing USDA certified organic alcohol supports non-GMO agriculture and sustainable food options. Ethanol, like Culinary Solvent, is crafted (and shipped!) with the environment in mind.
Although highly evaporative, you need not worry about your pure ethanol escaping or disappearing in-between uses as long as it is stored correctly. Follow these tips to ensure your ethanol does not evaporate in between uses.