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About Denatured Alcohol vs Nondenatured Ethanol

Denatured alcohol vs Culinary Solvent food grade ethanol

What is denatured alcohol?

Denatured alcohol, or also Specially Denatured Alcohol SDA, is ethyl alcohol plus some toxic additive chemical.  This chemical, the denaturant, may be any number of the approved additives by the federal government based on the additive's toxicity to humans.  The primary purpose of adding a denaturant is to inhibit consumption for the purpose of intoxication.  Denatured alcohols are not denatured for enhanced performance or longevity, and are inherently toxic by their nature.  Because of this additive, denatured alcohol is exempt from the Federal Excise Taxes imposed on pure non-denatured ethanol. 

California Residents: As of June 2019, California has banned the sale of denatured alcohol. More information available here: California Air Resource Board.  Culinary Solvent is not part of this ban is is fully permitted for sale in California. Read More: How to buy and ship ethanol to California.

What is nondenatured ethanol?

Nondenatured means no additives. Nondenatured ethanol is pure ethanol.  Only nondenatured ethanol is "food safe" and "safe for consumption". Nondenatured ethanol is available in 190 proof (95%ABV) and 200 proof (100%ABV Anhydrous Alcohol).

California Approved: Nondenatured ethanol is permitted for sale in California without additional permit or requirements.  More information here: How to buy and ship nondenatured ethanol to California.

Can nondenatured ethanol be substituted for denatured alcohol?

Yes. Nondenatured ethanol can be substituted for recipes calling for denatured alcohol.  Nondenatured ethanol can be substituted 1 for 1 (1:1) for recipes that call for denatured alcohol.  Continued reading: Can nondenatured ethanol be substituted for denatured alcohol?

Can denatured alcohol be substituted for nondenatured ethanol?

No.  This is important to stress that the toxic additives that make the ethanol denatured mean it is not possible to substitute denatured ethanol for recipes that call for "nondenatured ethanol".  Not all alcohols are created equal, liquids labeled as "denatured ethanol" are guaranteed to contains toxic additives and should be avoided if there is chance of human exposure. Can denatured alcohol be substituted for nondenatured ethanol?

Learn More About Nondenatured Ethanol

When shopping for denatured or nondenatured ethanol, knowing the key industry terms will help you buy smart. Get familiar with the following important industry terms:

“Nondenatured” means “No Additives”

  • Only nondenatured ethanol is PURE ethanol.
  • "Undenatured ethanol" is synonymous with Nondenatured.
  • Nondenatured ethanol is food safe, and safe for human consumption as a tincture, extract, or concentrate.

“Denatured” means “Toxic Additives” + Ethanol

  • Additives eligible as denaturants are picked based on their human toxicity
  • All denatured ethanol is poisonous and unfit for human consumption.
  • Licenses, permits, fees and some taxes still apply in many cases.

Dehydrating the last 5% water

  • Water and ethanol in solution at 95.63% ABV (191.26 proof) form an azeotrope or “constant boiling point mixture”.  This means normal distillation cannot remove the last bits of water. Another process must be applied to eliminate the water.
  • Some manufacturers dehydrate the remaining 5% with harmful chemicals like methanol or benzene.  These chemicals are toxic and must be fully removed to ensure food safety compliance.
  • The safest way to dehydrate ethanol uses a device called a molecular sieve.  Engineered from ceramics, molecular sieves literally trap the water molecule from the solution, resulting in a dehydrated 100% ethanol leaving the sieve. '

3 Questions to Always Ask About Your Alcohol:

  1. Where was this ethanol distilled?
  2. Is this ethanol “Non-Denatured” or “Denatured”?
  3. How was the last 5% water dehydrated out of the ethanol?

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