Commonly used methylated spirits is a general-purpose alcohol which is not fit for drinking. This is because approximately 10% methanol has been added to it, along with additives such as pyridine, isopropyl alcohol, acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, and methyl isobutyl ketone. The methanol is where the name ‘methylated spirits’ comes from.
Also called denatured alcohol, methylated spirits have these chemicals added to it in order to discourage human consumption by making it bad-tasting, foul-smelling, and nauseating. These chemical additives are also called ‘denaturants’ because they make ethanol undrinkable.
The addition of methanol and pyridine makes ethanol solution denatured, but it does not change the chemical or molecular structure. It is different from the denaturation of proteins in biochemistry wherein the structure of the substance is altered.
What makes denatured alcohol poisonous is the addition of methanol and other substances. Denatured alcohol can cause blindness, brain damage, or even death if consumed. Blue or pink dye is sometimes added to methylated spirits to make it easily identifiable.
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What are methylated spirits used for?
Methylated spirits have a wide range of uses, but is most commonly known for its use as a solvent and as a fuel for burners and camping stoves.
Other uses of methylated spirits include:
- Hard-surface cleaning agent – methylated spirits have strong anti-bacterial properties, making it ideal for cleaning wood, glass and plastic, as well as dissolving grease and stains such as ballpoint pen and lipstick
- A natural preservative for cosmetics – reducing spoil and the risk of infection
- Preserving specimens for use in scientific processes
- Insecticide – methylated spirits will kill insects like mealybugs without harming your plants
Warning! How to handle methylated spirits
Methylated spirits releases highly flammable vapours, so you should ensure that you are using it in a well-ventilated area. If it’s accidentally spilled, methylated spirits should be cleaned up immediately to prevent the vapours from being released.
Make sure that the cap is tightly sealed, and the bottle is stored away from open flames and the reach of children.
What are industrial methylated spirits?
Industrial methylated spirits were originally created to avoid paying the taxes due on alcohol. If an alcohol cannot be consumed, it is exempt from alcohol tax. Denaturing alcohol gives it a legitimate use, as well as enabling the manufacture of cheap ethanol for industrial use.
The difference between methylated spirits for personal use and industrial methylated spirits is its purity or grading. Industrial methylated spirits are pure enough for industrial use in things like printing inks, detergents and dyes. It is mainly used as a cleaning agent or thinning solvent in industries.
In order to buy industrial methylated spirits of high purity grading, you must register your interest with HM Revenue and Customs.
Where can I buy methylated spirits?
You can buy methylated spirits for personal use anywhere from your local hardware store or supermarket to Amazon.
If you are looking for industrial grade methylated spirits in anything from small batches to 1000L IBCs, you can buy online from ReAgent. We have been supplying various industries with methylated spirits for almost 50 years. If you’re unsure exactly what you need, just call us to discuss your requirements.
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