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What are the differences between Denatured Ethanol and Pure Ethanol?

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Ethanol, or Ethyl Alcohol, is a clear, colorless, flammable liquid with high volatility. Produced from the dawn of mankind, alcohol is ingrained in human history. Available in many concentrations, grades, and purities, it has applications in food, medicine, and manufacturing. Due to its unique solvation properties, ethanol is used by oil extraction specialists, as a denaturant for tissue cultures, and even in universities to conduct lab experiments.

Since alcohol is also considered a drug, it is regulated by federal and state agencies. Choosing the right type of ethanol, denatured or undenatured, is critical for cost, quality and safety of your process.

History of Denatured Ethanol

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By 1906, methanol, or wood spirits, was added to ethanol so it could be used for industrial purposes at lower tax rates [1]. During Prohibition, even more toxic chemicals were added to alcohol to discourage drinking. Today, denaturized alcohol, or methylated spirits, might contain heptane, methanol, isopropyl alcohol, acetone or other poisons. Undrinkable, it is exempt from federal alcohol excise tax. The TTB, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, regulates the taxation, formulations, permitting and uses of both ethanol and undenatured ethanol.


Ethanol intended for foods and fuels is typically produced by fermenting grains and distilling off the ethyl alcohol. When ethanol reaches 95.6% concentration, it quits boiling separately from water, forming an azeotrope. Although ethanol boils at 78.2°C, and water boils at 100°C, the azeotropic mixture boils at lower temperature of 78.4°C. To concentrate ethanol to 99.5%, the water must be removed by molecular sieves, pressure-swing distillation, or another method.

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200 proof alcohol means that the ethanol does not contain water. Pure alcohol is non-denatured.

Denatured Ethanol

Denatured alcohol also known as 710 Solution is a mixture of 200 Proof USP Food and Beverage Grade Ethanol and High Purity n-Heptane. Our Denatured Ethanol is an industry approved standard solvent (CDA 12-A 200), and completely evaporates while leaving behind no residues or taste. Because the fluid is unfit for consumption, 710 Solution can be obtained without paying the burdensome Federal Excise Tax; allowing you to save up to 72%.

CDA 12A is typically used during the plant extraction process as a solvent and during the winterization / purification process assisting in the removal of fats and oils. This is an industry standard ethanol blend that has zero federal excise tax. Because n-Heptane has a higher boiling point than ethanol, it may be necessary to heat the evaporator to a higher temperature (+5-10° C). This product is not intended for human consumption.

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Non-Denatured Ethanol

Non-denatured ethanol is at least 95% concentration and contains no co-solvents or additives. If subject to excise tax, it is more expensive, but a permit may not be required. You must be 21 to purchase it. [Note: A permit may be required to purchase non-denatured ethanol in your state. Check state laws and consult with your EHS coordinator before ordering.]

Tax-free Alcohol is pure non-denatured 99.6% ethyl alcohol. Hospitals, charity clinics, government labs and universities can qualify for tax-free usage with permit approval. Lab students might use non-denatured ethanol to learn how to run GC or to conduct synthetic organic reactions. Hospitals pharmacies can compound prescriptions or run analyses with pure ethanol. Since it is hydroscopic, it should remain tightly capped.

Non-Beverage Drawback

When using food-grade non-denatured ethanol to manufacture a non-beverage food, flavor, or perfume, you may be able to claim a return on TBB alcohol excise tax.

Industrial (Non-Beverage) Ethanol

Pure non-denatured ethanol does not contain adulterants and is a popular tool for manufacturing culinary extracts, essential oils, tinctures, and even tobacco flavors. If pure ethanol is a raw material for foods or beverages, federal excise tax might apply. Because ethanol is a polar solvent, it will extract both water and oil soluble components, like chlorophyll and terpenes. In cold-process extraction, it might prevent heat-induced degradation. Whether used as a processing agent for winterization or as a wash for other extraction processes like CO2, ethanol is a popular choice for extraction specialists. Since it is pure, it leaves little to no residual. For disinfection purposes, 70-90% works best.


Ethanol is a flammable, mildly toxic liquid that can be ignited at most ambient temperatures. Flashback along a vapor trail could occur and it could explode if in an enclosed area.

NEVER mix with Piranha solution, because contact with sulfuric acid and potassium or

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hydrogen peroxide can cause explosions.

Skin contact should be avoided, so gloves (like Neoprene, Butyl, or Viton), goggles, and appropriate ventilation (fume hood) should be used. Since reagent grade denatured ethanol is more toxic than non-denatured ethanol, because it contains methanol and isopropyl alcohol, always review your SDS for guidelines.


Ethanol, a universal solvent, has many applications both in science and industry. Non-denatured ethanol is an eco-friendly choice for extraction specialists. Histology clinics use non-denatured ethanol for conducting cell tissue fixation. Whether you need denatured or non-denatured ethanol, Solvent Direct has the right grade for your needs.

For almost 10 years, Solvent Direct has been committed to delivering a complete chemical inventory including ethanol for laboratories worldwide.

Call 1-833-PURE-GAS (1-833-787-3427) or visit submit a quote request here.

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Disclaimer: These chemicals are meant to be used for research, industrial work, cleaning or disinfecting and should always be stored out of the reach of young children or infants.


1 Ind. Eng. Chem.192315101086-1087 Publication Date:October 1, 1923:

2 Biophys J. 2006 Feb 15; 90(4): 1121–1135. Published online 2005 Dec 2. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.105.062364:



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