Acetone and denatured alcohol look the same upon first glance—they are both clear liquids with strong scents and are both used as solvents. They also are used as cleaners, fuel additives, and degreasers, and are common chemicals used to strip the wood finish. Though they can sometimes be used for the same or similar purposes, they are very different chemicals.
What is Acetone?
Also known as propanone, it is a colorless ketone that is extremely volatile and flammable. This compound is made of three simple elements: carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. It is completely miscible with water, making it a vital solvent across many industries.
This chemical is naturally occurring in the human body. The breakdown of fats produces acetone, which can then be used for metabolic processes that produce sugar. Some diets, especially ketogenic diets, increase acetone levels in the body.
In our environment, propanone occurs as a byproduct of vehicle exhaust, landfill operations, and various kinds of smoke. It is also a naturally occurring compound in several trees and plants.
Acetone may be used for things like:
- removing nail polish
- removing scuff marks from floors
- removing super glue or other adhesives
- cleansing stains from various surfaces
- remove oil from wool
In addition to these functions, it is a very effective thinning agent. When added to lacquer, it can decrease the drying time which decreases the likelihood of streaks or drips occurring.
What is Denatured Alcohol?
Denatured alcohol is sometimes referred to as methylated spirits or wood spirits and is a variation of ethanol that has toxic additives to make it poisonous. Unlike ethanol, any form of this alcohol is extremely unsafe for consumption—ethanol is the ingredient in alcoholic beverages that makes them alcoholic. Methanol is the most common additive, though other possibilities include:
- isopropyl alcohol
- methyl ethyl ketone
- methyl isobutyl ketone
Denatonium is also usually added, as it creates a bitter taste, which helps discourage ingestion.
Wood spirit can easily be mixed with water and a variety of other chemicals, making it an excellent solvent. It may also be used in applications regarding:
Though there are many possible uses for denatured alcohol, it is intended to be used as a fuel additive and a solvent.
How Are They Different?
Given these descriptions, the two chemicals might seem similar—several of their uses overlap. However, they have their own distinctive chemical properties, and each one has some key indicative factors:
- Toxicity. We already discussed how denatured alcohol is purposefully made to be toxic. Acetone, however, is non-toxic, naturally occurring, organic, and relatively safe.
- Use on plastic. Many plastic products have propanone compounds in their structure. This means that exposure to this chemical can degrade the plastic. Wood spirits, on the other hand, are a great cleaning agent for plastics.
- Industrial use. Although some applications overlap, the two have some exclusive uses. Denatured alcohol can be used in aerosols, antifreeze, and rubber, while acetone cannot. Acetone can be used for pharmaceuticals, cleaning tough oils or grease from animals, and cleaning paint brushes or paint supplies, while the former will not be effective for these purposes.
- Solvent efficacy. Propanone will dissolve paint, plastic, polyurethane, varnish, and lacquer, while wood spirit will only dissolve clear finishes.
Looking to Purchase Acetone or Denatured Alcohol?
Contact our team at Bulk Chemicals 2 Go for information regarding how to buy bulk chemicals or custom mixtures. We are on standby to answer any questions you may have and facilitate your purchasing process! Contact us here for more information.