What is Denatured Alcohol Used for?

Lars Tramilton

Denatured alcohol is a mild solvent that serves a multitude of different purposes. It is a fast-evaporating substance and a toxic ethanol. It cannot be consumed by humans. The term "denature" means to eliminate a property out of the alcohol that renders it undrinkable.

However, it does not mean that anything has been added to the alcohol to alter it. There are many different, varied uses for denatured alcohol.

Sanding Aid

Denatured alcohol is often used as a sanding aid. If you are working on some type of construction project that involves wood, and you have sanded the wood, then denatured alcohol is excellent and efficient for eliminating any excess sawdust that might be caught within the grain. Since the denatured alcohol is quick evaporating, you will be able to sand the grain that is raised which will result in a soft, smooth and finished coating.


Denatured alcohol is often used as a solvent. It is a popular solvent used in shellac (a type of resin) and products that contain shellac. It is also an efficient solvent for eliminating tough ink stains from clothing or furniture.


Denatured alcohol is also commonly used as a fuel for small camping stoves. The reason main denatured alcohol is used as a fuel option for these stoves is because it is cheap. Also, it can be easily extinguished by water and can be transported without the assistance of specialized containers. One problem that results from using the denatured alcohol as fuel for these stoves however is that the alcohol burns from a flame that has practically no color at all. This has the potential to be hazardous, as a person near the flame runs the dangerous risk of being burned by invisible flames.


Since denatured alcohol is such a mild and gentle solvent, it is excellent for cleaning delicate items, such as glass. What makes denatured alcohol ideal for cleaning glass is the fact that it evaporates so rapidly. Not only is it good for cleaning glass, but also for metal, fabrics (just make sure their colors are safe) and water rings.


Denatured alcohol is also frequently used in printmaking. The reason denatured alcohol is useful for printing because it can easily dissolve the rosin (solid form of resin extracted from various plants and pines) that is used in both stop-out varnish as well as Aquatint.