How Is Methylated Spirits Made? (Explained!)

Methylated spirits is a very common product used for general purposes around the home, office, and workplace. It’s predominantly used for cleaning as it’s almost 100% alcohol which is a powerful solvent. It’s known to be an eco-friendly product, which is why people favor it more than other cleaning chemicals.

We all know it as the purple pungent liquid in plastic containers, but what exactly is it and how is it made? Carry on reading to find out.

What Is Methylated Spirit?

Methylated spirit is denatured alcohol manufactured for general use. The spirit derives its name from the methanol added to it. It’s made of ethanol which typically has 10% methanol added to it. Other chemicals such as acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, and methyl isobutyl ketone have also been known to have been used as denaturing additives.

The end product often has a pungent nauseating smell and it’s manufactured this way so it can be inconsumable by individuals. When consumed, it can cause blindness or death, especially when the poisoning is not detected and treated early. Methylated spirit can be used for the following purposes:

  • To clean paintbrushes.
  • To clean hard surfaces like glass, metal, floor tiles, and countertops. 
  • To disinfect medical equipment.
  • By painters to make ink.
  • In place of an aftershave.

Is Methylated Spirit The Same As Alcohol?

Methylated spirit is alcohol, ethanol to be exact. The only difference between this and other alcohols is that it has been denatured by the addition of isopropyl alcohol, acetone, methanol, and pyridine. The chemicals added are to prevent people from drinking the spirit.

How Is Methylated Spirit Made?

To make methylated spirits, manufacturers distill ethanol from fermented crops. Once the fermented crop or wash has undergone the distillation process, and the ethanol has been collected in a collecting jar, manufacturers add chemicals such as isopropyl alcohol and methanol to it. Methyl violet (dye) is also added to the mix to produce a purple-like product we find sitting on the shelves.

Can You Make Methylated Spirits At Home?

You can make methylated spirit at home with a few store-bought ingredients. It’s a very simple method too. All you need is to set aside 5 minutes of your time, and you’ll have a jar of the product ready for use. The ratios in methylated spirits is usually 90% ethanol, and 10% denaturing ingredient like methanol or isopropyl alcohol.

We’ve written an example room below to make 1L of methylated spirits.

  • 900ml ethanol
  • 100ml methanol or isopropyl alcohol
  • 2-3 drips colorant of your choice (optional)

Mix all the ingredients in a small glass jar or non-reactive plastic container, stir, and pour into a jar with a tight seal lid. If you want to make 1 liter of the spirit, add 50ml methanol, 90ml ethanol, and 50ml isopropyl alcohol.

CAUTION: Alcohol is very abrasive and can cause skin irritation, so wear gloves when making the spirit. 

Store the finished product away from direct sunlight because alcohol is highly flammable. Make sure you work in a well-ventilated area when using the product to avoid inhaling the spirit. Inhalation can lead to nausea, headaches, and drowsiness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Methylated Spirits A Natural Product?

Methylated spirit is a natural product which makes it environmentally friendly. It’s made from ethanol (alcohol produced from fermented, distilled grains) with other alcohols and chemicals such as isopropyl alcohol and methanol (a by-product of distilled alcohol) added to it. Even though it’s a natural product, it’s not safe for human consumption because it can cause blindness or death. It also causes skin irritation, so it’s advisable to always wear gloves when using it. 

What Is Methylated Spirits Composed Of?

Methylated spirits is made up of various chemicals which often arent disclosed on the bottle. It’s commonly composed of ethanol, methanol, pyridine, isopropyl alcohol, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, or acetone.

What’s The Difference Between Isopropyl Alcohol And Methylated Spirits?

While the methylated spirit and isopropyl alcohol are both, well, alcohol and can be used for more or less the same purposes (cleaning hard surfaces), there are some differences between the two products. Methylated spirits is made from distilled ethanol. Manufacturers then add chemicals such as methanol, pyridine, and isopropyl alcohol to achieve the foul smell we find in the spirit. Isopropyl alcohol is made from propene (a by-product of fossil fuels) mixed with water and is produced through a process called hydration. This process produces 100% isopropyl alcohol. 

Can You Drink Methylated Spirits?

You cannot drink methylated spirits. Not only does it have a pungent, foul smell, but it can also be extremely dangerous when consumed. You can go blind or die when you drink it because it has methanol, isopropyl alcohol, and pyridine added to it. It’s also advised not to inhale the spirit because it can cause nausea and dizziness.

Conclusion

Methylated spirit is a very versatile general-purpose product. The best thing about it is that you can make your own jar of the spirit using easy-to-find store-bought ingredients. This way, you never run out of natural cleaning products. What’s worth noting is that it’s not made for human consumption and it can be very abrasive on the skin. 

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