Denatured Alcohol – Australia

What It Is and What You Need to Know

What is denatured alcohol in Australia?

Denatured alcohol, also called methylated spirits, or Metho for short is a greener alternative to using petroleum-based solvents. Poisonous denatured alcohol in Australia is called Methylated spirits.

Denatured alcohol is a type of alcohol that has been treated to make it poisonous to drink but still useful and practical to use.

This is done to prevent it from being consumed as a food or beverage. So called, Metho is used as a solvent and as a fuel.

There are two types of alcohol: ethyl alcohol and methyl alcohol. These are also known as ethanol and methanol.

Ethyl alcohol is the type of pure alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, like beer, wine or spirits.

Methyl alcohol is the type of alcohol found in antifreeze and some cleaning products. Methyl alcohol is also known as methanol.

What are the common names for denatured alcohol in Australia?

In Australia, denatured alcohol is commonly known by several names, including methylated spirits, metho, denatured ethanol, denatured spirit, industrial methylated spirits, and rubbing alcohol.

These terms are often used interchangeably and refer to the same type of alcohol that has been made unfit for human consumption by the addition of toxic substances, such as methanol or pyridine. Denatured alcohol is commonly used as a solvent, fuel, or disinfectant in a range of industrial and household applications.

Uses for alcohol denatured

In many countries, sales of alcoholic beverages are heavily taxed for revenue and public health policy purposes.

In order to avoid paying beverage taxes on alcohol that’s not meant to be consumed, the alcohol must be “denatured”, or treated with added chemicals to make it distasteful.

Alcohol is tightly defined by government regulations in countries that tax alcoholic beverages.

Alcohol is used identically to ethanol (ethyl alcohol) except for applications that involve fuel, surgical and laboratory stock.

Pure ethanol is required for food and beverage applications and certain chemical reactions where the denaturant would interfere.

In chemical laboratories, denatured ethanol shouldn’t be used for the precipitation of nucleic acids, since the additives may interfere with downstream applications.[2]

Denatured alcohol has no advantages for any purpose over normal ethanol; it’s a public policy compromise.

As this alcohol is sold without the heavy excise tax on alcohol suitable for consumption, it is a less expensive solution for most uses that don’t involve drinking.

If pure ethanol were made cheaply available for fuel, solvents, or medicinal purposes, it may likely be enjoyed as a drink by many people without payment of the Australian alcoholic beverage taxes, called an excise tax.[3]

Denatured Alcohol is not food grade.
Denatured Alcohol is not food grade.

Can you drink denatured ethanol?

Can you drink denatured ethanol? Yes, you can if you want to, but it is poisonous to your system because of its high alcohol content, and a small amount can give you a headache, dizziness, gastric disorders, nausea and even your nervous system depression.

So, do not attempt to drink metho or use it to make tinctures. Buy food-grade ethanol or pure alcohol.

What are the benefits of denatured alcohol?

Denatured alcohol is widely known for its anti-bacterial properties.

This makes it an ideal cleaning agent. It can be used on a variety of hard surfaces, such as wood, plastic, and glass. During the latest pandemic, alcohol was used for cleaning surfaces.

Its capacity as a solvent also enables it to dissolve grease and stains, as well as remove light marks from some surfaces.

Can denatured alcohol be used for cleaning?

Can denatured alcohol be used for cleaning? Of course, it can! It is best for use on inert surfaces like stainless steel and glass. This includes porcelain toilets, bathroom stalls, stainless sinks, kitchens and almost any other hard surface. Dilute the denatured alcohol with one part of warm water to one part of denatured ethanol.

Cleaning windows

My grandmother swore by using metho and newspaper to clean windows, they were sparkling clean. You can use this alcohol in your house or car windows too.

Drawbacks of denatured alcohol

Despite its toxic methanol content, denatured alcohol is sometimes incorrectly used as a solvent in food-grade recipes. The toxins may result in a foul taste in the final product. This can also result in blindness or death as it contains methanol.

For instance, during the Prohibition within the United States, federal law required methanol in domestically manufactured industrial alcohols. From December 1926, which was roughly at the midpoint of the “Noble Experiment” of nationwide alcohol prohibition, 31 people in New York City died of methanol poisoning.[4] 

To help prevent this, denatonium is often added to give the essence an extremely bitter flavour.

Substances such as pyridine are also added to give the mixture an unpleasant odour, and agents such as syrup of ipecac may also be included to cause vomiting.

If you use this for cleaning surfaces, be careful as sometimes the metho can dissolve plastics, particularly window film.

Where to buy denatured alcohol – Australia

Denatured alcohol is a type of alcohol that has additives to make it unfit for consumption, and it is often used for industrial and household purposes. Here are some places where you can buy denatured alcohol:

  1. Hardware stores: Many hardware stores, such as Bunnings and Mitre10, carry denatured alcohol in their paint and cleaning supplies sections.
  2. Automotive stores: Some automotive stores, such as Super Expensive and Auto One Parts, may carry denatured alcohol for use in cleaning car parts and tools.
  3. Online retailers: Denatured alcohol can be purchased online from retailers such as Amazon, eBay, and Kogan.
  4. Specialty stores: Some specialty stores, such as art supply stores or woodworking shops, may carry denatured alcohol for use in cleaning brushes or furniture.

When purchasing denatured alcohol, be sure to read the label carefully to ensure that it is appropriate for the intended use. It is also important to follow safety guidelines and use the product in a well-ventilated area.


Denatured alcohol has many uses, whether cleaning windows or using it as a refrigerant in a cooling system. However drinking denatured alcohol or adding it to food products, like CBD tinctures is not a good idea.

Some Facts

The main additive usually is 10% methanol (methyl alcohol), hence the name methylated spirits.