Denatured Alcohol vs. Isopropyl Alcohol for Cleaning


When it comes to keeping household products clean, it can be overwhelming to know which products to use on which surfaces. How to use denatured and isopropyl alcohol correctly is a common question.

Denatured alcohol is a more potent disinfectant that kills bacteria and viruses but hazardous to skin. Isopropyl alcohol is less toxic but not as effective as a sterilizerer. Use isopropyl on sensitive surfaces like rubber or electronics. Tend to use denatured alcohol for bigger jobs when its harshness is not an issue.

If you decide you need denatured alcohol, here is the brand that I recommend. Just make sure you pick up some rubber gloves as well.

In the rest of this article, we will take a closer look at these two alcohols and better understand how they are different. We will also take a look at many common surfaces and see which alcohol is most suitable depending on the cleaning project. We will also explore some best practices when it comes to handling both of these substances.

What Is the Difference Between Isopropyl Alcohol and Denatured Alcohol?

Denatured alcohol starts as pure grain alcohol, also known as ethanol. Ethanol by itself is drinkable, but it takes on the name “denatured” when methanol is added. Adding methanol, also known as wood alcohol, is essentially adding a poison, thus making it undrinkable for humans. The methanol content is usually around 10%. 

Isopropyl alcohol, on the other hand, has a different chemical structure from ethanol or denatured alcohol. Sometimes referred to as rubbing alcohol, this is non-drinkable alcohol in any form. It is sometimes referred to as a surgical spirit because of its sterilizing properties, making it useful in the medical field. 

Isopropyl alcohol has extensive uses in both the industrial sector as well as personal and home care. Because it is not particularly toxic, it is commonly used as a cleaning agent or even for pharmacological purposes. Isopropyl alcohol can even be made into acetone, which is another chemical compound commonly found in household products like nail polish remover. 

A key difference between isopropyl alcohol and denatured alcohol is how safe they are for your skin. Isopropyl alcohol is considered non-toxic if applied to the skin. It may cause dryness, but it does not contain any particular poison. Denatured alcohol, on the other hand, contains methanol that is considered toxic. This can be absorbed through the skin if exposed, so it is important to handle denatured alcohol carefully. 

Interesting Fact: Denatured alcohol came about as a way to purchase alcohol for various industrial uses without paying high beverage taxes. In many countries, drinkable alcohol is heavily taxed. However, by ensuring denatured alcohol cannot be used for recreational drinking, these beverage taxes don’t apply. This classification makes this alcohol more affordable. 

Denatured Alcohol vs. Isopropyl Alcohol for Cleaning Glass

Diluted denatured alcohol or isopropyl alcohol can both be used when it comes to cleaning glass. In their strongest form, both are too aggressive to be used safely, but when diluted, they are quite effective and safe. Because both of these alcohols can evaporate rapidly, they can clean your windows or other glass surfaces without having the chance to leave streaks.

  • Both can be used in a one-to-one ratio with water.

If you cannot decide which to use, remember that denatured alcohol with methanol is hazardous when it comes into contact with exposed skin. If you want to use denatured alcohol for this task, remember to wear gloves at all times and use a cloth to clean your window. Remember to keep your skin safe at all times to avoid any methanol absorption. 

Pro Tip: You can put your solution in a spray bottle to apply to your glass surfaces effectively. You can squeegee away any extra or wipe it away with a paper towel. This method will leave your glass sparkling without any pesky residue. 

Can Isopropyl Alcohol Damage Glass?

Isopropyl alcohol in its full-strength form can be a bit harsh for glass. However, when diluted with water, it works well as a glass cleaner. Glass can be a tricky surface to clean, and water and isopropyl alcohol mixed together should do the trick.

You can mix one part water with one part rubbing alcohol. This ratio will prevent the alcohol from being too strong and damaging the glass. 

Denatured Alcohol vs. Isopropyl Alcohol for Cleaning Metal

Both denatured alcohol or isopropyl alcohol are effective when it comes to cleaning metal. They are non-corrosive and evaporate quickly. These properties will help keep your metal surfaces safe and protected while you clean and sanitize them. 

If you have some industrial equipment to clean, denatured alcohol makes a great choice. It is a strong cleaner that won’t damage stainless steel or other metal surfaces. It is often used to clean industrial-grade kitchen supplies or the metal components on cars. Remember to always use gloves and keep your skin protected when using denatured alcohol. 

Isopropyl alcohol is a better choice for smaller metal cleaning products. It is slightly less aggressive but safer for the consumer and is ideal for small household cleaning projects. Even if you are using 99% pure isopropyl alcohol mixed with water, it won’t corrode or damage your metals. 

Denatured Alcohol vs. Isopropyl Alcohol for Cleaning Wood

Denatured alcohol and isopropyl alcohol each have a different purpose when applied to wood. If used incorrectly, both can be potentially dangerous to your wood surfaces.

  • Denatured alcohol is usually used to remove unwanted finishes from wood. If your surface has an old finish that is peeling or has become discolored, denatured alcohol is perfect for this job.
  • Isopropyl is more commonly used if your wood surface has a pesky stain you are looking to rub away. It won’t remove the finish in the same way that denatured alcohol will. It is a safer option if you are looking to do some smaller touch-ups to restore the current look of your furniture or other wooden surface. 

Denatured Alcohol vs. Isopropyl Alcohol for Cleaning Electronics

When it comes to cleaning your electronics, you should choose only isopropyl alcohol every time. Denatured alcohol can be damaging to electronics. The residue it leaves behind after cleaning can be hazardous, particularly to a computer.

When using isopropyl alcohol, make sure to research where it can be used on your electronic device. For example, isopropyl alcohol is great for cleaning the keyboard and surfaces of the computer but is not ideal for cleaning the screen.

Can Isopropyl Alcohol Damage Rubber?

Isopropyl alcohol can damage rubber and should not be used for this purpose. Even in small, inconsistent exposures, rubber can become discolored, deformed, or otherwise damaged after coming in contact with alcohol.

If you were to continue this habit of exposing rubber to isopropyl alcohol, it could cause the rubber to be completely destroyed.

As a general rule, keep your rubber products away from isopropyl alcohol and use a cleaner that is safe for this kind of material. I recommend only using a product specifically designed to clean rubber, like this one.

Will Denatured Alcohol Kill Germs?

Denatured alcohol is effective when it comes to killing germs. It will evaporate quickly and kill a wide variety of bacteria, germs, fungi, and even viruses quickly. When compared to isopropyl alcohol, denatured can even be considered more effective. This is because it has the ability to kill viruses that isopropyl alcohol cannot.

Interesting Fact: There are two basic categories of viruses, enveloped and non-enveloped. The name comes from their molecular structure. Examples of enveloped viruses are the flu, SARS, ebola, Hepatitis B, and HIV. Non-enveloped viruses include Hepatitis A, among others. Denatured alcohol is more effective across both categories, while isopropyl alcohol struggles to kill the non-enveloped viruses it encounters. 

Is Denatured Alcohol Safe on Skin?

Protective-Gloves

Denatured alcohol is safe on skin only if you are using a product that contains denatured alcohol. There may be dryness or redness depending on your skin type, but nothing poisonous. However, if you are using industrial-grade denatured alcohol that is not considered cosmetic, it will likely be dangerous.

Methanol, which is the primary ingredient in turning ethanol into the poisonous denatured alcohol, could potentially be absorbed through your skin and lead to poisoning. If using this type of denatured alcohol, you will want to avoid contact with your skin to avoid the possibility of methanol absorption and poisoning.

The denatured alcohol that is used in hand sanitizers, toners, cosmetics, and other personal care items is created in a way that is considered non-toxic. Companies can use other additives and at a level that is low enough to be safely used on skin.

In fact, if you check the ingredients in the nearest bottle of hand sanitizer, you may see that denatured alcohol is listed as one of the main ingredients. Because of its germ-killing properties, it is often relied upon for hand sanitizers and other personal hygiene products. This may lead you to believe that denatured alcohol is safe for skin. However, that is only a partial understanding.

Is Denatured Alcohol a Good Disinfectant?

Denatured alcohol is a highly effective disinfectant. The key to using denatured alcohol as a disinfectant is to make sure it is properly diluted at a one-to-one ratio. It must be strong enough to kill the bacteria and viruses it comes across but watered down enough to be safe for human contact. 

To make a general disinfectant, mix one part denatured alcohol with one part warm water. This ratio will make the alcohol safer to work with while maintaining effectiveness. Of course, as you use this mixture to clean around the house, make sure you keep your gloves on and use a cloth to apply the mixture.

If you want to put the disinfectant in a spray bottle, you may want to use a slightly different ratio.

How Do You Make Disinfectant Spray With Denatured Alcohol?

To make disinfectant spray with denatured alcohol, you will want to mix one part distilled water to three parts alcohol. You will want the alcohol content to be over 62% in order to ensure effectiveness. Add a half teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide in order to activate the spray more efficiently.

This homemade spray will be similar to store-bought brands in efficacy but without any additives or chemicals that you wish to avoid. It will likely be most cost-effective when you make it at home as well. 

Pro Tip: If you are debating on whether to use isopropyl alcohol or denatured alcohol for this spray, you can consider if you are trying to kill bacteria or viruses. Isopropyl alcohol is said to be highly effective at killing bacteria, but ethanol (the main ingredient in denatured alcohol) is more effective against viruses. 

Keep in mind that if you use denatured alcohol with methanol, you create a heavy-duty spray that can be hazardous if absorbed through the skin. Depending on your intentions, making a disinfectant spray with pure ethanol that has not been treated with methanol may be a safer option.

Cool Tip: You can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oils in order to give your spray a scent you enjoy. 

Final Thoughts

When it comes to choosing between denatured alcohol and isopropyl alcohol for your home cleaning needs, there are a few simple things to remember. Denatured alcohol may be a more effective disinfectant, but it is generally hazardous when exposed to the skin, so always take precautions when using this type. 

Comparatively, isopropyl alcohol is not toxic to human skin but may be less effective. Knowing these properties, you are able to choose the best alcohol for your cleaning needs while remaining safe as the consumer.

For more, don’t miss Does Disinfectant Go Bad? | Using Old Sanitizing Products.

Disclaimer: We at survivalfreedom.com are not experts on either isopropyl or denatured alcohol. This article is based on information gathered from various sources on the web. Survivalfreedom.com will not be held responsible for the misuse of dangerous chemicals. Use these substances at your own risk.

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

Related Articles