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    Difference Between Ethanol and Methanol

    Ethanol and methanol are two types of alcohols and even though they sound and look similar there are lot of differences between ethanol and methanol.

    ChemistryChemical Compound FormulasDifference Between Ethanol And Methanol

    Difference Between Ethanol and Methanol

    Ethanol and methanol are just two kinds of alcohols. Ethanol, that is also known as ethyl alcohol falls with the chemical structure with two carbon atoms. While methanol, also known as methyl alcohol is composed of only one carbon atom. Ethanol is usually produced by combining an ethyl group

    CH3CH2 to a hydroxyl group (-OH).

    Its formula is given as CH3CH2OH

    Methanol is prepared by combining a methyl group

    CH3 to a hydroxyl group (-OH). It is represented as CH3OH

    While the carbon number is the main difference between ethanol and methanol, these two feature some similarities. They both sound similar and are colorless liquids. So, they can be confused easily. However, methanol and ethanol are different types of alcohol or chemicals. They do have other different properties as well as uses.

    Differences between Ethanol and Methanol

    Now that we know a bit about the two alcohols, let’s dive into the differences between ethanol and methanol.

    Difference between Ethanol and Methanol

    Ethanol is a type of alcohol with its carbon skeleton consisting of an ethyl group. Methanol consists of in its carbon bond methyl group.

    Ethanol is a poor acid compared with water, in terms of acidity. Methanol is higher acidic than water

    Ethanol has a heavy, burning smell and emits bright blue flame. Methanol is unpredictable and has a characteristic odour. When burning it gives off light white flame.

    Ethanol is typically prepared by the fermentation of food crops from factories. Methanol is manufactured mainly by synthetic processes.

    Ethanol is the primary ingredient of alcoholic beverages. Since methanol is highly poisonous it is not appropriate for use at all. Generally used in the manufacturing of products such as formaldehyde etc.

    These are some of the differences between ethanol and methanol. To know more about alcohols or important differences between similar products and other chemistry topics, you can keep visiting BYJU’S or download our app for interesting content and learning experience.

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    Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

    Name a test that can be used to distinguish ethanol from methanol?

    Iodoform test is used to distinguish ethanol from methanol.

    Is methanol toxic?

    Yes, methanol is toxic. It can cause permanent blindness, central nervous system poisoning, coma, and even death if ingested more than 10g in quantity.

    Is ethanol toxic?

    Yes, ethanol is toxic. It can cause liver damage, central nervous system breakage, coma and even death if ingested in large quantity. However, ethanol is commonly used in alcohols.

    What is denatured alcohol?

    Denatured alcohol is ethanol with additives to make it poisonous, bad-tasting, foul-smelling, or nauseating to discourage its recreational consumption. Pyridine and methanol are added to ethanol to denature it.

    What are the similarities between ethanol and methanol?

    Ethanol and methanol are just two kinds of alcohol. Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol, falls within the chemical structure of two carbon atoms. While methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, is composed of only one carbon atom.

    Related Links:

    Identification and Conversion of Alcohols Physical and Chemical Properties of Alcohols

    Alcohol Hydroxyl group Uses of Methanol and Ethanol in Everyday Life

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    Know The Difference Between Ethanol and Methanol

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    Difference Between Ethanol and Methanol


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    Ethanol and Methanol

    Last updated date: 13th Mar 2023

    • Total views: 254.1k • Views today: 5.35k

    Methanol and ethanol are alcohol variants. Methanol contains only one carbon and ethanol contains two carbon in each molecule. Both substances can be used as energy sources, but methanol primarily serves as a research subject, and its use as a motor fuel has been mostly phased out in the United States. The position of ethanol is greater, although its future as an automotive fuel is still unclear. Both of them may sound similar, look similar and even both are alcohol but that is where its similarity ends. There are some very significant differences and they have different characteristics, applications, and effects. Mistaking the two may have very negative effects, potentially.

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    Made up of a methyl group attached with a hydroxy also known as methyl alcohol or wood alcohol. It's milder, sweeter than ethanol with a distinctive odor. It is colorless and volatile. Consumption of methanol is toxic and can cause blindness. It is widely used in the manufacture of acetic acid and formaldehyde.


    It is a colorless liquid and a principal ingredient in alcoholic beverages like wine, beer, etc. Ethanol is also known as ethyl alcohol. Ethanol is also an ingredient in a range of products, from personal care and beauty products to paints and varnishes to fuel, as it can readily dissolve in water and other organic compounds. Currently, the most widespread use of ethanol is as a gasoline additive. Manufacturing of solvents, plastics, medications, perfumes, antibacterial gels, and cosmetics are other industrial applications.

    Properties of Ethanol and Methanol

    The two chemicals have very similar characteristics. Ethanol is a clear, colorless, flammable, and explosive liquid solvent that has a distinctive odor that creates smokeless blue flames that do not always appear under natural light and evaporate when they are burning in an open container. Likely, methanol, with a distinctive smell similar to that of ethanol, is volatile, colorless, flammable liquid. The distinction between methanol and ethanol is that the flame is light white and not light blue when methanol is burnt.



    It is used in the production of methylamines and methylamines.

    Used as an additive to reduce the freezing point of liquids.

    Widely used in the production of acetic acid and formaldehyde.


    Used as an antiseptic and as a disinfectant.

    Widely used as a solvent due to its ability to dissolve both polar and nonpolar compounds.

    Commonly used in beauty and cosmetic products.

    Solved Examples

    1. How can Methanol and Ethanol be distinguished?

    Ans: The iodoform test is used to distinguish between Methanol and Ethanol. As ethanol is warmed with iodine in the presence of NaOH, it produces a yellow-colored precipitate but methanol does not react positively to the Iodoform test.

    2. Why is Methanol Dangerous?

    Ans: It is extremely poisonous and flammable. It causes permanent blindness through optic nerve damage, central nervous system poisoning, coma, and likely death if ingested directly more than 10g in quantity. Such threats are often observed while vapors of methanol are inhaled.

    3. Is Ethanol Dangerous?

    Ans: While ethanol is used extensively, it is a hazardous chemical. It is extremely flammable and as such, it has precise flashpoints that are important to consider when using it. Although ethanol is consumed when alcoholic drinks are taken, the ingestion of pure ethanol alone can cause coma and death.

    4. Does Fructose Cause Diabetes?

    Ans: Fructose does not increase blood glucose and does not require insulin, and it can also be handled better by people with diabetes than other sugars. In reality, studies indicate that in individuals with diabetes, small amounts of oral fructose may improve glycemic control.

    Methanol vs. Ethanol  Chemically

    Chemists have made their life considerably simpler by establishing a standard vocabulary for describing molecules, ensuring that everyone knows what they are talking about. The name of a molecule describes the number of carbons it contains. According to Chemistry School, the prefixes "meth-" and "eth-" in chemistry refer to the number of carbon atoms in the molecule's root chain. The suffix "-ol" appears at the end of the names of chemicals of the alcohol family.

    Methanol has the chemical formula CH3OH and has one carbon in its root chain., which means it has one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms, one of which is bonded to an oxygen. Ethane's chemical formula is C2H5OH, which means it has two carbon atoms in its root chain and six hydrogen atoms outside of it, one of which is bonded to oxygen.

    Ethanol is sometimes known as ethyl alcohol, however, this is a technical word for what is usually known as "alcohol" in the form of spirits, whiskey, wine, beer, and other beverages. It is the most widely consumed alcoholic beverage. Methyl alcohol is another name for methanol. Methanol is used as a solvent, a raw ingredient in the manufacture of compounds such as formaldehyde, and for cleaning metals, according to Britannica. Drinking methanol is clearly a poor idea.

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    What's The Difference Between Ethanol And Methanol?

    They sound similar, look the same, and are both types of alcohol, but that’s where the similarities end. Discover the differences between ethanol and methanol.

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    What’s The Difference Between Ethanol And Methanol?

    Home The Chemistry Blog

    What’s The Difference Between Ethanol And Methanol?

    30th January 2020 by Jessica Clifton

    Ethanol and methanol sound similar and look the same, and they are both types of alcohol. But that’s really where the similarities end. There are some very important differences between ethanol and methanol and they have different properties, uses, and effects. Mistaking the two can have potentially very harmful consequences.

    The main differences between ethanol and methanol are:

    Chemical formula Contains the ethyl group in its carbon skeleton Contains the methyl group in its carbon skeleton

    Acidity A weak acid compared to water A strong acid compared to water

    Properties Is flammable, volatile, and has a a strong, distinctive smell. It gives off a bright blue flame when burned Is flammable, volatile, and has a a strong, distinctive smell. It gives off a bright white flame when burned

    Production Ethanol is typically produced by the fermentation of food crops Methanol is usually synthetically processed

    Uses The main ingredient in alcoholic beverages Should not be consumed! Methanol is used to produce other chemicals such as formaldehyde

    In this post:

    Chemical formulae

    Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol, consists of two carbon atoms and has the formula CH3CH2OH. Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, has just one carbon atom. Its chemical formula is CH3OH.

    Properties of ethanol and methanol

    The properties of the two chemicals are very similar. Ethanol is a clear, colourless liquid solvent which is both flammable and volatile and has a distinctive odour; when burned, it produces a smokeless blue flame which isn’t always visible in normal light, and it evaporates when in an open container.

    Methanol, similarly, is volatile, colourless, flammable liquid with a distinctive smell similar to that of ethanol. The difference with ethanol is that when methanol is burned, the flame is bright white rather than bright blue.


    Over 90% of the ethanol produced globally is made from the fermentation of crops, with the remainder produced by the hydration of ethene. Examples of the types of crops (also called feedstock) used are barley, rice, corn, and wheat. Any crop or plant containing large quantities of sugar like starch or cellulose can be used.

    Methanol is usually made on an industrial scale by reforming natural gas with steam. The result is a synthesised mixture that is converted and distilled, creating methanol.

    Physical effects

    You can drink ethanol in legal alcoholic drinks (in moderation, of course), and as most of us know, it results in drunkenness, headaches, and nausea. Industrially-produced ethanol is hazardous and should never be drunk, as it can be lethal.

    Likewise, methanol is also extremely hazardous. It should never be ingested, inhaled, or even come in contact with your skin. Even an extremely small dose can cause blindness and could be fatal.


    Aside from being used as a key ingredient in alcoholic drinks, ethanol is also a universal solvent and is used in industries ranging from cosmetics and pharmaceuticals to domestic cleaning products, essential oils, and paint. It’s also used as a fuel additive in internal combustion engines.

    Methanol is mainly used in organic synthesis, as a fuel additive like ethanol, as a solvent, and in antifreeze.


    The blog on chemicals.co.uk and everything published on it is provided as an information resource only. The blog, its authors and affiliates accept no responsibility for any accident, injury or damage caused in part or directly from following the information provided on this website. We do not recommend using any chemical without first consulting the Material Safety Data Sheet which can be obtained from the manufacturer and following the safety advice and precautions on the product label. If you are in any doubt about health and safety issues please consult the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).


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