Difference Between Ethanol and Methanol

Dhristi JEE 2022-24

Ethanol and Methanol

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.

Fun Facts

  • Methanol-powered vehicles can decrease emissions of greenhouse gas from around 25% and 35%, and emissions are also less reactive.

  • The cleanest and most affordable octane source on the market today is ethanol, which displaces toxic aromatic products such as benzene and toluene.

  • Producing 20 barrels of ethanol requires just 1 barrel of crude oil.

  • Ethanol is used in paints as preservatives because it is an effective solvent and also used in cleansing products for preventing the breach of organisms.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are the Solvent Properties of Ethanol?

Ethanol is utilized as an anti-freezing solution because of its low melting point. It has a density of 789 g/l, which is nearly 20% less than water. It is a powerful solvent that is easily soluble in water and is used in fragrances, paints, and tinctures. Because different flavor molecules are dissolved during the brewing process, alcoholic beverages offer a wide spectrum of flavors. A disinfectant solution containing 70-85% ethanol is extensively used; it kills organisms by denaturing their proteins and dissolving their lipids; it is effective against most germs, fungi, and viruses, but not bacterial spores. Because of ethanol's antibacterial properties, it is feasible to keep alcoholic beverages for a long period.

2. Is Methanol Acidic or Basic?

Methanol is acidic as well as basic. In the Bronsted-Lowry method, proton donors are acids, while proton acceptors are bases. Methanol is a proton donor, and it readily gives O-H protons to strong bases like sodium hydride. Methanol is a proton acceptor because it absorbs protons from strong acids like sulfuric acid. According to Lewis' acid-base principle, electron-pair acceptors are acids and donors are bases. This term also applies to methanol. Methanol is an acid because the proton is an electron pair acceptor on the O-H group, and oxygen is an electron donor with two unpaired electrons, making it a base. This sort of substance is both acid and base and is referred to as amphoteric.

3. What is Ethanol?

Ethanol, commonly known as alcohol, ethyl alcohol, or grain alcohol, is a colorless, transparent liquid that is used to make alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine, and brandy. Ethanol is used in a variety of items, from personal care and cosmetic products to paints and varnishes to gasoline, since it dissolves easily in water and other organic molecules. Ethanol is a naturally occurring result of plant fermentation that may also be made by hydrating ethylene.

4. What is Methanol?

Methanol is a liquid having the chemical formula CH3OH (often abbreviated MeOH). It is colorless, combustible, volatile, and toxic. Methanol is primarily generated from carbon monoxide and hydrogen and is obtained through the destructive distillation of wood. Its primary applications include organic synthesis, fuel, solvent, and antifreeze.

At room temperature, methanol is a polar liquid. Methanol is used as an antifreeze, a solvent, and a fuel, also an ethanol denaturant. Through a transesterification process, the chemical is also utilized to make biodiesel.

Methanol is widely utilized as a denaturant addition for ethanol made for industrial reasons due to its hazardous qualities. Because it was historically largely generated as a byproduct of destructive distillation of wood, methanol is often referred to as wood alcohol.

5. Where can I find notes and questions on the difference between Ethanol and Methanol?

Vedantu provides notes on the difference between Ethanol and Methanol. It goes through their differences, properties, uses, and more. Professional educators create content that is simple to understand and remember for students. Vedantu also provides students in grades 1 through 12 with study materials and a range of competitive tests. Notes, important topics and questions, revision notes, and other items are included in the material. All of these resources are available for free on Vedantu. Students must first register on the Vedantu website in order to access any of these materials. You may also use the Vedantu smartphone app to sign up.