Uses of Methanol and Ethanol in Everyday Life

Ethanol and methanol may look similar and belong to the same primary type of alcohol but actually, they are quite different. If we put methanol and ethanol in two different glasses, they will look the same. Methanol is a colorless volatile liquid with special odor and it burns to give a white (bright) flame.

On the other hand, ethanol is also a colorless volatile liquid with a strong and burning odor and also gives a white (bright) flame when burnt. This article deals with the uses of methanol and ethanol.

Uses of Ethanol

  • The alcohol that we drink is simply ethanol.
  • It is also used as a fuel. It burns in air to give carbon dioxide and water and can be used in combination with gasoline (petrol).

CH3CH2OH + 3O2 → 2CO2 + 3H2O

  • A mixture of petrol and ethanol is defined as gasohol with 10-20% ethanol.
  • Ethanol is one of the main ingredients in cosmetics and beauty products.
  • It is used as a food additive. Ethanol helps in evenly distributing food color. It also helps in enhancing the flavor of food extracts.
  • Ethanol is an effective agent that can kill microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Many hand sanitizers use this chemical compound.

Daily Uses of Ethanol

Uses of Methanol

  • Methanol can be used as a fuel. Methanol burns in air to give carbon dioxide and water.

2CH3OH + 3O2 → 2CO2 + 4H2O

  • Methanol is used as a useful fuel for stunt and racing cars as it is less inflammable and can be mixed with water.
  • It is also used as a solvent.
  • Methanol is also used to make other chemicals such as formaldehyde.
  • Being a polar liquid at room temperature, it is used as antifreeze and a denaturant for ethanol.

Uses of methanol

The reaction of methanol and ethanol with water

Methanol is soluble in water whereas ethanol is miscible in water. Methanol breaks down in the presence of water while ethanol forms a uniform mixture with water. This describes that the two substances can easily mix to make a homogeneous solution.

Disadvantages of ethanol and methanol in terms of physical effects

Methanol is very harmful to skin. It should never be inhaled or undigested as it can cause blindness whereas ethanol is an important ingredient in alcoholic drinks, resulting in intoxication. Ethanol is highly flammable and should not be used near open flames. Ethanol inhalation can cause coughing or headaches,

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Practise This Question

Methyl alcohol is toxic. The reason assigned is [RPET 2000]