The term alcohol has become so synonymous with beverages that it has created a separate term in order to avoid confusion. Denatured alcohol, also known as alcohol denat, is a form of ethanol that has been rendered unable to consume, but still capable of being sold for cleaning or disinfecting purposes. The cost of drinking alcohol has been ramped up so much by the number of taxes and duties that must be paid (commonly known as drinking taxes or sin taxes, similar to the higher cost of cigarettes) that to manufacture ethanol and not mark it as alcohol denat would make it extremely expensive. A single liter of rubbing ethanol alcohol, for instance, contains 90% pure alcohol and costs only around five dollars, while a single liter of liquor contains around 40% pure alcohol and may cost anywhere from twenty to five hundred dollars. As such, if ethanol were not treated to be undrinkable, people would purchase the cheaper and stronger alcohol for consumption.
The typical chemical that is applied to denatured alcohol is methanol, making it not only poisonous but also harsh-smelling. As methanol has a similar boiling point as ethanol, it may be safely mixed without the risk of evaporation or residue. Acetone and denatonium are other common additives to denatured alcohol. In Britain, every ninety parts of ethanol must be mixed with ten parts of wood naptha and a small concentration of pyridine to be legally sold as non-consumable.
Often times, alcohol denat mixtures are helpful because ethanol latches on to particles with greater force than water. As such, ethanol and non-beverage alcohols are used for cleaning purposes in situations when water is ineffective: cleaning the monitors of computers, LCD displays rare or old woods of antique furniture and musical instruments, and valuable silverware. Alcohol lifts stains out of fabric, making it an ideal cleaning solution. As ethanol also kills any bacteria it comes in contact with, it is part of alcoholic swabs and ointments that are used as disinfectants. While these alcoholic swabs may safely be used on the exterior of skin, prior to injections or after the opening of a blister, care must be taken to avoid any toxic ethanol entering the bloodstream. As this substance is also flammable, it may be used in small scale combustions or even as fuel. Many portable burners and fire-starters use alcohol, as it is lighter than propane or solid fuels.