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How to Test If Alcohol Has Methanol

Updated April 17, 2017

Methanol is type of alcohol used in the manufacture and production of products such as antifreeze, some paints, resin, perfume and some types of fuel. Methanol is toxic and could be fatal as little as 3 tablespoons were consumed. Methanol poisoning may appear to be normal intoxication but the victim will continue to get worse until he dies, if untreated. If you are distilling alcohol at home you can test your homemade liquor for methanol to prevent the consumption of this toxic alcohol, which can cause blindness or death.

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  1. Place two 1 oz (30ml) samples of the alcohol in question into separate containers.

  2. Mix 5 grams of potassium dichromate with one of the samples and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

  3. Waft the alcohol and potassium dichromate sample toward your nose. If you detect an acrid smell, methanol is present in the alcohol.

  4. Place a piece of red litmus paper in the second sample and wait 1 to 2 minutes.

  5. Check the litmus paper. If it has turned from red to blue, methanol is present.

  6. Dispose of the alcohol properly and do not consume it as it is highly poisonous.

  7. Warning

    Only test in a well-ventilated area. Methanol vapours can settle near the ground in still air and possible explode if they come in contact with a pilot light from a water heater or stove. Do not mix methanol with bleach; this can form methyl hypochlorite, which is explosive.

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Things You'll Need

  • Potassium dichromate
  • Litmus paper

About the Author

Based in Colorado, Joe Kelly has been a freelance writer since 2007. His writing has appeared in various online publications such as OC Publife, The Raiders Post, Liberty Abyss, Chasing the River and PipingShark. Kelly has a Bachelor of Science in business administration from California State University, Northridge.

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