DENATURED ALCOHOL, Alcohol that has been rendered unfit for use as a beverage or as a medicine by the addition of poisonous and offensive substances. It is also called denaturalised and denaturized alcohol, and in dustrial alcohol. Denature means to change the nature of, and the reason for changing the nature of alcohol is that it may not be subject to the Government tax on alcohol as a beverage, and thus be sold at a low price for industrial pur poses. The first official recognition of denatured alcohol as a distinctly industrial substance was the action of the British government in 1855, in relieving it from the payment of duty de manded on alcoholic beverages. The denatur ing agent then used was, as now, methyl or wood alcohol, added to the ethyl or grain al cohol in the proportion of 10 per cent. The mixture .was called methylated spirit.
France, in 1872, provided a special tax of about 30 cents per gallon on alcohol denatured for use in the arts. In Germany, denatured al cohol was first freed from tax in 1879. The Netherlands untaxed the denatured spirit in the same year. Austria-Hungary followed in 1888; Sweden in 1890; Switzerland in 1893; Norway in 1894; and Belgium in 1896. The United States law went into effect in 1907. At that time the selling price of proof alcohol in the United States was about $2.50 a gallon, and the Government tax was $2.08, so that the distiller received about 42 cents a gallon. Being relieved of this tax on the denatured product the distiller could afford to sell it for 42 cents, rendering it available for a variety of uses. As a matter of fact it can be made for much less than 42 cents a gallon, as the price in Germany has been as low as 15 cents, and the figures presented in Congress at the time the proposed law was discussed went to show that it might be made as low as 11 cents a gallon. In 1916, proof alcohol was selling for $2.04 per gallon, the tax was $1.10 per gallon, and denatured alcohol was 60 cents.
The uses to which denatured alcohol may be applied, for light, fuel and power purposes, all require a cheap article, as it comes into competition with petroleum products that are sold at a low figure. But because alcohol is better than petroleum for many purposes, often it will be used even at a somewhat higher price.
The price of $2.50 a gallon, however, was pro hibitive, in most cases, to industrial uses.
Ordinary alcohol, specifically called ethyl al cohol, for the purpose of taxation and storing in bonded warehouses, is made to a uniform standard called proof alcohol, which is 94 per cent pure, the remainder being water. For use as a beverage or medicine this is diluted. (See Atcoxot). To denatured alcohol there is added to the proof alcohol a small quantity of methyl or wood alcohol, which is distinctly poisonous, and which of course renders it un fit to drink. In order to spoil the taste and render it offensive, a little benzine or pyridine is also added, when the denaturizing is con sidered complete, and this product is called "completely denatured alcohol.° It is the regu lar commercial grade.
The United .States law provides that "to every 100 gallons of ethyl alcohol of 180 de gree proof shall be added 10 gallons of ap proved methyl (wood) alcohol, and half a gallon of approved benzine," and that this mix ture shall be free from taxation as alcohol.
Besides the commercial type, the Govern ment provides also for "specially denatured alcohol" to be used for certain manufactures in which the commercial type would be injurious. The latter can be used in making soaps, lini ments, compound camphor, etc., but not for medicines taken internally. For example, the alcohol used in making chloral is denatured by passing through it a current of chlorine gas. Alcohol used in making chloroform is denatured with chloride of lime. In varnish factories the denaturing agent used is turpentine. In vine gar factories the alcohol is denatured by adding an equal quantity of vinegar. For other similar specific uses several resins are employed; also camphor, acetic or nitric acids, acetic ether, acetone oil, several of the coal-tar dyes, naph thaline, nitrobenzol, castor-oil, caustic soda, phenolphthalein, chloroform, formalin and others. The United States law does not specify the articles and quantities, but simply the condition that it must be rendered unfit for use as a beverage or medicine, and making the revenue cfficers the judges as to when this has been accomplished. About 50 processes have been published for making denatured alcohol.