Can you drink lab alcohol?

I have heard that the 99% has impurities. But what about the 70% and the 96%?

My old math tutor who was a grad student in chemistry used to pour a little reagent-grade ethanol into his coke. He told me that the current process for producing it caused it to be no more toxic than ethanol.


Yes you can unless it is one of the denatured versions. Mix it with water and you have Vodka.

It usually is ethanol (aka drinking alcohol) at least in the labs I worked in.

It depends on how it was purified, and whether or not it has been denatured. Sometimes they actually add stuff to make it undrinkable. The 95% stuff is usually OK. My parents were grad students in the 60’s and they said that occasionally they had parties where that was served. It’s definitely not something that is done regularly these days. It certainly isn’t done “above the table” the way my parents describe it. They said somebody ran it through a GC before using it.

By “lab alcohol” I’m guessing you’re referring to ethyl alcohol. Methyl alcohol is also used in labs. It causes death when swallowed in any appreciable quantities. If you’re going to be dabbling in laboratory bartending (:smack:),be sure you have the “right” lab alcohol. xo, C.

In the lave I work in we recently needed to acquire several 55 gallon drums of 200 proof non-denatured alcohol. Yes you can drink it. The paperwork you have to go through to get it will make you need a drink too.

200-proof? As in, anhydrous EtOH? I was under the impression “pure” ethanol readily reached 95% equilibrium with the water vapor in the atmosphere.

The other risk with pure ethanol is the fact that people do not think about how strong it is, add too much, and then you have multiple cases of alcohol poisoning. It’s easy to get something that tastes like coke but has the alcohol content of a spirit.

Labs have fairly strict controls on non-denatured ethanol, and use denatured ethanol (if they can) because it is less hassle to manage and removes temptation.

That was certainly the case in the labs I’ve spent time in, anyhow.


99% ETOH is used in labs as well and easy to order in smaller quantities.

Previous thread about that.

So back when I was in college, we bagged some pure ethanol from the lab. My buddy drove me to the dorm to drop me off.
I took about a 50ml hit as I got out of the car. I was immediately as thirsty as I have ever been. By the time I got to the front door, I felt drunk off my ass. Straight to the drinking fountain. Finally my mouth didn’t feel like cotton.
About 15 minutes after that I felt sober again.
I strongly advise against drinking this stuff straight.

I’ve never gotten the non-denatured kind. And you wouldn’t believe the number of morons posing as scientists that think “Ain’t all alcohols the same?”

Part of the caution may be due to the fact that one of the methods for breaking the water/ethanol azeotrope involves using benzene. If you’re going to try this, be sure you know the purity and what the production method was.

When we needed it in the paper conservation lab I interned in, my boss went to the liquor store and bought Everclear. It worked for what we needed it for and it was a lot cheaper and less hassle, but she had to submit expense reports for cheap liquor.

I would simply say that you shouldn’t try it. There is no point. It’s likely to be OK, but I don’t see the entertainment value. That much alcohol could only poison you. Beer, wine and liquer are readily available and taste better. If you must, you can get Everclear. I had a bottle of Everclear once, but I used it to fuel my spark ignited Kenny rocket. I didn’t drink it.

I agree. I have only touched lab grade ethanol to my tongue and there is no way you could drink it straight. It is just vodka without much water in it. Anything you made a mixed drink with it is basically the same thing as any other super high-proof alcohol like Everclear. Once you mix it with anything, there is no point as long as you know the right ratios of ethanol to the mixers.

When I was a PhD student we had parties in which we used lab alcohol to make punch. The “point” was that it was massively cheaper than buying vodka. As I recall, a Winchester (2.5 litres) cost less than £1. Not that you could buy it as an individual - the cost was booked to the lab which made it free, if dishonest. But as the lecturers (professors, in American terms) who ran the labs were throwing the parties, we didn’t feel bad about it.

Now that sounds like what my parents went through. If it’s mixed properly for lots of people and by people that aren’t likely to make it too strong, then it’s not too much of a problem, but a couple guys with a gallon of ethanol is nothing short of dangerous. The sort of thing you describe never happened at my school as far as I know. There was plenty of drunkeness, but not using the lab alcohol.

My bioorganic chemistry prof went off on an entertaining tangent about that…

Basically, you don’t want to touch the anyhydrous (100%) stuff. To get it past 95%, the process involves addition of benzene and further distillation. You really don’t want to drink even trace amounts of benzene.

According to him, however, the non-denatured 70% and 95% stuff was just fine. Though you should never drink that. But it would be fine if you did. It’s illegal, you see, because it’s licensed for laboratory use. But if you had to…

Personally, if I saw a need for this, I wouldn’t touch anything denatured, anhydrous, or technical grade. The molecular biology grade stuff we use would be fine, but it’s expensive enough to make the whole thing rather silly.