Difference Between Methanol And Ethanol

Ethanol is an abbreviation for Ethyl Alcohol, which means that the Carbon skeleton has two Carbon atoms. At the same time, methanol is an abbreviation for Methyl Alcohol, which means that the Carbon skeleton has just one Carbon atom. In this article find an overview of the basic differences between Ethanol and Methanol together with their real-life applications.

What is Methanol?

Methanol, commonly known as methyl alcohol, is created by attaching a methyl group (CH3-) to a hydroxide group (-OH), resulting in the chemical formula CH3OH. It is, however, sometimes shortened as MeOH. It’s also known as ‘wood alcohol’ since it was previously created as a byproduct of wood distillation. However, methanol is typically synthesised by catalysis from carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen.

Methanol is the most basic alcohol discovered in chemistry, and it is very volatile and combustible. It is likewise colorless and has an ethanol-like odor. Methanol may create hydrogen bonds with water and other alcohols, mixing effectively with them. Compared to ethanol, methanol has a greater acidity, which is also somewhat higher than water.

What is Ethanol?

The chemical formula of ethanol is CH3CH2OH, which is formed by linking an ethyl group (CH3CH2-) to a hydroxide group (-OH). EtOH is another abbreviation. Ethanol is very flammable and volatile. Because of the creation of hydrogen bonds, it dissolves in water. Similarly, ethanol may combine with other alcohols. It is also a colourless liquid with a faint chemical odour.

Aside from its many interactions with other organic solvents, ethanol also functions as a weak acid. Its acidity, however, is lower than that of water. In exchange, an ethoxide ion becomes more basic than a hydroxide ion.

Key Difference Between Methanol And Ethanol

Chemical Structure

  • Methanol (CH3OH) is the simplest alcohol, composed of one carbon atom, four hydrogen atoms, and one oxygen atom.
  • Ethanol (C2H5OH) has a slightly more complex structure, with two carbon atoms, six hydrogen atoms, and one oxygen atom.


  • Methanol is highly toxic to humans and can cause blindness or death if ingested even in small amounts.
  • Ethanol is the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages and is relatively safe for consumption in moderate amounts.

Natural Occurrence

  • Methanol can be found naturally in small amounts in certain fruits and vegetables.
  • Ethanol is produced naturally through fermentation by yeast during the process of making alcoholic beverages.

Sources of Production

  • Methanol is often synthesized from natural gas or coal through industrial processes.
  • Ethanol is primarily produced by fermentation of sugars derived from crops like corn, sugarcane, or grains.

Use as Fuel

  • Methanol can be used as an alternative fuel or fuel additive in certain applications.
  • Ethanol is commonly used as a biofuel and is often blended with gasoline to reduce emissions.

Antifreeze Properties

  • Methanol is commonly used as an antifreeze and de-icing agent due to its low freezing point.
  • Ethanol is also used as an antifreeze, particularly in alcoholic beverages, but it has a higher freezing point than methanol.

Industrial Applications

  • Methanol is used in the production of formaldehyde, acetic acid, and other chemicals in various industries.
  • Ethanol is used in the manufacture of alcoholic beverages, perfumes, cosmetics, and as a solvent.


  • Methanol is highly flammable and can be ignited at a lower temperature than ethanol.
  • Ethanol is also flammable but has a slightly higher ignition temperature compared to methanol.

Energy Content

  • Methanol has a lower energy content per unit volume compared to ethanol.
  • Ethanol has a higher energy content and is a common ingredient in biofuels.

Regulatory Approval

  • Methanol is regulated more strictly due to its toxicity, and its use is limited in consumer products.
  • Ethanol is widely accepted for various uses, including consumption in beverages and industrial applications.

Ethanol vs Methanol: Key Takeaways

Points of ComparisonEthanolMethanol
DescriptionEthanol is a type of alcohol with its carbon skeleton consisting of an ethyl ring.Methanol consists of in its carbon bond methyl group.
ProductionThis is a by-product of the metabolic process of yeast, commonly found in overripe fruit, also produced during the germination of many plants.Is produced by anaerobic bacteria, phytoplankton, also produced synthetically through catalysis from carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen.
AcidityEthanol is a weaker acid than water.Methanol has a slightly higher level of acid than water.
SmellEthanol has a heavy, burning smell and emits bright blue flame.Methanol is unpredictable and has a characteristic odor. When burning it gives off light white flame.
ApplicationEthanol is the primary ingredient of alcoholic beverages.It is highly poisonous and is generally used in the manufacturing of products such as formaldehyde etc.
Molar massHigher than methanol.Lower than ethanol.
Boiling PointThe boiling point of ethanol is 78.37°C. Higher compare to methanol.The boiling point of methanol is 64.7°C. Lower compare to ethanol.
Alternative NameIt is known as ethyl alcohol.It is known as methyl alcohol.

More Takeaways

  • Ethanol is an abbreviation for Ethyl Alcohol, which means that the Carbon skeleton has two Carbon atoms. At the same time, methanol is an abbreviation for Methyl Alcohol, which means that the Carbon skeleton has just one Carbon atom.
  • Ethanol or ethyl alcohol is pure alcohol that is used as an alcoholic beverage and can be ingested or consumed; whereas Methanol or methyl alcohol cannot be ingested as it is toxic.
  • When ethanol is light on fire, its flame is blue, whereas when methanol is light on fire, its flame is yellow.
  • Ethanol is also referred to as “grain alcohol” or ethyl alcohol while methanol is also called methyl alcohol.
  • Ethanol is a very poor acid in comparison to water; whereas methanol is acidic than water.
  • During the iodoform test ethanol is warmed with iodine in the presence of NaOH and it produces a yellow-coloured precipitate, whereas when methanol is warmed with iodine in the presence of NaOH, it does not react positively.