Alcohol products are all around you, from cleaning supplies to face cleaner to the fuel in your car or the wine you drink with dinner. In chemistry, there are three major types of alcohol. These include isopropyl alcohol, methyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol. Each of these types of alcohol has separate properties, so it is important to distinguish which type of alcohol you have for reasons of safety.
Methyl alcohol, also called methanol and wood alcohol, is used primarily as an industrial solvent. It is also used to make formaldehyde for plastics, paint and plywood. Methyl alcohol is used in windshield wiper fluid. For example, it is a component in paint remover and photocopier developer. People also use methyl alcohol to make other chemicals. This is because a by-product of degrading methanol is formaldehyde, which may be used to make everything from plastics to explosives. It also works to fuel internal combustion engines and keep fuel from freezing. The chemical formula for methyl alcohol is CH3OH.
Ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, is the type in wine, beer, liquor, mouthwash or cold medicine. People usually take ethyl alcohol in a diluted concentration–the level of the concentration is known as the proof of the alcoholic beverage. Ethanol is also used in gasoline, It can be made from corn, sugar cane and potatoes, much like drinking alcohol is distilled from food crops such as wheat, potatoes and corn.
Isopropyl alcohol also is called isopropanol or 2-propanol. More commonly, it is known as rubbing alcohol due to the practice of physicians rubbing the substance on the body for cooling and disinfecting. Produced by combining water and propylene, rubbing alcohol works well for sterilization. Its high evaporation rate makes it a first choice for cleaning electronics, although it is found in everyday cleaning products, as well. Isopropyl alcohol also is found in cosmetics, including lotions. The chemical formula for this type of alcohol is C3H8O.
Adhesives and varnishes are traditionally made from butyl alcohol. Floor polishes and other cleaners sometimes contain it. Butyl alcohol(C4H10O), also known as 1-butanol or Butanol, also may be present in eye makeup, foundation and lipstick. It is also a component of gasoline and brake fluid, according to the Dow Chemical Co. website.
Ethylene glycol is primarily used in the manufacture of automotive antifreeze. It is extremely toxic if ingested.