Ethyl alcohol

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A clear, colorless, Hygroscopic liquid with a pleasant odor. Ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, is primarily used as a Solvent and as an intoxicating beverage. Ethanol forms a binary Azeotrope with water that boils at 78.15C and contains 95.57% ethanol and 4.43% water. The addition of Benzene allows the mixture to be redistilled without the water. Ethyl alcohol is sold in many grades marked as 95%, absolute (100% or anhydrous), denatured, industrial, or listed as proofs (one-half the proof is the percentage of alcohol). In art and conservation, ethanol has been used as a solvent for Shellac and Mastic, as a diluent for fixatives, and as a Wetting agent. When used as a solvent for resins, the ethanol must be dry because any moisture will produce a white haze in the varnish film.

Synonyms and Related Terms

ethanol (IUPAC); alcohol; grain alcohol; absolute alcohol, EtOH, anhydrous alcohol; dehydrated alcohol; ethyl hydrate; ethyl hydroxide; Cologne spirits; colonial spirits; rectified spirits; spirits of wine; fermentation alcohol


  • Highly flammable. Flash point = 14 C (60F).
  • Inhalation, and skin contact can cause irritation.
  • Ingestion of small amounts affects the central nervous system.
  • Ingestion of large amounts is deadly.
  • ThermoFisher: SDS

Physical and Chemical Properties

Miscible with water, methanol, ether, chloroform, acetone.

Composition C2H5OH
CAS 64-17-5
Melting Point -114.1 C
Density 0.789 g/ml
Molecular Weight mol. wt.= 46.08
Refractive Index 1.359
Boiling Point 78.5 C


Properties of Common Solvents

Resources and Citations

  • R. J. Gettens, G.L. Stout, Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia, Dover Publications, New York, 1966
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • Susan E. Schur, Conservation Terminology: A review of Past & Current Nomenclature of Materials, Technology and Conservation, Spring (p.34-39); Summer (p.35-38); Fall (p.25-36), 1985
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: entry 3806
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971
  • Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, Douglas M. Considine (ed.), Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1976
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, Robert Weast (ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, v. 61, 1980 Comment: ref. index=1.359

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