Difference Between Ethanol and Methanol

Ethanol vs Methanol

Ethanol and methanol are categorized as alcohols, since they have a –OH group. These are the smallest type alcohols in the series. The OH group is attached to a sp3 hybrized carbon. Both are polar liquids and have the capability to form hydrogen bonds. Therefore, both have somewhat similar physical and chemical properties. However, mistaking the two can result in fatal accidents.


Methanol is the simplest member in the alcohol family. It has a molecular formula of CH3OH, and the molecular weight is 32 g mol-1. Methanol is an extremely light, flammable, volatile, and colorless liquid. Methanol is highly toxic. It has a characteristic smell and a burning taste. Melting point of methanol is -98 oC, and the boiling point is 65 oC. Methanol reacts with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and water. It is naturally produced by anaerobic respiration of some bacteria varieties. It is industrially produced from fossil fuels such as natural gas or coal. Methanol is highly used as a solvent in laboratories for dissolving polar solutes. Furthermore, it is used as a fuel in vehicles, antifreeze in car radiators, and as a denaturant. It is also used as a starting material to make other chemicals too.


Ethanol is a simple alcohol with the molecular formula of C2H5OH. It is a clear, colorless liquid with a characteristic odor. Furthermore, ethanol is a flammable liquid. Melting point of ethanol is -114.1 oC, and the boiling point is 78.5 oC. Ethanol is polar due to the electro negativity difference between the oxygen and hydrogen in the –OH group. In addition, due to –OH group, it has the ability to form hydrogen bonds.

Ethanol is used as a beverage. According to the ethanol percentage, there are different types of beverages such as wine, beer, whiskey, brandy, arrack, etc. Ethanol can be easily obtained by the sugar fermentation process using zymase enzyme. This enzyme naturally presents in yeast, so in the anaerobic respiration, yeast can produce ethanol. Ethanol is toxic to the body, and it is converted to acetaldehyde in the liver, which is also toxic. Other than a beverage ethanol can be used as an antiseptic to clean surfaces from micro organisms. And it is mainly used as a fuel and a fuel additive in vehicles. Ethanol is miscible with water, and it serves as a good solvent.

What is the difference between Methanol and Ethanol?

• Methanol is the simplest alcohol in the alcohol family.

• Ethanol has two carbons, and methanol has only one carbon. Therefore, the molecular weight of ethanol is higher than that of methanol.

• Methanol has a lower boiling point than ethanol. Therefore, these two can be separated by distillation technique, if they are mixed in a solution.

• Methanol is toxic. Hence, cannot use as a beverage like ethanol. Methanol is mainly used as a solvent, fuel or for chemical reactions.

• Ethanol is a renewable liquid, since it is made from sugar cane or any similar crops, but methanol is not renewable as it is made from fossil fuels.