Making Denatured Alcohol User Friendly

Making Denatured Alcohol User Friendly


Food Coloring Something I get asked a lot is "why is the denatured alcohol you use in your stove burning video green?" Well the simple answer is so that I can see it more easily, but there are other reasons why I do this to my fuel. It's a really simple trick that I like to use so I thought I'd take the time to share it here.

Denatured alcohol is clear, highly flammable and generally not a good thing to swallow - you already know this of course. However, your new hiking buddy who just grabbed the innocuous looking unlabeled water bottle that you carry your fuel in and is about to take a swig of out of it also probably knows this, but doesn't know what's inside the bottle because it looks just like water!!!

Alcohol Bottle and Food Coloring

I know denatured alcohol has a pretty pungent smell to it, but trust me when I say that I have seen, on more than one occasion, people pick up and take a chug on a water bottle that contained denatured alcohol by mistake - it's a horrible thing and extremely dangerous especially if you're already a fair way into your hike.

So the first thing you must always do to your fuel bottle is CLEARLY label it. Large bold type and skull and cross bones are definitely applicable here. If you do nothing else after reading this post than pick up a Sharpie and label your fuel bottle then you've at least done something important.

So, getting back to the green colored alcohol question, there is one other thing I like to do with my denatured alcohol that definitely helps with the safety issue of accidental drinking and which has some additional benefits - I add food coloring to it! Green as a matter of fact.

Adding food coloring to denatured alcohol

Two or three drops of food coloring added to a full 16oz bottle of denatured alcohol is enough to turn it a very unnatural color and alert any unsuspecting thirsty hiker that it is something other than plain water inside. As I said I like to use green because there are very few drinks or liquids that I carry in a large bottle that would be bright green in color. This works even better if the bottle you are using is clear or transparent unlike the green bottle I am showing in the demo, but you get the point.

In my experience, adding two or three drops of food coloring to a large amount of denatured alcohol does nothing to impact the efficiency of the fuel, at least none that I can notice. If you don't like the idea of doing this then that's fine with me, it works for me and so I thought I'd share it.

Measuring out the alcohol

I originally used the food coloring trick to avoid accidental consumption of my fuel, but have found that there are additional benefits of the coloring that I had not anticipated, such as making it much easier to measure and see where you are pouring it.

Sometimes when I'm out on the trail in bright daylight it can be very hard to see the denatured alcohol as I'm pouring it into the stove or around the priming ring depending on which stove I am using. Having the food coloring added to the alcohol makes it much more visible and relatively easy to see where I am pouring the fuel.

I don't always measure my fuel before pouring it into the stove, again it really depends on what stove I am using, but this is another area where having the food coloring added to the fuel can make measuring it much easier to see.

Pouring alcohol in the stove

And for those of you that have asked, the green food coloring does not make the flame more visible! You'll have to continue be careful about the sleeves of you fleece or base layer going up in flames as you reach over the stove and pick up your cup or pot. I wish the food coloring made the flame easier to see, but that has not been the case for me - so please be careful!

Have you ever tried adding food coloring to your denatured alcohol?

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