White Gas vs Denatured Alcohol

If you have a dual fuel Coleman stove or lantern, you probably already know that you can use Coleman fuel, generic white gas or unleaded gasoline in it. 

However, if you’re in a bind and only have denatured alcohol, it’s good to know how it compares to white gas, the recommended fuel and whether or not it's able to be used in stoves and lanterns.

White gas or Coleman fuel is more fuel efficient and less expensive than denatured alcohol for Coleman stoves and lanterns. Both fuels burn cleanly and are available for purchase in camping stores, big box stores or online. 

Denatured alcohol has a high methyl alcohol content while white gas doesn’t contain alcohol. It works better than white gas in camping stoves or lanterns designed to work with alcohol but is less efficient in stoves designed for white gas.

You can use denatured alcohol in a Coleman stove or lantern and it will burn and work but white gas has significant advantages over it.  

White Gas and Denatured Alcohol: How They Compare

The easiest way to describe the differences between white gas and denatured alcohol is to use a table: 

White GasDenatured Alcohol
Alternative NamesColeman gas
Coleman fuel
Methyl hydrate
Methylated spirits
Meths
Wood spirit
Active IngredientsPetroleum NaphthaEthyl alcohol
Methanol
Other IngredientsUS Coleman fuel has stabilizers and anti-corrosivesAdditives: Isopropyl alcohol
Methyl isobutyl ketone
Methyl ethyl ketone
Acetone
Alcohol ContentNo alcohol70-99% alcohol
5-10% methanol alcohol
Fuel Efficiency with Coleman Stoves and LanternsVery fuel efficientRelatively fuel efficient
Burns Cleanly?Yes and safe to use indoorsYes and safe to use indoors
PriceRelatively inexpensiveMore expensive
AvailabilityFairly widely availableFairly widely available 
Shelf Life5 to 7 years unopened
6 months once opened
Indefinite

Ingredients

The active ingredient in white gas is petroleum naphtha. However, if you buy Coleman brand white gas in the US, it will have stabilizers and anti-corrosives to protect your stove. 

However, many other brands of white gas now also add similar additives to protect your stoves and lanterns from damage. Coleman fuel and white gas are basically the same thing.

Denatured alcohol is made from ethyl alcohol (the type of alcohol we drink as humans) but it has additives to make it poisonous for human consumption.

Denatured alcohol also has additives (like benzene, castor oil, and pyridine) to give it a bitter and unpleasant smell and taste so people are discouraged from drinking it. Even drinking a small amount can kill you.

The alcohol content in denatured alcohol can differ depending on the brand. For example, Maxtite Denatured Alcohol is 200 proof or 100% ethanol, while Quality Chemical Denatured Alcohol is 190 proof or 95% ethanol. 

Maxtite Denatured Alcohol, 200-Proof (32 oz)

200-Proof Denatured Alcohol, highest purity. Pure ethyl alcohol (ethanol) denatured with isopropyl alcohol and methanol. No other added denaturants. Made in the USA

Buy Now at Amazon

The higher the alcohol content in your denatured alcohol, the better it will burn in your stove or lantern. 

White gas doesn’t contain any alcohol. 

Fuel Efficiency with Coleman Stoves and Lanterns

White gas is much more fuel efficient than denatured alcohol for Coleman dual fuel camping stoves and lanterns (although you can use alternative fuels in them).

However, the same isn’t true for other kinds of camping burners that run off alcohol. The video below shows someone comparing denatured alcohol and white gas in a Trangia camping burner. 

The white gas produced a large flame quicker but used more fuel and went out before the denatured alcohol. It also left some sooty residue on the burner, proving that it’s best to use the fuel that your stove is designed to use: 

If you’re wondering how denatured alcohol compares to other kinds of alcohol, this interesting YouTube video compares the fuel efficiency for boiling a pot of water with various types of alcohol on a camping stove: 

  • Denatured
  • Isopropyl
  • Grain 
  • Iso-Heet Red
  • Iso-Heet Yellow

Denatured alcohol of methylated spirits is more expensive than isopropyl alcohol (the most popular and widely available alcohol type).

You’ll need the same amount of both fuels but denatured alcohol boils the water slightly faster: 

The video below tests the time and amount of fuel it takes to burn 1 cup of water on a Coleman stove:

Time To Boil 1 Liter (32 oz) of Water

Fuel TypeTime To Boil 1 L (32 oz) of WaterTotal Fuel Used
Rubbing Alcohol 97%10:1341 mL
Low Octane Gasoline6:2622 mL
Kerosene4:2818 mL
Coleman Premium Blent Fuel
(White Gas)
4:1215 mL

As you can see rubbing alcohol (similar to denatured alcohol) took longer to heat water and used more fuel when used in the Coleman stove compared to white gas. The difference was quite significant.

Again this just shows that you should ideally use the fuel that your stove is designed for. However, if you're in a pinch using the alternative source of fuel is fine.

Burns Cleanly

White gas burns cleanly in stoves and lanterns and also doesn’t leave many carbon deposits in or on the stove like gasoline or diesel does. 

Denatured alcohol burns very hot, the flame is almost completely transparent and also burns cleanly. 

You can safely run a camping stove indoors using white gas or denatured alcohol but manufacturers recommend using it in a well-ventilated area. 

Price

Denatured alcohol is slightly more expensive than white gas or Coleman fuel. Since white gas is the recommended fuel for some Coleman stoves and lanterns, it therefore makes sense to buy it instead of denatured alcohol. 

On the flip side, if you have a camping stove that’s designed to work with meths or denatured alcohol, you’ll use more white gas and denatured alcohol will be more cost-effective in this case. 

Availability

White gas and denatured alcohol are both fairly widely available.

You can buy isopropyl alcohol from most pharmacies and supermarkets but denatured alcohol is typically only available in big box stores, some grocery or camping stores or online. 

You can buy generic white gas or Coleman fuel (which are the same thing) online or from outdoor stores. 

Crown White Gas Camp Fuel (1 Gallon)
$7.64

Crown White Gas Camp Fuel is specially blended for outdoor use of portable gasoline camping applications including gas stoves and lanterns. Manufactured with an added rust inhibitor for rust and corrosion protection. Crown White Gas Camp Fuel is carefully checked to maintain the highest level of quality for a cleaner burn and longer life.

See Latest Price at Walmart
06/20/2024 12:51 am GMT

Shelf Life

Both denatured alcohol and white gas have long shelf lives as long as you keep the containers unopened. 

White gas is good for 5 to 7 years (but many people have successfully used 3 or 4-decade old white gas). 

Denatured alcohol doesn’t expire but can gradually evaporate if you leave the container open.