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Author: Subject: Does methanol smell like anything to you?
Tsjerk
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[*] posted on 14-11-2020 at 02:03


Better don't drink grape brandy if you are scared of methanol.



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[*] posted on 14-11-2020 at 03:35


Ethanol has a mild smell to me, however isopropanol smells like acetone, but less full-blown, with a light, airy feeling in my nose. Acetone just blazes through my nose. Ethyl acetate has a strong, sickeningly sweet odor which can easily give me a headache very quickly, same thing for xylene.
Ammonia, while very strong and pungent, if there is not lots of it, I don't really mind the smell, Same for chlorine.
Bromine smells like chlorine, but more nasty. I have not worked with methanol because I still have not found any OTC source for it, so I don't know what it might smell like, but Ima guessing it would be milder than ethanol.
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[*] posted on 14-11-2020 at 04:02


Quote: Originally posted by Tsjerk  
Better don't drink grape brandy if you are scared of methanol.


I don't drink alcohol.
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[*] posted on 14-11-2020 at 08:13


Tsjerk grape brandy is quite OK. Other fruit brandies have somewhat higher methanol content which originates from pectins and column distillation cannot be used because it would remove also their typical scent. But no need to be too much scared of methanol. Intoxication with pure methanol is treated by offering a patient to drink ethanol. The methanol itself is not so much poisonous as is its metabolite formaldehyde. Giving ethanol to patient intoxicated with methanol causes methanol to compete with ethanol in liver alcohol dehydrogenase thus significantly slowing down the formation of toxic formaldehyde. If a fruit brandy contains 2g of methanol in 1 L it also contains 300-400 g of ethanol. There was an accident in the pharma company where my father was working where some workers used to secretly drink pharmaceutical ethanol (after diluting with water) but once a group of them mistakenly drank methanol and most of them died as they realized too late that something wrong. They were certainly skilled enough in ethanol scent after drinking it for years, but the disaster happened... Moreover in my country there was a big criminal case few years ago when greedy manufacturers of alcoholic beverages ("Likerka Drak" etc) made bottles where methanol : ethanol ratio was 1:1 and a lot of people died (48 deaths and > 100 with severe persistent health damages).
https://www.e15.cz/domaci/metanolova-kauza-znovu-oziva-soud-...
https://domaci.ihned.cz/c1-66173960-soud-zprisnil-tresty-v-k...
If no methanol in a brandy claimed as made from fruit then it is a scam and such "brandy" is made from rectified alcohol with artificial aroma and not from fermented fruits. High pure vodka is without methanol as it is distilled through efficient column.
If no radioactive carbon C14 present then the ethanol is made from crude oil / natural gas instead of sugars photosythesized by plants that year.




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karlos³
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[*] posted on 14-11-2020 at 12:38


Well they were drinking the MeOH.
We're only discussing the smell, who knows how the overall scent, and aroma is affected when it comes into the pharyngal area, where the full taste and smell can be perceived.
Maybe it is much closer to EtOH in that case and harder to distinguish?
Has anyone of you ever tasted methanol, I would think probably not?

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[*] posted on 14-11-2020 at 12:39


Give me a second...
Ok, 1ml diluted with a couple mls of water tasted like you'd expect it to. Burning sensation, I'd say a little less "spicy" than ethanol. Had a floral/fruity feel as an aftertaste too. Didn't swallow it, obviously. Luckily only doses of more than 30ml (10-15 according to other sources) are beginning to get dangerous, and that's swallowed.

[Edited on 14-11-2020 by ArbuzToWoda]

[Edited on 14-11-2020 by ArbuzToWoda]
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karlos³
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[*] posted on 14-11-2020 at 14:03


Haha very good! I actually thought about that too, and wondered if 3 beers are enough to compete against a few drops diluted in 10-20 milliliters of water.
Very much into the spirit of earlier chemists, I like that commitment :D

I would assume that a certain quantity also has a numbing effect too which makes the differentiation even less simple.
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[*] posted on 15-11-2020 at 12:03


My sense of smell is not as good as it once was - probably age and smoking
I can't smell methanol but I can smell ethanol, ipa etc.




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[*] posted on 15-11-2020 at 13:13


Quote: Originally posted by Tsjerk  
Better don't drink grape brandy if you are scared of methanol.




The real message from that paper is that plum brandy has a lot more methanol than grape brandy, but it's still well below 1%.
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[*] posted on 17-11-2020 at 22:29


unionised - and you drink that small amount together with its antidote... but who knows what about long term negative effects (hard to see them due the heath damage caused by so much of ethanol)



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[*] posted on 24-11-2020 at 08:39


I can't really smell methanol. To me, it smells a teeny bit like sulphur but I think my stock is just contaminated. Were I given a glass of water and one of methanol I wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
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[*] posted on 27-11-2020 at 13:15


I find methanol has a smell similar in strength to ethanol, however both are much less strong than isopropanol. I find isopropanol to have a pleasant odour. Methanol and ethanol have quite similar smells, although methanol is more fruity I guess, smells are hard to describe. Smelling both methanol and ethanol, there's a subtle but distinct burning sensation. Isopropanol doesn't have that. Acetone has quite a pleasant odour, similar but definitely different from isopropanol.



Nuclear physics is neat. It's a shame it's so regulated...

Now that I think about it, that's probably a good thing. Still annoying though.
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[*] posted on 13-12-2020 at 17:53


I cant smell MeOH either. although it does burn my nose when I do smell it. similar in the way that IPA or EtOH does. i can smell other types of alcohol but just not MeOH.
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[*] posted on 13-12-2020 at 17:56


Quote: Originally posted by unionised  
Quote: Originally posted by Tsjerk  
Better don't drink grape brandy if you are scared of methanol.




The real message from that paper is that plum brandy has a lot more methanol than grape brandy, but it's still well below 1%.
I mean anything with a lot of pectin will result in MeOH so I guess don't drink unripe apple brandy?
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[*] posted on 25-1-2021 at 07:53


Just handled methanol for solvent with NaOH. As it heats, it smells like formaldehyde to me. Put a suction duct directly over it the moment I smelt it.
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[*] posted on 25-1-2021 at 08:37


I always buy klean strip denatured fuel alcohol as a source of methanol/ethanol. This always smells extremely fruity/sweet. I have smelled pure methanol, aqueous methanol, methanol as it was distilling, methanol straight from the can, and it always smells different. I think my sense of smell is ruined for the time being.
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[*] posted on 25-1-2021 at 15:01


Quote: Originally posted by njl  
I always buy klean strip denatured fuel alcohol as a source of methanol/ethanol. This always smells extremely fruity/sweet. I have smelled pure methanol, aqueous methanol, methanol as it was distilling, methanol straight from the can, and it always smells different. I think my sense of smell is ruined for the time being.


That stuff also contains methyl isobutyl ketone.

Not to mention traces of acetaldehyde from oxidation may be strongly contributing to a fruity smell
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[*] posted on 27-1-2021 at 02:06


Quote: Originally posted by p4rtridg3  

Thinking back to the many times I've used it in the lab, I don't remember methanol having any kind of distinctive odor.


We can buy methanol of technical purity in hardware stores here as degreaser for crystalware. It definately has an alcoholic smell, but it is much more faint than ethanol or isopropanol. But yes it does have a signature smell.




It is toxic, but not that toxic, meaning you need to drink it to go blind or lame permanently. Breathing some fumes isn't healthy but it won't affect you that bad. Still, avoid such a situation. Interestingly, the only antidote for methanol poisoning is ethanol. The enzyme that converts methanol to formaldehyde and formic acid, the actual poisons, has a preference to ethanol over methanol. But the conversion rate of ethanol to acetaldehyde is faster, so in practice this means that they have to keep you drunk for 4 days in the hospital when you check in with methanol poisoning.

[Edited on 27-1-2021 by dicyanin]




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[*] posted on 27-1-2021 at 02:28


Quote: Originally posted by Fery  
there is very big variability in smelling compounds among people, hundreds of genes involved and hundreds of receptors...
isovaleric acid is typical example (sweat, unwashed socks etc) for which 6% of people do not scent it at all
androstenone we tried at university which 2/3 of us scented and 1/3 didn't
https://www.sciencemadness.org/whisper/viewthread.php?tid=15...
https://genomebiology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/gb-...


If I recall correctly, 1/3th of people aren't able to smell HCN. I tested myself by carefully smelling (indirectly, wafting with my hands) an old dilute aqueous cyanide solution (a basic solution of zinc cyanide) that had been collecting dust in the poisons shelf of my old school lab for many years. I definitely smelled it, an acrid marsipan like odor.

[Edited on 27-1-2021 by dicyanin]




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[*] posted on 27-1-2021 at 02:31


How much precautions do you take when handling methanol, compared to other relatively safe liquids like ethanol? I'd think not evaporating or boiling any on open vessels at least indoors, and using gloves to avoid transdermal exposure?

PS I'm certain the smell I detected was due to the stuff I was dissolving, not the methanol itself. I wasn't able to detect any noticeable odor except "mildly alcoholish" when carefully whiffing it alone. The stuff stench made it resemble formaldehyde, good to exhaust it anyway because it smells revolting.
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[*] posted on 27-1-2021 at 02:42


Quote: Originally posted by karlos³  

But how is it for you guys with pure DMF or DMSO?
They have to me a just barely noticeable smell of their own as well.


DMF has a very faint smell. DMSO smells like rotten broccoli to me, I don't like it. I prefer DMF if I can, when a dipolar aprotic solvent is needed.




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[*] posted on 27-1-2021 at 02:48


Quote: Originally posted by Fyndium  
How much precautions do you take when handling methanol, compared to other relatively safe liquids like ethanol? I'd think not evaporating or boiling any on open vessels at least indoors, and using gloves to avoid transdermal exposure?


Yes, gloves are even overkill, but definitely do not boil away in an open vessel indoors. Use distillation apparatus, don't be lazy. Or go outside.

Quote: Originally posted by Fyndium  

PS I'm certain the smell I detected was due to the stuff I was dissolving, not the methanol itself. I wasn't able to detect any noticeable odor except "mildly alcoholish" when carefully whiffing it alone. The stuff stench made it resemble formaldehyde, good to exhaust it anyway because it smells revolting.


Formaldehyde smells very different to my nose, very overpowering nasty smell that makes you immediately turn away. With methanol is just faintly alcoholic (but with a distinguishable aftertone to me).

[Edited on 27-1-2021 by dicyanin]




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[*] posted on 27-1-2021 at 02:51


You're not going to absorb a toxic dose of methanol transdermally from an accidental spill on your hands. If you don't bathe in it you should be fine, but anyway, wearing gloves and glasses is a generally a good thing while doing chemistry.



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[*] posted on 27-1-2021 at 02:59


Quote: Originally posted by Fery  
Tsjerk grape brandy is quite OK. Other fruit brandies have somewhat higher methanol content which originates from pectins and column distillation cannot be used because it would remove also their typical scent.


Actually I've read once somewhere that cheapo brand orange juice, the kind made from concentrate, can for this reason (pectins) contain small amounts of methanol, even up to 2% in some cases.




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[*] posted on 27-1-2021 at 03:04


Quote: Originally posted by karlos³  
Haha very good! I actually thought about that too, and wondered if 3 beers are enough to compete against a few drops diluted in 10-20 milliliters of water.
Very much into the spirit of earlier chemists, I like that commitment :D
.


In case of doubt, you have to drink beer all day long for 3-4 subsequent days, to ensure that the alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes in your blood are saturated with ethanol all the time methanol could be present in your body. Consider it a health emergency :D




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