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Ethanol vs. Propanol: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 27, 2023
Ethanol (C2H5OH) is a two-carbon alcohol used in beverages and as a biofuel, whereas propanol (C3H7OH) is a three-carbon alcohol used in solvents and antiseptics.

Key Differences

Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol, is commonly found in alcoholic beverages and used as a renewable fuel. Propanol, also known as propyl alcohol, is often utilized in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics due to its antiseptic properties.
The molecular structure of ethanol includes two carbon atoms, making it a simpler alcohol. Propanol contains three carbon atoms, which results in different physical and chemical properties, such as a higher boiling point.
Ethanol is widely used as a biofuel, especially in gasoline blends, due to its clean-burning characteristics. Propanol, on the other hand, is more commonly used in the industrial sector as a solvent and in the creation of other chemicals.
In terms of production, ethanol is primarily derived from fermentation of sugars by yeast. Propanol can be produced via petrochemical processes or through the hydration of propene.
Ethanol is less toxic compared to propanol, making it safer for consumption in alcoholic beverages. Propanol, due to its higher toxicity, is not suitable for consumption and requires careful handling.

Comparison Chart

Carbon Atoms

Two carbon atoms in its structure
Three carbon atoms in its structure

Common Uses

Beverages, biofuel
Solvents, antiseptics

Boiling Point

Lower boiling point
Higher boiling point

Production Method

Fermentation of sugars
Hydration of propene or petrochemical


Less toxic, consumable in beverages
More toxic, not suitable for consumption

Ethanol and Propanol Definitions


Ethanol acts as a disinfectant and antiseptic.
Ethanol-based sanitizers are effective against germs.


Propanol is an alcohol with three carbon atoms and a higher boiling point than ethanol.
Propanol is used as an industrial solvent due to its chemical properties.


Ethanol is used as a solvent in the pharmaceutical industry.
Ethanol is an essential solvent in the formulation of various medicines.


Propanol is utilized in the manufacture of antiseptics and disinfectants.
Propanol-based solutions are effective in sterilizing medical equipment.


Ethanol is a colorless, volatile liquid with a distinctive smell.
The distinct smell of ethanol is noticeable in hand sanitizers.


Propanol is used in the production of other chemical compounds.
Propanol is a key ingredient in the synthesis of various plastics and pharmaceuticals.


Ethanol is an organic chemical compound, commonly known as alcohol.
Ethanol is the primary ingredient in alcoholic drinks.


Propanol serves as a solvent in the cosmetic industry.
Propanol is a common ingredient in perfumes and lotions.


Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from plant materials.
Ethanol-blended gasoline is common in many countries.


Propanol is a colorless liquid with a slightly sharper odor than ethanol.
The sharp smell of propanol is noticeable in some cleaning agents.


See alcohol.


See propyl alcohol.


(organic compound) A simple aliphatic alcohol formally derived from ethane by replacing one hydrogen atom with a hydroxyl group: CH3-CH2-OH.


(organic compound) Either of two isomeric aliphatic alcohols, C3H7-OH


Specifically, this alcohol as a fuel.


1-propanol, n-propanol, propyl alcohol, propan-1-ol, n-propyl alcohol or 1-propyl alcohol - CH3CH2CH2OH


The organic compound C2H5.OH, the common alcohol which is the intoxicating agent in beer, wine, and other fermented and distilled liquors; called also ethyl alcohol. It is used pure or denatured as a solvent or in medicines and colognes and cleaning solutions, or mixed in gasoline as a fuel for automobiles, and as a rocket fuel (as in the V-2 rocket).


Isopropanol, isopropyl alcohol or propan-2-ol - (CH3)2CH-OH


The intoxicating agent in fermented and distilled liquors; used pure or denatured as a solvent or in medicines and colognes and cleaning solutions and rocket fuel; proposed as a renewable clean-burning additive to gasoline


A clear colorless volatile liquid (alcohol) used as a solvent and antiseptic


What is ethanol?

Ethanol is a two-carbon alcohol, often used in beverages and as a biofuel.

How is ethanol produced?

Ethanol is typically produced through the fermentation of sugars by yeast.

What are the uses of ethanol?

Ethanol is used in alcoholic beverages, as a biofuel, solvent, and antiseptic.

Can ethanol be used as a disinfectant?

Yes, ethanol is effective as a disinfectant and is used in hand sanitizers.

What are propanol's primary uses?

Propanol is used in solvents, disinfectants, and in the manufacture of other chemicals.

What is propanol?

Propanol is a three-carbon alcohol used mainly as a solvent and antiseptic.

Is ethanol toxic?

Ethanol is less toxic than many alcohols and is safe for consumption in beverages.

Is propanol environmentally friendly?

Propanol can have environmental impacts, especially if not handled properly.

How is propanol different from ethanol?

Propanol has three carbon atoms (compared to ethanol's two) and is more toxic.

Is propanol used in the medical field?

Yes, propanol is used in antiseptics and disinfectants in the medical field.

What is the boiling point of ethanol?

Ethanol has a lower boiling point compared to propanol.

Can propanol be consumed?

No, propanol is toxic and not suitable for consumption.

Can ethanol be used as fuel?

Yes, ethanol is commonly used as a renewable biofuel.

Is ethanol renewable?

Yes, ethanol is considered a renewable resource when produced from biomass.

Can ethanol be mixed with gasoline?

Yes, ethanol is often mixed with gasoline to create a blended fuel.

What is the boiling point of propanol?

Propanol has a higher boiling point than ethanol.

What industries use propanol?

The cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries commonly use propanol.

How does propanol affect the skin?

Propanol can be drying and irritating to the skin if used frequently.

Is ethanol found in nature?

Ethanol can be produced naturally through fermentation.

How is propanol produced?

Propanol is typically produced through petrochemical processes or hydration of propene.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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