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Methanol vs. Methanal: What's the Difference?

By Harlon Moss & Janet White || Updated on May 21, 2024
Methanol is a simple alcohol used as a fuel and solvent, while methanal, also known as formaldehyde, is a toxic chemical used in manufacturing and preservation.

Key Differences

Methanol, also known as wood alcohol, is a simple alcohol with the chemical formula CH₃OH. It is used as an industrial solvent, antifreeze, and fuel. Methanol is a light, volatile, colorless liquid with a distinctive odor and is highly flammable. Methanal, more commonly known as formaldehyde, has the chemical formula CH₂O. It is a highly reactive aldehyde used in the production of resins, plastics, and as a preservative. Methanal is a colorless gas with a pungent odor and is highly toxic to humans and animals.
Methanol is primarily utilized in chemical synthesis and as an energy source, whereas methanal is extensively used in industrial applications, especially in the creation of building materials and household products.
While methanol is relatively safer to handle with proper precautions, methanal poses significant health risks, including respiratory issues and cancer, necessitating careful handling and storage.

Comparison Chart

Chemical Formula


Common Name

Wood alcohol

State at Room Temp


Primary Use

Solvent, fuel
Manufacturing, preservation


Toxic, but less than methanal
Highly toxic and carcinogenic

Methanol and Methanal Definitions


A simple alcohol used as a solvent and antifreeze.
Methanol is often added to windshield washer fluid to prevent freezing.


A carcinogenic substance requiring careful handling.
Prolonged exposure to methanal can lead to serious health issues.


A light, volatile liquid used in chemical synthesis.
Methanol is a key ingredient in the production of formaldehyde.


A colorless gas with a pungent odor.
Methanal is often used in the manufacture of building materials.


An industrial solvent with a distinctive odor.
Methanol is used in laboratories as a solvent for various reactions.


A highly reactive aldehyde used in resins.
Methanal is a key component in the production of phenolic resins.


A flammable alcohol found in wood distillation.
Methanol was historically produced by distilling wood.


A toxic compound found in many household products.
Methanal is present in some disinfectants and cosmetics.


A type of fuel for engines.
Some race cars use methanol as their primary fuel.


A preservative for biological specimens.
Methanal is used to preserve tissue samples in laboratories.


A colorless, toxic, flammable liquid, CH3OH, used as an antifreeze, a general solvent, a fuel, and a denaturant for ethyl alcohol. Also called carbinol, methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, wood spirits.


(organic compound) The IUPAC name for formaldehyde, rarely used in research or industry.


(organic compound) The simplest aliphatic alcohol, CH3OH; a colourless, toxic, inflammable liquid, used as a solvent, antifreeze, in the chemical industry, and in the preparation of methylated spirit.


Same as formaldehyde.


The simplest alcohol of the paraffin series, CH3.OH; methyl alcohol. Called also wood alcohol. It is used as an antifreeze solvent, as a fuel, and as a denaturant for ethyl alcohol.


A colorless poisonous gas; made by the oxidation of methanol


A light volatile flammable poisonous liquid alcohol; used as an antifreeze and solvent and fuel and as a denaturant for ethyl alcohol


What is the chemical formula of methanol?

The chemical formula of methanol is CH₃OH.

What is the chemical formula of methanal?

The chemical formula of methanal is CH₂O.

What is methanal?

Methanal, also known as formaldehyde, is a toxic aldehyde used in manufacturing and preservation.

Is methanol toxic?

Yes, methanol is toxic but less so compared to methanal.

What are the primary uses of methanal?

Methanal is used in manufacturing resins, plastics, and as a preservative.

Is methanal toxic?

Yes, methanal is highly toxic and carcinogenic.

What is methanol?

Methanol is a simple alcohol used as a fuel, solvent, and antifreeze.

Can methanol be used in engines?

Yes, methanol can be used as a fuel for certain types of engines.

Is methanal used in building materials?

Yes, methanal is used in the production of resins and adhesives for building materials.

Is methanol flammable?

Yes, methanol is highly flammable.

What state is methanol at room temperature?

Methanol is a liquid at room temperature.

Is methanol used in chemical synthesis?

Yes, methanol is used in the synthesis of various chemicals.

Does methanol have a distinct odor?

Yes, methanol has a distinctive odor.

Is methanal used in laboratories?

Yes, methanal is used as a preservative and in the production of other chemicals in labs.

What are the primary uses of methanol?

Methanol is primarily used as a solvent, fuel, and antifreeze.

Is methanal flammable?

Yes, methanal is flammable but is usually handled in solution form.

What state is methanal at room temperature?

Methanal is a gas at room temperature.

Does methanal have a distinct odor?

Yes, methanal has a pungent odor.

Are there health risks associated with methanol?

Yes, methanol is toxic and can cause blindness or death if ingested.

Are there health risks associated with methanal?

Yes, methanal exposure can cause respiratory issues and is a known carcinogen.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Co-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.

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