Author Options:

Is it possible to extract alcohol from hand sanitizer? Answered

OK, so the main ingredient in instant hand sanitizer is ethyl alcohol, which is a perfect fuel for a soda can stove.  I have tried using the sanitizer straight but it leaves to much goo behind.  When stalt is added to the hand sanitizer it turns it to liquid and leaves white floaty things in the liquid(glycerol?).  These can be filtered out with a coffee filter.  This leaves a more concentrated solution (which still dosnt burn well)  and it has salt in it.

What I want to know is how I can extract the alcohol to at least 80% concentration.  I don't have a still (and dont want to make one).  Any ideas?      


So, I might have come across this method of distillation while staying at a dry camp outside of rainbow lake, then again I might not have. Needed, large stainless steel or creamic lined pot, at least 12l or 5gl, stainless steel bowl that fits snugly on top of pot, small square magnet (1/2cmx1cm or 1/4inx1/2in), a chunky soup can with a dozen or so nail holes in it, a short squat jam jar(cleaned and de-labled), ice, or plenty of cold water, flour, water, heat source. 1, place the soup can(opened, de labled, with holes in it) upside down in large pot, place glass jam jar open end up on top of it, wobbly?, try a different soup can/jam jar combo, pour ethanol containing goop into pot around soup can. 2, make a paste of the flour and water, thick like dough, should be very sticky, and smear it around the rim of the large pot. 3, place the small magnet on the bottom of the large steel bowl(if the bowl has a large flat spot on the bottom pound it with a hammer on some sand until the curve matches the rest of the bowl, c'mon by now you must see where I'm going with this) and affix it to the paste smeared rim of the large pot so the magnet is directly above the jam jar.( If you are using an open flame to do this you have some big brass ones, if you are using coals rake some sand over them, an electric element is best.) 3, put your cooling agent in the bowl, it must be cold, ice, snow, creek water, tap water is not cold enough unless it is winter. 4, place on heat source for a couple of hours, if it is too hot the water in your goop will evaporate as well, if it is way too hot the seal will break exploding gaseous ethanol into your environs, the resulting explosion could be fun to watch, if you get it just right and keep changing the cooling agent in your bowl, the ethanol will evaporate from the goop, precipitate on the cold bowl, drip down to the magnet, and into the jam jar on top of the soup can. The resulting precipitate is of unknown potency buy my run(using a start product that was 20% ethanol), burned with a mostly clear flame. Could possibly be used to fuel a unistove(got one, awesome, once used straight canola oil, very hot), strip paint, or mix with orange juice(assuming bitrex does not distill <85c 140f). Cheers!

What I want to know is how I can extract the alcohol to at least 80% concentration.  I don't have a still (and dont want to make one).  Any ideas?

Distilling may be an option, but it's complicated. start simple.
You could try a method like what is used to collect water in wild from the ground, a solar still.

Though technically a still, think of it like the diet Coke of distilling. All the fun of science with none of the guilt. It may remove enough aqueous mixture to boost the alcohol content to what you desire.

Denatured alcohol by the gallon from the hardware store would be the easiest way to get high % ethyl alcohol.  If you wanted to raise the % of alcohol in the gel to 80% alcohol, just add 18% of that denatured alcohol to the gel.  It stays a gel and burns better.

distill it. that involves heating the liquid and collecting the steam. steam condenses on cold surfaces. when it condenses it runs down and drips into another container.

I'm not aware of any other way to get the alcohol out other than distilling.  Maybe someone else can come up with a way.  There are some pretty smart and crafty people that frequent here.

You can use rubbing alcohol in that soda can stove.

rubbing alcohol is wayyyy to sooty for me (when camping the less you have to clean the better)

Then use denatured alcohol from the hardware store.

 Agree with Re-design, distilling is the easiest way to get the alcohol.

Hand sanitizers may only have 60% alcohol--the other part is water (along with the gelling agent).  This might be the reason it doesn't burn well.  If the alcohol is ethyl, it will distill as 95% ethyl alcohol, leaving the salt and gel behind.  Typically there are additives that will distill with the alcohol, so it will not be potable.  Also, not all sanitizers have ethyl alcohol--some have isopropyl.  

There are other ways to concentrate alcohol--one is by adding a lot of calcium chloride which takes up the water.  The alcohol will contain some residual calcium chloride.  Another is to freeze the solution--the water freezes out.  I believe this is one of the ways applejack is made.  For high alcohol concentrations, you would have to freeze with dry ice.

well I have a large tub of calcium chloride ice melter, that might help.
Ill try the freezing and see if that works, and if it dosnt ill move onto the CaCl2.