Sunday, 17 July 2011

Fondue Fuel vs. Paint Stripper: A Tip For The Frugal

If you use an alcohol burner to heat your water or keep it warm and find the price of fondue fuel a bit too heavily marked up, use paint stripper. The alcohol in the fondue fuel used for alcohol burners is generally methyl alcohol (also called methanol or methyl hydrate), and is highly flammable, highly toxic, and an excellent solvent. Because it's so good at dissolving all sorts of things, methyl alcohol is also commonly sold in big jugs as paint stripper or a heavy-duty cleaning agent at a much lower price (the other difference being that fondue fuel is sometimes dyed blue; the reason why is beyond me given that the stuff burns with a blue flame anyways). The trick here is first off to make sure your burner runs on methyl alcohol, and secondly to only buy paint stripper that is labelled as pure methanol/methyl hydrate/methyl alcohol. If it isn't methanol, or has anything in it other than methanol, don't use it.

Although burning paint stripper indoors to heat a kettle full of water to be used to make tea sounds a bit sketchy in terms of safety, remember that so long as you use paint stripper with methanol as its sole ingredient what you're doing is no different than if fondue fuel were to be used, the only differences being price and supermarket aisle. Methanol is actually quite safe as fuel sources go because it burns with a relatively cool flame and undergoes complete combustion which, if we remember our high school chemistry, means that the only things produced when it burns are water vapour and carbon dioxide. No smoke, no odour; just heat and a bit of CO2.

Methanol sold as paint stripper is generally sold in much greater quantities than fondue fuel, which means the initial investment will be higher (I paid a whopping $11 for about four liters), but it pays for itself quite quickly. Big jugs are also tricky to pour from without spilling, so I keep an old fondue fuel bottle topped up for day to day use.

Methanol, much like schoolteachers and
strong cheese, deserves your respect.

Obligatory warning and disclaimer: Methanol, fire, fondue fuel, and paint strippers in general are all dangerous. Methanol itself is highly toxic, and unlike its hillbilly cousin ethanol (found in red-faced men at bars), has a tendency to cause permanent blindness at very low doses and similarly permanent death at slightly higher doses. Don't put the liquid in your mouth, don't sniff the fumes. Fire is also dangerous for the usual reasons: burns, death, wholesale destruction and general nastiness, etc. All of the above should be treated with the appropriate caution and respect, so please don't do anything stupid. I take no responsibility for any loss of vision, unexpected departures from this mortal coil, sudden evaporation of water from living cells causing said cells to not be living anymore, wholesale destruction, general nastiness, tears, etc. which may ensue as a result of this post.


  1. SUHWAHEAT information! Thanx

  2. I have just downloaded iStripper, so I can watch the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.

  3. Try not to get the stuff on your skin, as it can be asborbed into the body that way.