The alcohol used for cooking is poisonous.

Denatured alcohol, also called methylated spirit (methylated spirits in Australia and New Zealand) or denatured rectified spirit, is ethanol that has additives to make it poisonous, bad tasting, foul smelling or nauseating, to discourage recreational consumption.

Denatured alcohol

As it is used for fuel and is poisonous and clear, is there a standard way of marking the containers (which it seems are often improvised form water bottles), so that nobody drinks the stuff?

  • I mark my recycled water bottle in large letters with "FUEL". I also don't use that style water bottle for normal drinking either.
    – topshot
    Jun 27, 2018 at 13:39
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    There are a number of different universal images to use to show a bottle is not for drinking from.
    – Aravona
    Jun 27, 2018 at 15:46
  • When I buy a bottle of 'non drinkable' liquid it comes in a bottle with a special 'hard to open' top. If you keep using that bottle for re-fills you never need to worry, as the shape of the bottle and the difficult to open top remind you it is not a drink.
    – Willeke
    Jul 3, 2018 at 15:19
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    I would not recommend using a recycled water bottle. Most fuels are solvents, and any lettering you put on could be wiped away from spills. And if you used all of the fuel, the bottle is now empty and looks like a regular water bottle. A child, or someone unfamiliar with the language, or anyone (if lettering washed away) could re-purpose the re-purposed bottle for potable again. In addition, water bottles by nature are not built to withstand jockeying around or being dropped, nor are they built to withstand pressure.
    – Andrew Jay
    Jul 4, 2018 at 1:58
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    The same goes for non drinkable liquids bottles. They aren't built to withstand pressure, their colors could confuse people who might want to reuse them for water, and they aren't built to specifications to hold dangerous, flammable fuels when dropped or mishandled.
    – Andrew Jay
    Jul 4, 2018 at 1:59

4 Answers 4


The answer is to not use a repurposed water bottle. Further, use completely different types of containers for fuel and water so you can't mix them up.

Back in the day (the 1970's) when white gas stoves were popular (yes, the still are - I have one and it works great), there were aluminum fuel bottles. And, people generally used Nalgene bottles (or big metal canteens) for water.

Well, I knew somebody who thought that using the aluminum fuel bottles for water was really cool. But, he also used them for white gas, operating under the assumption that (1) he would buy different colored bottles (red for fuel, bare metal for water), and (2) anyway you could tell the difference by smell.

All was good until one night, while winter camping, he needed a drink of water. The 'water' and 'fuel' bottles feel the same on the outside. It was dark, so he couldn't tell them apart by color. And it was cold enough that the vapor pressure of the gas was really low, so an opened fuel bottle really didn't smell like anything. It wasn't until he had taken a nice big mouthful of liquid that he realized he had grabbed a fuel bottle instead of a water bottle.

Fortunately, he had the presence of mind to spit the fuel out before swallowing it. Unfortunately, the spray of fuel all over the inside of his tent raised other safety questions (Have you ever seen a down sleeping bag completely disappear in a giant ball of flame? I have, but that is another story.)

I only use Nalgene for water. I only use aluminum fuel containers for fuel. Never the two shall meet...


The "Standard" would be to only use containers specifically designed and marked for the type of fuel it is holding.

There are a number of reasons; safety, legal and physical to not repurpose used containers to hold fuel. I won't go through them, as you are not asking about the implications of this, you are asking for the standard.

The standard is to purchase the size container of the fuel you need. If that container gets empty and IF it is refillable, refill and re-use the container specifically designed and marked for the type of fuel it is holding.

  • There really aren’t standard containers for alcohol for backpacking as most containers are too big Jul 3, 2018 at 17:21
  • @CharlieBrumbaugh How much fuel do you need? Jul 3, 2018 at 17:23

I would use a red, yellow, or green bottle - and never a blue, white, or clear bottle, no matter how you labelled it.

Red is typically used for gasoline. Kerosene is stored in blue. Diesel is stored in yellow. And combustable oil is stored in green containers.

I know, blue containers is also used to store potable water, so I would avoid blue. In the end, red, yellow, or green - and then properly labelled - would be my recommendation.

Fuel Cans Color Codes Cheat Sheet

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    And the question asks about alcohol fuel. In UK and NZ at least, purple dye is added to the alcohol as a warning, so maybe the "standard" color for alcohol fuel bottles should be purple.
    – Martin F
    Jul 5, 2018 at 18:25
  • I think using any fuel container purposed for fuel would be fine in any color, though I have never seen any color other than red or green. But it is quite possible the OP is asking about a region where other colors are typically used. Good point.
    – Andrew Jay
    Jul 5, 2018 at 18:29

Always use a fuel container. They are marked and designed for fuel. Never use improvised water containers for fuel. There are various sizes available in retail shops and online.

MSR fuel bottle

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