Not quite a duplicate of What are the best substitutes when nothing labelled as "Denatured alcohol" can be found in your area?

For my sins, I live in California. California has completely banned Denatured Alcohol, and you can't have it shipped here (so no Amazon or Rockler etc). Nor can you buy Everclear at more than 60%. Isopropyl Alcohol hasn't been seen in the stores since March 2020.

I need to either dissolve shellac flakes, or thin Zinsser premade shellac. Every website I visit just naturally assumes meths/denatured alcohol is available.

What can I use as a solvent in this state? And where can I get it?

  • 8
    Prop 65: The People's Republik of California has determined that being alive will eventually cause your death.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 3, 2020 at 13:13
  • I expect it is illegal to distil vodka or other liquor ? Oct 3, 2020 at 14:44
  • :) But seriously - is there anything other than alcohol that works? Acetone is freely available, for example.
    – kdopen
    Oct 3, 2020 at 16:44
  • Actually looks like I can get isoprop on Amazon for $8/qt. But according to finewoodworking.com/forum/isopropyl-or-denatured-alcohol that's probably a waste of money
    – kdopen
    Oct 3, 2020 at 17:32
  • "Nor can you buy Everclear at more than 60%." Damnit, trust California to prevent the sale of just what I was going to suggest. Can you have the higher-alcohol version of Everclear shipped? If not, you don't live near any of the borders to other states by any chance? It hardly seems worth the expense and hassle though unless you're right by a border, in which case I'm sure you'd have already considered it as an option.
    – Graphus
    Oct 3, 2020 at 19:03

2 Answers 2


Bioethanol is an option. It's effectively high-proof Everclear with a bitterant to prevent it from being ingested.

You might have luck finding it stocked at outdoor outfitters (camping/hiking stores), or stores that supply wood stoves which sometimes use it as a fuel in ventless stoves.

A couple examples are Crown "Fuel for Alcohol Stoves", which REI appears to carry, and Moda Fireplace Fuel which appears to be sold through retailers like Home Depot, Ralphs, and Walmart (perhaps online only).

You might also try contacting local distilleries, if there are any, to see if they sell their heads & tails. Sometimes they are available for use as cleaning agents

  • The bioethanol is a great suggestion. I was reading about the bitterant now commonly used just a few days ago!
    – Graphus
    May 2 at 16:39

I saw recently several youtube methods of removing the water from alcohol. They simply added salt then decanted. Salt attracts water. If you can find some cheap high proof alcohol you can make it higher with this method. There is also a freezing method for removing water. Salting https://youtu.be/I5wuMGNsdHk https://youtu.be/1SS3-D-Aqr4 Freezing https://youtu.be/4UbnHw0qIzo

An expensive alternative is to buy legal moonshine. I don't know if you can do that in CA but in NY you can. Oddly enough it must be sold in mason jars. A farmer at work made it. I have no idea of how you would find them though. I tried searching this and apparently your not allowed to drink alcohol in CA. unless its watered down. Still you could get your own license to distill if the need is this high. A state license is legal.

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