Butanol is considered as a potential biofuel (butanol fuel). Butanol at 85 percent strength can be used in cars designed for gasoline (petrol) without any change to the engine (unlike 85% ethanol), and it contains more energy for a given volume than ethanol and almost as much as gasoline, and a vehicle using butanol would return fuel consumption more comparable to gasoline than ethanol. Butanol can also be added to diesel fuel to reduce soot emissions.
Butanol is used as a solvent for a wide variety of chemical and textile processes, in organic synthesis, and as a chemical intermediate. It is also used as a paint thinner and a solvent in other coating applications where a relatively slow evaporating latent solvent is preferable, as with lacquers and ambient-cured enamels. It is also used as a component of hydraulic and brake fluids.
A 50% solution of butanol in water has been used since the 20th century to retard the drying of fresh plaster in fresco painting. The solution is usually sprayed on the wet plaster after the plaster has been trowelled smooth and extends the working period during which frescos can be painted up to 18 hours.
Butanol is used in the synthesis of 2-butoxyethanol. A major application for butanol is as a reactant with acrylic acid to produce butyl acrylate, a primary ingredient of water based acrylic paint.
It is also used as a base for perfumes, but on its own has a highly alcoholic aroma.
Salts of butanol are chemical intermediates; for example, alkali metal salts of tert-butanol are tert-butoxides.