Tertiary butyl alcohol has often been used experimentally as a “non-metabolizable” alcohol. In this report, evidence is presented that t-butanol serves as a substrate for rat liver microsomes and that it is oxidatively demethylated to yield formaldehyde. The apparent Km for t-butanol is 30 mM while Vmax is about 5.5 nmol per min per mg microsomal protein. Formaldehyde production is stimulated by azide, which prevents destruction of H2O2 by catalase. Hydroxyl radical scavenging agents, such as benzoate, mannitol, and 2-keto-4-thiomethylbutyrate, suppress formaldehyde production. Therefore, the microsomal reaction pathway appears to involve the interaction of t-butanol with hydroxyl radicals generated from H2O2 by the microsomes. Formaldehyde is also produced when t-butanol is incubated with model hydroxyl radical-generating systems such as the iron-EDTA-stimulated oxidation of xanthine by xanthine oxidase or the iron-EDTA-catalyzed autoxidation of ascorbate. These results indicate that t-butanol cannot be used to distinguish metabolically-linked from non-metabolically-linked actions of ethanol.