1,2,4-Butanetriol is a clear or slightly yellow, odorless, hygroscopic, flammable, viscous liquid. It is an alcohol with three hydrophilic alcoholic hydroxyl groups. It is similar to glycerol and erythritol. It is chiral, with two possible enantiomers.
1,2,4-Butanetriol can be prepared synthetically by several different methods such as hydroformylation of glycidol and subsequent reduction of the product, sodium borohydride reduction of esterified malic acid, or catalytic hydrogenation of malic acid. However, of an increasing importance is the biotechnological synthesis using genetically engineered Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas fragi bacteria.