According to experts, alcohol-based hand sanitisers are flammable, but it’s “highly unlikely” that they will undergo spontaneous combustion.
A picture of a burnt out inner panel of a car door has been posted and circulated on social media, claiming that an unattended bottle of hand sanitiser had exploded due to high temperature. The post warned people to be careful about leaving hand sanitiser in their cars, because, they claimed, alcohol-based hand sanitisers are extremely inflammable and can potentially undergo spontaneous combustion. The claims took on some amount of authenticity because a local fire department in the US also shared similar warnings with the same picture which went viral.
But now it has turned out that even if alcohol-based hand sanitisers are highly inflammable, they are not capable of spontaneous combustion. The Western Lakes Fire District in Wisconsin, US, which had shared the post on Facebook, with a photo of the charred interior of a car door, has had to “apologise for any confusion” and the post has been taken down. Even in India, similar posts are being shared on Whatsapp and even mainstream news publications are posting similar claims that leaving a bottle of hand sanitiser inside a hot car may lead to spontaneous combustion or spark a fire. But those claims seem to be not true.
1. Is it safe to leave hand sanitizer in a hot vehicle?
Hand sanitizer wont spontaneously combust or explode if left in a hot vehicle. Containers should be kept upright and properly sealed to avoid leakage. Containers shouldn’t be left in direct sunlight as an added precaution pic.twitter.com/4W1uerTTzg
— Toronto Fire Service (@Toronto_Fire) May 26, 2020
Experts are of the opinion that while alcohol-based hand sanitisers are flammable, but it is “highly unlikely” for them to spontaneously combust. In fact, Toronto Fire Services put out a tweet saying that hand sanitiser will not spontaneously combust or explode if left in a hot vehicle. Toronto Fire Services however advises users to keep containers upright and properly sealed to avoid leakage.
Can hand sanitizer spontaneously ignite in a hot car? There are currently questions circulating on social media and in the news over whether bottles of hand sanitizer can spontaneously catch fire if left in a hot vehicle. The short answer is no, it can’t. https://t.co/7Fx34MxBNr pic.twitter.com/vMDcTdu3rK
— NFPA (@NFPA) May 22, 2020
The same guidance was also shared by the US National Fire Protection Association, which says that an ignition source is required for sanitisers to catch fire. And in any case, ignition source would need a temperature of around 300 degrees Celsius, so an open flame will probably ignite alcohol-based hand sanitiser, but a hot car will not lead to spontaneous combustion.