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Could a bottle of hand sanitizer in hot car explode? Here’s clearing the controversy


Could a bottle of hand sanitizer in hot car explode? In light of recent controversies, it turns out the warning is multifaceted, and it is always wise to not store it in a hot car. If not for fire, but to preserve its efficacy.

Major public health advisory organizations like the WHO and CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand rub or disinfectant to veer off the coronavirus from time to time.

However, the more people are making a bottle of hand sanitizer a part of their lives, the more hazards of it are surfacing, at least potentially.

Earlier, it was warned how approaching naked fire, like that in the kitchens, just after using an alcohol-based hand rub, can prove to be extremely hazardous.

Recent reports are warning to handle the bottle of hand sanitizer with caution after Western Lakes Fire District shared a post of a burned-out car door resulting from a fire.

Our goal in the WLFD  is to provide timely, accurate, and educational information while responding to the needs of our…

Posted by Western Lakes Fire District on Thursday, May 21, 2020

[The above post is an updated version of the controversial topic. Embedded for refrence]

‘Keeping it in your car during hot weather, exposing it to sun, and particularly being next to open flame while smoking in vehicles or grilling while enjoying this weekend can lead to disaster,’ the fire district warned in a Facebook post.

However, until now, the original post (embedded above) has been repeatedly edited and rewritten, since the wide circulation raised questions on validity of the warning. But the core message is still sustained.

“It’s become clear that a recent post about hand sanitizer was taken in many different directions from our original goal,” the updated post reads.

“Our message quickly came became misconstrued, and we wanted to assure that we made it right.”

What is the controversy? 

The initial pictures that the fire department used in the post to issue the warning, turns out, were representative images.

The Poynter Institute of Media Studies noted similar warning originated in Thailand, which later spread to Costa Rica and Brazil.



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And according to Poynter, the images used in the post of the fire department in question, matched with the Thailand warning.

The Thailand warning, it turns out, was attributed to two Saudi who set the car door on fire using an aerosol can and lighter and not hand sanitizer.

Probing further, reports suggest that for a bottle of hand sanitizer to combust, an internal temperature of 300 degrees celsius would be needed inside a car.

And, an Arizona State University study found cars parked in direct sunlight reaches 160 F (71.11 C) at max, in the summer heat.

But they still stand with their intent.

Western Lakes Fire District edited the post, addressing the speculations and controversies that arose from the image used in their warning on Facebook.

“While we never made the claim that the photo utilized was from our district or an exploding container of hand sanitizer, it has become clear that that inference and speculation made it seem as though it was,’ the Western Lakes Fire District explains, addressing the case.

They pointed out that the image was to ‘illustrate’ how a usual door fire would look like, and their post was centered on the same.

Storing hand sanitizer in a hot car can be potentially dangerous in many ways (Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash)

“While infrequent, there have been cases in the recent past were reflecting light placed through a clear bottle was able to focus onto a combustible surface and cause a fire,” the fire department says.

Responding to a comment on the 300-degree celsius question, the fire department stated: “This is the difference we are talking about.”

“You are correct that the car temperature would not have to reach 300 F.”

“However, the interior of the container would, which is very possible due to focused light through clear plastic. This is the difference we are talking about.”

What do experts say about storing hand sanitizer in hot car?

Most hand sanitizers, according to experts contain 60-70% alcohol, making them flammable if mishandled.

Putting all the hand sanitizer controversies aside – combustible if left in the car, or not – experts suggest not to leave the bottle inside the car, for best practices according to Daily Mail. 

In a recent report by Global News, doctors warn for not leaving the hand sanitizers inside vehicles for long hours since it may evaporate and eventually lose its efficacy. Additionally, the doctors wrote “in extreme heat, it can ignite due to its high alcohol content.”

It is always better to use soap and water to wash hands whenever possible, the doctors say, but since it may not be an option at times, it is best to use hand sanitizer with caution and store in a cool dry place.


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