KEY POINTS

  • Fire fighters warn that hand sanitizers in hot cars could explode
  • Hand sanitizers are alcohol-based thus flammable
  • Other experts, however, said that hand sanitizers wouldn't combust on its own unless the heat is above 500°F

A fire department in Wisconsin is issuing a warning on the dangers of leaving hand sanitizers inside the car during a hot day.

In a post on the Western Lakes Fire District's Facebook page, the firefighters shared a photo of a severely damaged car door after a hard sanitizer allegedly caught fire and exploded.

"By its nature, most hand sanitizer is alcohol-based and therefore flammable," the firefighters explained in the post. "Keeping it in your car during hot weather, exposing it to the sun causing magnification of light through the bottle, and particularly being next to open flame while smoking in vehicles or grilling while enjoying this weekend can lead to disaster."

The firefighters also shared information from a 2010 research showing the statistics of vehicle fire accidents and deaths and linked a video warning of the fire hazards of hand sanitizers inside hot cars from the National Fire Protection Association.

The Texas Department of Public Safety re-shared Western Lakes Fire District's post on its social media page. Dallas firefighter Sherrie Wilson said that alcohol-based hand sanitizers release a vapor that may lead to an explosion in a confined space, such as a car.

"If there was any introduction of static electricity and that could simply be somebody getting in and pulling down on a sweater or jacket or anything like that,” Wilson said.

sanitizing-5095967_1920 Hand sanitizers are 60% alcohol based and could catch fire if ignited. Photo: Pixabay

However, Poynter also warned that there are some hoax videos of cars catching fire and burning its passengers allegedly because of hand sanitizers left behind in hot weather. The viral video is actually from 2015 and featured two men deliberately lighting an aerosol spray inside a confined space.

Experts from Arizona State University said that cars parked under the summer heat could get as hot as 160°F to 170°F. However, hand sanitizers combusting on its own will need at least 572°F. It needs to be ignited by something else to catch fire.

Dr. Mihaela C. Stefan of the University of Texas Dallas, on the other hand, said that there is another concern for leaving hand sanitizers inside cars on a warm day. The alcohol component effective against killing germs will be less efficient as it will evaporate. Thus, she's also recommending not to leave this in the car.