While they have quickly become a hot commodity during COVID-19, you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can I leave hand sanitizer in the car?”. There have been stories (mostly on social media sites) claiming that doing so can be dangerous. As the hot summer months arrived and the pandemic continues, concerns about the flammability of alcohol-based hand sanitizers have been raised. Arizona temperatures can reach over 160 degrees inside a vehicle, so it’s important to honestly have the concern addressed.

What is Hand Sanitizer?

Hand sanitizer is a product that is used on the hands to remove disease-carrying pathogens. Their use is suggested when soap and water aren’t available for hand washing or if the skin has been compromised (fissures, scaling, etc.) due to repeated hand washing. While the efficiency of hand sanitizer varies, it’s commonly used as a way to control infection in settings that include hospitals, medical clinics, daycares, and schools.

The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) because it’s better at reducing all types of chemicals and bacteria on your hands. If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer with no less than 60% alcohol to reduce the chance of getting sick or spreading viruses to others.

Why Is There Concern Over Leaving It in Your Car?

As summer arrives and the Covid-19 pandemic persists, worries about the flammability of alcohol-based hand sanitizer have inundated the internet. Claims that temperatures of 70 degrees or higher can ignite alcohol-based hand sanitizers. The truth is that, according to experts, these hand sanitizers, while flammable, will only ignite if a flame is present or the right combination of vapors and oxygen are combined. That’s why storage or shipments of over 5 gallons of alcohol-based hand sanitizer are regulated. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has reported that alcohol-based hand sanitizer vehicle fires aren’t that probable.

What Happens to Hand Sanitizer in the Hot Arizona Sun?

Even though leaving small quantities of alcohol-based hand sanitizers in a car doesn’t pose a significant risk of fire, it shouldn’t be kept in vehicles because hot temperatures will lower its ability to disinfect. Storing hand sanitizer for more than a few hours in a car will cause the alcohol to evaporate, making it ineffective when it comes to killing bacteria or viruses.

Can I Leave Hand Sanitizer in the Car?

The answer is more than likely if the concern is that leaving hand sanitizer in the car will cause it to ignite. Temperatures would need to be over 600 degrees for hand sanitizer to combust. But, as mentioned above, keeping it in the car during Arizona’s hot summers will probably make your hand sanitizer less effective. According to Dr. Greg Boyce, Associate Professor in the Florida Gulf Coast University department of chemistry and physics, it shouldn’t be kept in a hot vehicle for more than a couple of hours. If you’re out running errands and want to keep it handy in the car, that’s okay, but you shouldn’t leave it in the car indefinitely.

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