Here’s a question for you all that has become quite relevant based on the existing circumstances; would a bottle of hand sanitizer catch fire in a hot car? The shortest possible answer is, yes but that is highly unlikely to happen.
Pictures of a burned-out car door have been making rounds on the internet. They are accompanied by a caution that states that you are putting your vehicle at the risk of a fire by leaving a bottle of alcohol-based gel in the car. The Western Lakes Fire district has also posted an image on Facebook and claims that since hand-sanitizer is alcohol-based; if the sunlight were to refract through the clear bottle in the right manner, it would cause the ignition of the gel.
They wrote, ‘By its nature, most hand sanitizer is alcohol-based and therefore flammable. 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 the open flame while smoking in vehicles or grilling while enjoying this weekend—can lead to disaster. Please respect the possibilities and be fire safe.’
It remains unclear where the picture was actually shared from however the fact-checking website Poynter states that the stories were first shared in Thailand. As per Poynter, the Brazilian fact-checkers were able to conclude that it would require a temperature higher than 570 degrees for hand sanitizers to combust spontaneously. This temperature is quite high when compared with the temperatures that are recorded in cars that are parked in the summer heat.
Guy Colonna who is the director of National Fire Protection Association’s engineering technical services says, ‘Once those vapors concentrated in those right proportions of fuel vapors with the oxygen in the air, then the only thing that’s missing in order to make them ignitable is a viable ignition source.’ Which vapors is he talking about? Most of the alcohol-based hand sanitizers are comprised of 70% ethanol or isopropyl alcohol that has flashpoint at 63 or 64 degrees Fahrenheit thus essentially placing their flashpoint at room temperature.
However, the experts say that you don’t need to be worried about hand sanitizers catching fire and burning your car because the probability of that happening is very low. Still, being cautious is a good way to even take out that minimal probability.