As more people keep hand sanitizer in their cars due to the coronavirus pandemic, firefighters are issuing a warning.
The Western Lakes Fire District in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, posted a photo of a burnt car door on Facebook, cautioning people not to leave hand sanitizer in a vehicle on hot summer days because it may contain alcohol and be flammable.
“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 department said Thursday. “Please respect the possibilities and be fire safe.”
Can hand sanitizer really catch on fire in your car?
Questions have been raised about whether the concern is real. According to Poynter, the image of the burnt car door wasn’t from a hand sanitizer fire in a Wisconsin vehicle — it was from a Thailand media report about two Saudis who set their door on fire with an aerosol can and a lighter.
WNTV reports a study also found hand sanitizer would need to reach a temperature of approximately 300 degrees in order to combust. Most vehicles can only reach 160 degrees, though that’s hot enough to injure or kill people and animals.
The WLFD admitted the photo was not from a hand sanitizer explosion, but defended its message after it went viral.
“It’s a fire in a door panel. We frequently see the same issues and level of damage from smoking in vehicles,” the fire department wrote, adding that a clear bottle of hand sanitizer could reach 300 degrees with light through the container.
“This is the difference we are talking about,” the WLFD said. “Clear water bottles have been known to focus light to the point that they boil the water and explode. It’s also possible when other substances are heated to extreme temperatures.”
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