At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, people began stockpiling two things — toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Quickly, not one could find either product. Although both are important, a lot of people take hand sanitizer with them wherever they go. After all, it provides some type of barrier between them and the coronavirus.
Not only is hand sanitizer good for eliminating germs on the skin but often, people will further wipe down steering wheels, door handles, credit cards, you name it. For that reason, individuals still covet this product. If you were to look in vehicles, you’d likely see both hand sanitizer and a face mask.
Heeding a dire warning
Yes, hand sanitizer is essential but there’s also a danger when leaving it in a hot car or even a warm one. With temperatures already soaring in various regions across the country, something that seems so simple could cause serious injury and property destruction.
Fire officials chime in
As stated by the Western Lakes Fire Department, along with many others throughout the nation, you should never leave hand sanitizer in your vehicle on a warm day. Why? Because it can cause a fire. Just imagine going out for a romantic dinner only to walk outside to find your vehicle engulfed in flames. Or at a minimum, major damage inside.
How’s that possible?
It all has to do with what’s called the “flash point.” That’s a temperature required for certain flammable substances to ignite. Included are alcoholic beverages and yes, hand sanitizer. All of these have different flash points but for hand sanitizer, it ranks as “fairly low temperature.”
What’s in hand sanitizer?
Keep in mind that while some brands of hand sanitizer only have 62 percent alcohol, a lot are as high as 70 percent. That’s why it’s so effective in killing germs and viruses. But here’s the scary part. The flash point for this is only 69.8-degrees Fahrenheit.
Vehicles heat up quickly
Think about this. You might be out and about on a day when the outside temperature is only 72-degrees Fahrenheit. It feels wonderful, not too cool and not too hot. But on a day like that, the temperature inside of a vehicle can rise roughly 40 degrees within just one hour.
What does that mean?
Simply put, if you had hand sanitizer in your car on a day when it’s 72 outside and you’re gone for 60 minutes, the inside of your vehicle could reach as high as 112 degrees. And since the flash point of hand sanitizer is only 69.8 degrees, you see the risk. This is why the National Fire Protection Association has established a code for this very product.
Of course, if you park your car directly in the sun, the level of risk increases substantially. Also, if you place hand sanitizer inside a center console, side door, or glove compartment, it’ll reach the flash point much faster.
The most dangerous place
There’s no safe place inside a car but the one area that’ll cause hand sanitizer to ignite quicker than any other is the dashboard. You never want to leave this out in direct sunlight. That would be like taking a lighter and setting it on fire. What it comes down to is that if you’re going to carry hand sanitizer with you, keep it inside your purse or a pants pocket.
With the coronavirus, most people are doing everything required to stay safe. That includes social distancing, not going near anyone who has symptoms or a confirmed case of COVID-19, and using hand sanitizer. But for the latter, you have to take a second measure to prevent a fire.
A great PSA
Thanks to fire departments everywhere, people who use hand sanitizer are learning about this second risk. If you have questions, you can contact your local fire station or watch videos like the one we’ve provided. Remember, not only is hand sanitizer potentially dangerous when left in a vehicle but also when near an open flame such as grilling.
With good education, we can all stay safe during this challenging time. Take a moment to learn all you can and then pass the information on to family members and friends by watching the video below.
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