Will a Hand Sanitizer Bottle Explode in Your Car? Probably Not, but Be Safe Anyway

Firefighters raise alarm that alcohol-containing sanitizer plus hot weather can equal trouble. How much trouble? Enough that you shouldn't leave it in the car.

  • If you're carrying alcohol-based hand sanitizer wherever you go, congratulations—it's what we've been advised to do by public-health authorities during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • However, don't leave it inside your car, because the very alcohol that helps kill germs is also very flammable.
  • A firefighter group issued an alarming warning that a bottle of sanitizer could blow up a car's door. Though their photo was found to be misleading, they still claim that the contents of that Purell bottle could potentially reach as high as 300 degrees if left in a hot car in bright sunlight.

Without being alarmist, the rising temperatures mean the inside of your car will get hot very quickly—so don't leave a bottle of hand sanitizer in there, just in case.

The fire department of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, has issued a warning that alcohol-based sanitizer bottles should not be left in cars because there's a possibility they could explode. Their warning is echoed by the National Fire Protection Association, which issued a video (below) in April saying hand sanitizer's flash point is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which means a bottle of it doesn't need any external heat source to give off flammable vapors. All it would then need is a flame source—someone smoking in the car, for instance—for it to be in danger of explosion. The CDC considers alcohol-based hand sanitizer a flammable liquid "which readily evaporates at room temperature into an ignitable vapor."