Recently there was a report of a fire inside a car caused by hand sanitizer. To find the answer as to why, you must look to the product Safety Data Sheet (SDS). An SDS is easily found on the internet and is divided to in 16 sections. Section 2 identifies to the hazards, section 7 addresses how to handle and store, and section 8 how to control the product.
First, we will address the primary hazard, flammability. As a flammable product is heated, it releases vapors. Vapors put pressure on the container holding the alcohol and it will eventually force vent, like a mini explosion of the container. If you have a hand pump type container, vapors are being released and your car is the container.
As flammable vapors are released into a small confined space, such as a car, they began to fill the space. Flammables generally respond to static electricity or any kind of ignition source, such as smoking. We have all worn sweaters at times and when you pulled it over your head and hair, you heard or felt a little static spark. Well, that spark is all you need to ignite a flammable vapor, causing a fire.
The second hazard is from alcohol; most hand sanitizers contain 60% alcohol, which is a category 3 flammable, and a category 2A eye irritant. Alcohol can cause skin irritation and may be especially hard on the eyes. Wash your body with soap and water. For eye irritation, remove your contacts and rinse with copious amounts of water for 15 minutes. It is also important not to inhale these vapors, if you do, quickly get to fresh air. If the product is swallowed, do not induce vomiting, and get medical attention right away.
Handling and storage of the products requires well ventilated areas, non-sparking tools, keep container tightly closed, and prevent static discharges or sources of ignition. Safely store by keeping product cool and in a well-ventilated space.
Keep this product away from chemical oxidizers, organic peroxides, pyrophoric liquids and solids, gases, explosive and any self-heating substances.
For personal protection equipment hen working with larger amounts of this product choose gloves to protect hands, and wear safety glasses or googles. Do not eat, drink, or smoke around this product.
In this new era of heightened hygiene, it is important to be attentive to the products we now use every day to stay safe and healthy. If you are using a new product and unfamiliar the potential hazards, review the SDS.