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VERIFY: Can hand sanitizer cause your car to catch fire?

A photo making the rounds on Facebook has raised a lot of questions about the safety of keeping hand sanitizer in your car.
(Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. (WTSP) — A photo making the rounds on Facebook has raised a lot of questions about the safety of keeping hand sanitizer in your car.


Can hand sanitizer start a fire in your car?


Yes, but it's not likely.


This VERIFY began when firefighters in Wisconsin warned drivers against storing hand sanitizer in cars.

The Western Lakes Fire District posted this image to Facebook, saying that because most hand sanitizer is alcohol-based and flammable, keeping it inside your car during hot weather can be dangerous. The department said sunlight can be magnified through the bottle, which could lead to a disaster.

The photo shows the driver's side door of a car. The interior of the door is partially melted away.

Let’s start today with a little education! We’ve chatted in the past about clear water bottles being kept in your...

Posted by Western Lakes Fire District on Thursday, May 21, 2020

We couldn't figure out exactly where the photo originated. But, we can confirm it wasn't taken this week. Reverse-image searches reveal the same photo posted by people in multiple foreign countries -- at least a month ago. And, it's unclear precisely what caused the fire in the photo. It wasn't necessarily hand sanitizer.

But, let's set the image aside. Our core question remains: Is it possible for hand sanitizer to lead to a fire inside a car?

For that, we asked some experts in the Tampa Bay area.

The Lakeland Fire Department says technically, yes. It's actually addressed in fire code for industrial settings where larger quantities are concerned.

"The magnification in combination with the chemical composition could very well lead to this happening," a spokesperson told 10 Tampa Bay.

But, does that mean a bottle is going to catch fire in your car? It's not very likely.

The National Fire Protection Association actually produced a video about this topic. It acknowledges that most hand sanitizer is quite flammable. But, the video makes clear that "large quantities" are what firefighters are really worried about.

And, by large quantities, they're usually talking about amounts like five gallons -- way more than you'd be keeping in your car...or probably your whole house. If you do have that much, you should be storing it in a cabinet that's designed for flammable materials.