Hand Sanitizer is our savior against germs, while vaccines are out of reach. The significance of sanitizer is widely understood during the COVID19 pandemic. Health experts are advising people to apply alcohol-based hand sanitizers after touching things to avoid the contraction of coronavirus and other kinds of germs. The mass people are being cautious about the pandemic; as a result, personal use of hand sanitizer has been increased extensively. However, due to the flammable nature of hand sanitizer, fire danger should not be ignored. Simple act of negligence can cost lives. Read this article to know how to use and handle sanitizers safely during pandemic minimizing the risk of fire hazard.
What is an Alcohol Based Hand Sanitizer?
Though washing hands with soap and water is the best way to kill harmful virus, bacteria and germs, the hand sanitizers are very useful in outdoor environments where you have no access to water. Non-alcohol sanitizers can impede the growth of germs, but fail to kill the germs outright. The Alcohol-based Hand sanitizer was originally developed as a hygiene product for using in healthcare environments. Later it has been widely accepted in many other settings, counting personal use.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer products usually contain certain types of alcohol, including ethanol (ethyl alcohol), isopropyl alcohol, or n-propanol. The combination of alcohol properties may vary; but the most effective hand sanitizers contain about 60% to 95% alcohol concentration.
Is Hand Sanitizer Flammable?
Due to containing alcohol properties in high volume, hand sanitizers are not free from the risk fire hazard. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers have been classified as ‘Class I’ Flammable Liquid substances. It indicates that these substances have a flash point of less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
More specifically, the flash points of isopropyl alcohol 75% (v/v) and ethyl alcohol 80% (v/v) are 19°C and 17.5°C, respectively. The ‘flash point’ of any volatile substance refers to its lowest temperature at which its vapors can ignite when come in contact with any ignition source or flame.
The vapors of Hand sanitizer tend to be flammable. When the alcohol properties contained in a hand sanitizer starts to combust, it forms gases like carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
How to Avoid Hand Sanitizer induced Fire Hazard?
Dry the Hands
Alcohol-based Hand sanitizers are flammable by nature and tend to release flammable vapors. After applying hand sanitizers, it is recommended to rub both hands together properly until you feel them completely dry.
Distant from Ignitions Sources
The Hand Sanitizer bottle must be kept away from any source of heat, ignition or open flame. For home use, beware of using a gas stove or lighting candles, immediately after using hand sanitizer. While you are pouring sanitizer from one container to another, be cautious about keeping distance from all kinds of ignition source.
Especially, the smokers must not attempt to smoke, during or right after applying or handling the alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Adding to these, you must not store hand sanitizer container near any kind of electrical outlet, switch or equipment in your apartment or workplace.
Remove the Spills
If your alcohol-based hand sanitizer is spilled on a surface or the vapor is somehow released, immediately remove every potential ignition source from that place to mitigate the risk of fire hazard. Clean up the Spilled hand sanitizer remains with a clean dry cloth as soon as possible.
Distant from Chemical Sources
If you have stored other chemical products besides hand sanitizers, in your home or workplace, more cautions are required. To minimize the fire danger, Hand sanitizer containers or handling procedures should be prohibited to come in contact with any kind of reducing agents or oxidizing agents, like acetyl chloride.
Avoid Hot Vehicle & Direct Sunlight
Is it safe to keep a hand sanitizer bottle inside a hot car/vehicle? Hand sanitizers may not impulsively combust if left inside a vehicle with hot inner environment. But to avoid leakage and minimize the risk of explosion, it would be wise to keep the container in an upright position. And the bottle must be properly sealed.
Another thing to remember is that you must not leave the hand sanitizer bottle under direct sunlight, as the scorching heat of sun can create extremely high temperature leading to spillage or leakage from pressurization of the container.
If you want to store Alcohol-based hand sanitizer containers for home use, choose a secure place in your home where the temperature remains cool. To avoid fire danger, it is recommended not to store Alcohol-based hand sanitizer in a location, where the temperature is above 73 degrees Fahrenheit or 22 degrees Celsius.
Moreover, it would be sensible not to store hand sanitizer containers in large quantities. The warnings printed on Product label should be cautiously read and followed.
Location of Communal Dispensers
Beware of locating Hand sanitizer dispensers in corridors, or open spaces where the temperature is too high. While you are placing Hand rub dispensers in a common place, try not to place it close to any potential source of ignition, like candles, gas stove, light switches, electrical outlets, oxygen or other medical gas outlets, etc.
To avoid the risk of vapors igniting, Hand rub dispensers should not be placed in a fire exit corridor. What is more? Fire Safety Advisors must be consulted, before placing dispensers near medical ward or hospital beds where oxygen supply equipments may have been stored at nearby places.
Prohibition on Swallowing
The children, especially toddlers, tend to get attracted by bright color or the pleasant smell of sanitizer. If a child mistakenly drinks a small portion of hand sanitizer, it can cause alcohol poisoning. However, if the baby licks its dry hands after using hand sanitizer, then it may not harm.
To prevent accidental ingestion of alcohol based hand sanitizers, parents or adults should monitor young children while using hand sanitizer products. Furthermore, do not allow your pet to swallow the spills of hand sanitizer.
Disposal of Used Containers
The used containers, dispensers and bottles of hand sanitizers may contain flammable vapors or gel like residues. If those elements come in contact with any ignition source, the fire hazard can occur. Therefore, the best practice is rinsing out those used dispensers with enough amount of cold water. After washing properly, those containers can be safely disposed or recycled.