Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2007]
What happened: An employee of a company used an Instant Hand Sanitizer available in the bathroom. He immediately went outside for a cigarette break. It was windy so he held his hand up to block the wind as he was lighting the cigarette and his hand burst into flames as he had not fully rubbed in the sanitizer.
The Cause: Purell® Instant Hand Sanitizer
Product Description: Kills 99.99% of common germs that may cause illness in as little as
Warnings: For external use only. Flammable, keep away from fire or flame.
Recommendation: Advise employees to make sure they rub in the hand sanitizer thoroughly and wash hands before lighting a cigarette or putting their hand near any flame.
[Click here for PDF version of warning.]
Origins: This warning, which pictures and describes an
The consumer relations group at
Hand sanitizers are widely available to Chevron employees at many of our office locations and we encourage use of such products to prevent the spread of germs that can lead to illness.
Hand sanitizers are typically alcohol-based gels containing isopropanol and/or ethyl alcohol, both of which are flammable. The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer includes that the product contains both those compounds (primarily the latter), but how likely such a gel might be to catch fire and burn depends upon a number of factors, including the concentration of water, moisturizing agents, and other elements present in the product.
We conducted a few simple experiments and found that even a small amount of Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer spread on a (non-organic) surface could easily be ignited by the briefest touch of an open flame, although the resulting fire burned relatively cool and was easily extinguished:
A 1998 Federal Aviation Administration fire-testing study of an ethanol-based gel hand cleaner found that the product was "often difficult to ignite and can be extinguished relatively easily," although none of its trials involved igniting gel while it was in contact with skin.
Last updated: 25 January 2007