Fire department warns against leaving hand sanitizer in cars after dashboard fire

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (FOX 35) --  An Illinois fire department is warning drivers not to keep hand sanitizer in their parked cars amid the coronavirus. Authorities said a bottle with high alcohol content helped spark a fire.

“The fire appeared to be caused by the owner’s small bottle of hand sanitizer that was left on the dashboard," the Waukegan Fire Department wrote on Facebook.

Waukegan Fire Marshal Steven Lenzi told FOX 35 News that the driver’s bottle contained 80-percent alcohol sanitizer that was left in direct sunlight.

"Hand sanitizer is much more prevalent stored in many different places in cars right now. This one was sitting on top of the dashboard directly in the sun. The issue is not as much about the sanitizer as it is liquid in a bottle directly in the sun."

According to an April video from the National Fire Protection Association, while hand sanitizer is certainly flammable, it still requires an ignition source to catch fire. And the World Health Organization (WHO), citing a 2007 study that looked at decades of hand sanitizer use in hospitals, said that fire hazards were extremely rare: There were a total of seven "non-severe fire incidents."

“It appears sunlight shining through the windshield onto the sanitizer was enough to cause ignition,” the Waukegan Fire Department wrote in its Facebook post.

The department posted photos to Facebook showing the melted dashboard and black soot covering the windshield. As FOX News described, the plastic frame of the rear-view mirror looks like it liquefied and dripped toward the floor before hardening again.

A post from a Wisconsin fire department went viral last month after showing a photo that appeared to suggest that hand sanitizer left in a car had destroyed the interior.

The Western Lakes Fire District had posted an image of a burned driver-side door along with a warning against keeping hand sanitizer in cars, The Hill reported. But after the post went viral, authorities removed it and said the image of a burned car door was not taken in the district and was not necessarily caused by “an exploding container of hand sanitizer.”

In the most recent case, the Waukegan Fire Department confirmed to FOX 35 News that the photos of the damage were in fact taken by their deputy and that there are "no other potential causes'" of the fire except the hand sanitizer left in direct sunlight.

People have been increasingly using hand sanitizer when going out amid the coronavirus pandemic, in part due to state and federal health suggestions.

The CDC recommends using hand sanitizers that contain at least 60-percent alcohol.

FOX News contributed to this report.