COVID-19: Interview with Pr. Frenette concerning hydroalcoholic gels

No, hydroalcoholic gel does not catch fire in a car exposed to heat

The current pandemic has brought its share of unsubstantiated warnings about risks that do not actually exist. To this list must now be added the warnings on the alleged dangers of fires associated with bottles of hydroalcoholic gel of the “Purell” type.

Asked about this, the chemist Mathieu Frenette is categorical:

“It’s absolutely impossible that a gel in a car catch fire by itself.”

Hydroalcoholic gels are generally produced from ethanol, a form of ethyl alcohol found in these solutions in a proportion of 60% to 90%, according to Mr. Frenette.

However, for this product to catch fire by simple exposure to heat in the interior of a car, the temperature inside the vehicle would have to reach an extreme level. “It would take temperatures of at least 360 degrees Celsius for this gel to catch fire by itself”, specifies Mathieu Frenette while emphasizing that with an outside temperature of 35 degrees, the heat in a car reaches its maximum about 60 degrees in less than an hour.

With this in mind, the only real possibility that your hydroalcoholic gel bottle will catch fire in your car would arise if you intentionally exposed the bottle to a direct source of heat. According to Mr. Frenette, “it would be possible with this gel to create fire with a source of ignition, but we should really try, it’s not something that will happen accidentally very very easily”, believes the chemist.

Concerning the risk of flammability if the bottle is left open, again, the risks are minimal due to the addition of water to minimize the effects of alcohol evaporation. “If you keep your bottle open, it may be that the ethanol evaporates and that it slightly decreases the effectiveness of your gel … but for the risk of fire, you must simply not expose it to sources of heat, fire and sparks”, recommends Mathieu Frenette.

Source: Radio Canada