- Thousands of gallons of pandemic-era hand sanitizers are likely expired by now
- Expired hand sanitizer is less effective at combating Covid, colds, and the flu
- READ MORE: I’m an ex-FDA food safety expert. This is what I NEVER do at home
Hand sanitizers became synonymous with the Covid pandemic, with millions of bottles being produced to supply demand, and help stop the virus from spreading.
Sales skyrocketed by 600 percent in 2020 with sales already three times higher than the previous year by February.
Now, Covid cases are at historic lows – but local surges mean many are still worried about getting sick.
And millions no doubt will be reaching for those bottles of hand sanitizer that they bought more than three years a go.
But experts have warned that many who believe the tube in the bottom of their bag is fully protecting them are mistaken.
Millions of bottles of hand sanitizers could be expired following a pandemic-era surge in production. These products are far less effective at killing germs
Speaking to DailyMail.com, a doctor specialising in protecting cancer patients from viruses, says millions of bottles are past their expiration dates, making them less effective against all infections – including covid.
Hand sanitizers are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means they’re required to have an expiration date.
According to the Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory, this is when it’s expected to kill less than 90 per cent of bacteria and viruses on a person’s hand.
The expiration date represents how long the active ingredients are stable and effective based on product testing.
Hand sanitizer is made from alcohol and hydrogen peroxide. The only forms of alcohol allowed in hand sanitizer are ethanol (ethyl alcohol) and isopropyl alcohol (2-propanol).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend sanitizers contain at least 60 percent alcohol by volume. Most are at least 70 percent alcohol.
Generally, hand sanitizer lasts for two to three years. While expired sanitizer can still kill germs, it becomes less effective over time if it has been opened.
This is because alcohol is a volatile liquid that evaporates when exposed to air.
Over time, the hydrogen peroxide disintegrates into hydrogen and water.
Dr Nathan Goodyear, medical director of Brio Medical in Arizona, told DailyMail.com: ‘The evaporation of the alcohol and disintegration of hydrogen peroxide will render the hand sanitizer less effective in preventing infections.’
‘Since the purpose of hand sanitizer is to prevent infection, that would reduce infection prevention and increase the risk, or danger, to the individual.’
Other than checking the date, checking how it smells can show if it’s time to replace the bottle.
Hand sanitizer goes through denaturation, which makes it taste and smell bad to deter people from ingesting it. If you don’t notice an unpleasant smell, the alcohol could have diminished.
It’s not dangerous to use expired hand sanitizer, but avoid tossing it in the garbage when you’re done with it due to flammable ingredients
Also, if it seems thicker and takes longer to dry when you put it on, it’s probably time to replace it.
However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns against tossing it in the trash because the alcohol makes the sanitizer flammable.
The EPA recommends bringing expired hand sanitizer to a household hazardous waste drop-off location.