October 29, 2020

It’s almost impossible for a disinfectant gel to burn from being in a car in the sun

It is practically impossible for a hydroalcoholic gel to burn due to overexposure to the sun in a car, as assured by a message circulating on WhatsApp accompanied by the photo of a vehicle with the inside of the burned driver’s door, an image that the hoax places in Malaga but not It has been taken in Spain.

Since the beginning of this May, this photo of a parked vehicle with the driver’s door open, showing a large burn on the inside, has been disseminated in Spain, both through WhatsApp and social networks Twitter and Facebook.

In the messages shared by WhatsApp in Spain, the image is explained as “the effect of alcohol gel in a car left in the sun” and it is assured that the photograph has been sent “by a mechanic friend from Malaga”, before adding: “For seen, it is not the only one, it explodes and can go out burning “.

The same image was also published a few days ago on Facebook, along with the following warning message, attributed to the National Police in Malaga: “Be careful not to leave hydro alcohol cans in the car. They explode in the heat.”

DATA: Neither the image has been taken in Spain nor a hydroalcoholic gel enters into combustion simply because it is overheated inside a car in the sun. What could happen, according to experts, is that part of the alcohol evaporates and, when the pressure inside the gel increases, it splashes when the container is opened.

At the outset, the photograph shows a wall in front of the car with a painted sign that begins with the words “Bem vindos” (“Welcome” in Portuguese). Therefore, the image has not been captured in Spain.

For their part, sources from the National Police in Malaga have denied having issued warnings such as the one published on Facebook and confirmed to EFE that in their province “no such event has been registered.” They also emphasize that the image does not correspond to Malaga and, in fact, “it has previously appeared in other countries”.

Although with reverse internet searches it has not been possible to find the specific origin of this photo, the image has been circulating for years in other countries and could have originated in a Portuguese-speaking nation such as Brazil, where the hoax has resurfaced as a result of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and has already been denied in late April.

Precisely a month ago, a Brazilian association, Reage Xerém (Xerém reacts), published a similar photo, with a burn inside a car next to an almost intact plastic bottle, accompanied by the warning “Do not leave hydroalcoholic gel inside from a car to the sun. ” The text stated that the owner of the vehicle found a fire inside the vehicle half an hour after leaving it parked.

Sources from this association in Xérem, a neighborhood in the municipality of Duque de Caxias, in the State of Rio de Janeiro, have explained to EFE that the photo was sent by the owner of the car. According to his version, “he discovered that the lid of the little bottle did not close completely; this generated a spill, which, exposed to high temperatures, caused a fire.”

However, images with burning effects inside a car very similar to these appear on the internet explained as the effect of a short circuit. This is the case if a search is made for the photo falsely attributed to Malaga in the Yandex search engine, where you can see a similar image from three years ago with damage caused by a failure in the vehicle’s electrical system.


In any case, chemistry experts consulted by EFE rule out that the destruction inside the door of a car that is seen in the image that circulates these days on WhatsApp and social networks corresponds to the alleged explosion or fire of a hydroalcoholic gel.

“A similar event is highly unlikely to occur”, emphasizes the dean of the Madrid College of Chemists, Ricardo Díaz, who explains that hydroalcoholic gels have glycerin, a component that “completely reduces the volatility of alcohol.”

After specifying that the influence of factors such as “the ratio between the amount of oxygen in the bottle and the amount of alcohol” must always be taken into account, Díaz rules out that the burn observed in the image may be due to the explosion of a hydroalcoholic gel.

On the other hand, there have been similar cases with aerosols, due to “an overpressure due to exposing that can to high temperatures, causing a mechanical failure,” said this expert.


Juan Antonio Gabaldón, secretary of the College of Chemists of the Valencian Community, has also explained to EFE why it is practically impossible for a gel of this type to come into combustion exclusively due to overheating inside a vehicle parked in the sun.

The self-ignition point of ethyl alcohol, that is, “the temperature at which it can burn without the need for heat input, is higher than 363 degrees Celsius”, emphasizes Gabaldón, and points out below: “What can happen is that “When it is hot, part of the alcohol evaporates and, therefore, the pressure inside the gel is greater than atmospheric and when it opens, it splashes.”

Faced with that point of autoignition of ethyl alcohol above 300 degrees, the maximum temperatures that can reach internal elements of a vehicle exposed to the sun such as the dashboard, seats, steering wheel or gear shift approach 80 degrees centigrade . Enough, yes, to cause burns to the skin.

This is indicated by a study on the “effect of solar radiation on the interior temperature of the vehicle” carried out by the Royal Automobile Club of Catalonia (RACC) and the Swiss Automobile Club (TCS).

According to the result of this work, the interior of a vehicle exposed to summer solar radiation without any type of sun visor can reach 55 degrees and, after 60 minutes, a temperature of 77 degrees.

For all these reasons, although hydroalcoholic gels are not going to explode, the chemist Ricardo Díaz recommends never leaving pressure-packed fuel products, such as aerosols and colognes, in the sun.


– Ricardo Díaz, dean of the Madrid College of Chemists.

– Juan Antonio Gabaldón, secretary of the College of Chemists of the Valencian Community.

– Sources of the National Police in Malaga.

– Sources of the Reage Xerém Association. Municipality of Duque de Caxias. State of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil).

– Study “Effect of solar radiation on the interior temperature of the vehicle”, carried out by the Royal Automobile Club of Catalonia (RACC) and the Automobile Clun Suizo (TCS). July 2015.


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