Why millions of bottles of hand sanitizer could be USELESS

  • Thousands of gallons of pandemic-era hand sanitizer have likely expired by now
  • Expired hand sanitizer is less effective in fighting Covid, colds and flu
  • READ MORE: I’m a former FDA food safety expert. This is what I NEVER do at home

Hand sanitisers became synonymous with the Covid pandemic, with millions of bottles produced to meet demand and help stop the spread of the virus.

Sales skyrocketed by 600 percent in 2020, with sales in February already three times higher than the year before.

Now Covid cases are at an all-time low, but local spikes still leave many afraid of getting sick.

And millions will undoubtedly reach for those bottles of hand sanitizer they bought more than three years ago.

But experts have warned that many who think the tube in the bottom of their bag fully protects them are mistaken.

Millions of bottles of hand sanitizer could expire due to a pandemic-era production surge. These products are much less effective at killing germs

Speaking to DailyMail.com, a doctor who specializes in protecting cancer patients from viruses says millions of bottles have passed their expiry date, making them less effective against all infections – including Covid.

Hand sanitizers are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means they must have an expiration date.

According to the Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory, this is expected to happen when less than 90 percent of the bacteria and viruses on a person’s hand are killed.

The expiration date indicates how long the active ingredients are stable and effective, based on product testing.

Hand sanitizer is made of 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) recommends that sanitizers contain at least 60 percent alcohol. Most contain at least 70 percent alcohol.

In general, hand sanitizer lasts two to three years. While expired disinfectant can still kill germs, it becomes less effective over time once it has been opened.

This is because alcohol is a volatile liquid that evaporates when exposed to air.

Over time, the hydrogen peroxide breaks down into hydrogen and water.

Dr. Nathan Goodyear, medical director of Brio Medical in Arizona, told DailyMail.com, “The evaporation of the alcohol and the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide will make the hand sanitizer less effective at preventing infections.”

“Since the purpose of hand sanitizer is to prevent infection, that would decrease infection prevention and increase the risk or danger to the individual.”

In addition to checking the date, checking the smell can also indicate whether it is time to replace the bottle.

Hand sanitizer undergoes denaturation, which makes it taste and smell bad, to deter people from ingesting it. If you do not notice an unpleasant odor, the alcohol may have reduced.

It's not dangerous to use expired hand sanitizer, but don't throw it in the trash when you're done with it due to flammable ingredients

It’s not dangerous to use expired hand sanitizer, but don’t throw it in the trash when you’re done with it due to flammable ingredients

And if it seems thicker and takes longer to dry when you apply it, it’s probably time to replace it.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns against throwing it in the trash because the alcohol makes the sanitizer flammable.

The EPA recommends taking expired hand sanitizer to a household hazardous waste drop-off location.