Hand Sanitizer on Car Paint

Image Credit: Vladdeep via Envato Elements

Image Credit: Vladdeep via Envato Elements

Hand Sanitizer on Car Paint


Hand sanitizer works so well to clean your hands, but does it work on your car’s paint? You might have a small bottle in your car, and you want to quickly clean a small section of your car. Is it safe, and does it actually work? We’ll answer all your questions and more in the following sections.

Hand Sanitizer On Car Paint

it’s safe to use hand sanitizer on your car’s paint as long as you minimize the exposure and stick to low concentration alcohols. Make sure you avoid getting the alcohol on any plastics or leathers in and around your car.

Why Use Hand Sanitizer?

Hand sanitizer can be viewed as a quick way to clean parts of your car’s paint. The general public already understands that hand sanitizer is a disinfectant used to clean hands. That might make people wonder if they can use it on their car safely to clean it.

Your Topcoat is Delicate and Sensitive

Whenever you apply a product to your car’s paint, you need to think about your topcoat. The topcoat is thin, delicate, and very sensitive. If you’ve ever accidentally rubbed a hard material against your key and noticed a scratch, this is your proof.

It’s also sensitive to different chemicals. After all, your topcoat is just a clear layer of lacquer. Its sole purpose is to stop your paint and car’s body from oxidizing. It’s not there to prevent deep scratches or body damage.

When it comes to using hand sanitizer on your car paint, the big question is how it reacts with your topcoat. The good news is that a low concentration of alcohol can be applied to a topcoat briefly without any damage being done.


Is Hand Sanitizer Safe to Use on Car Paint?

You might be surprised to learn this, but hand sanitizer is actually safe to use on your car — as long as you use it under the correct circumstances and follow the right process.

If you pour a glob of hand sanitizer on your car and leave it there for hours, then your topcoat will melt away. However, if you apply it gently, wipe it away, then wash your car afterwards, then there’s nothing stopping you from using hand sanitizer.

Some people will use a dab of hand sanitizer to clean grime off their car on the go as a quick solution. It’s definitely not the preferred method, but it can help in a pinch.

Highly concentrated alcohol is never safe to use on your car. After all, paint remover uses these types of alcohols to completely remove paint and melt away topcoats. Stick to low-concentration options otherwise it won’t be safe to use.

Does Hand Sanitizer Actually Work on Car Paint?

Hand sanitizer works well to clean small sections of your car’s paint. A common example of this is using hand sanitizer to remove bird droppings on your car. Since the area is small and it takes very little effort to remove it, then hand sanitizer is a great option.

When it comes to cleaning larger areas of your car, then you shouldn’t use hand sanitizer. It has too much risk associated with it when using it on large surfaces.

The Correct Way to Use Hand Sanitizer on Car Paint

If you want to use hand sanitizer on your car, there are a few things to keep in mind. This quick list will help you get the best results and avoid doing damage to your car.

Use a Low Concentration

The best option is to pick a hand sanitizer that has a low concentration of alcohol. The less alcohol there is, the lower the chance of permanently damaging your topcoat.

If you only have high-concentration hand sanitizer, you can probably use it but you’ll need to be more careful.

Consider Other Alcohol-Based Products in Your Home

You can also use products like rubbing alcohol or isopropyl wipes (like ones used to clean eyeglasses and computer monitors). For these other options, you’ll still want to go for low-concentration options just to minimize the damage that the alcohol can do.

The type of alcohol used in hand sanitizer is a little more aggressive and a lot more concentrated than rubbing alcohol, for example.

Since you’re looking for household items to use to clean your car, it’s good to do a little more searching before settling with hand sanitizer.

Rub it in Slowly

If you get too aggressive with the hand sanitizer, you can rub away your topcoat. Friction will speed up the chemical reaction and might do damage to your car.

Instead, take your time and rub in the alcohol slowly. We suggest going in back-and-forth motions rather than going in circles. Again, this is just another way to minimize the friction applied.

Wipe it Off Quickly

After applying the hand sanitizer, you’ll want to wipe it away as quickly as possible. If you just let it sit there to air dry, it will eat away at your topcoat even more.

Isopropyl alcohol and rubbing alcohol tend to airdry and dissipate really quickly. It’s still a good idea to wipe down the area after you apply these alcohols as well.

Wash with Soap and Water After

After slowly rubbing and wiping off the area, you’ll want to wash your car. Using soap and water will ensure all the alcohol is gone before you park your car overnight.

If you leave a lot of hand sanitizer on your car overnight, there’s a really good chance that it will eat away at your topcoat and leave your car susceptible to corrosion. Simply wiping down the area doesn’t guarantee that all the alcohol will be removed.

Avoid Leather and Plastic

Your car’s topcoat is resilient enough to deal with hand sanitizer, but plastics and leathers are not. Even a little bit of exposure to hand sanitizer can permanently fade and stain plastics and leathers. Be sure to avoid use around these materials, and immediately clean them if you accidentally drop some hand sanitizer on them.

Automotive-Grade Alternatives to Hand Sanitizer

The best option is to not use hand sanitizer and to use an automotive-grade alternative. Something like a highly diluted all-purpose cleaner, sap remover, car soap, or polish will give you better results. This is especially true if you want to work on a large section of your car (or all of your car).


There you have it — it’s safe to use hand sanitizer on your car’s paint as long as you minimize the exposure and stick to low concentration alcohols. Make sure you avoid getting the alcohol on any plastics or leathers in and around your car.

For more of your DIY detailing questions answered, check out our blog. We have plenty of tips and tricks to help you keep your car sparkly and clean.

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