Have you noticed an expiration date on containers of hand sanitizer in your work area? If the expiration date has passed, not to worry. It is safe to use hand sanitizer beyond the expiration date, especially if it has never been opened. If your container of hand sanitizer still has a strong alcohol odor and if it quickly evaporates when you apply it, then it is still effective at doing the job.
The expiration date is placed on containers by the manufacturer to indicate when a product has reached 90% of its original effectiveness. Hand sanitizers purchased by the Lab typically have 70% or more ethanol or isopropyl alcohol. To be effective, they must have a minimum of 60% ethanol or isopropyl alcohol.
Keep in mind that the high alcohol content of hand sanitizer makes it a regulated hazardous material. Do not pour ineffective hand sanitizer down the drain or put it into the garbage. If you find containers of hand sanitizer that you think are no longer effective, please contact your Division Safety Coordinator or Building Manager, who will coordinate proper disposal with Waste Management.
Remember that washing hands with soap and water – and using hand sanitizer when handwashing facilities are not available – continues to be an important public health measure for staying healthy and preventing the spread of infections all the time, not just during the COVID-19 pandemic. Be sure to apply the hand sanitizer per the manufacturer’s instructions.
During the pandemic, the Lab purchased large quantities of hand sanitizer as part of our COVID-19 control measures. These containers have been distributed throughout the Lab’s buildings to ensure easy access for everyone. Per DOE, the Lab is still required to make hand sanitizer available to onsite staff. When the Lab no longer needs to keep its collective supplies of hand sanitizer, then additional guidance on what to do with unnecessary containers will be provided.
Summary of Key Points
- It’s OK to keep using expired hand sanitizer, as long as it still evaporates quickly and smells strongly of alcohol. It is still effective.
- If hand sanitizer is NOT effective anymore, contact your Building Manager or Division Safety Coordinator.
- Keep hand sanitizer out of the trash and do not pour it down the drain.
If you have any questions or concerns, contact your Building Manager, Division Safety Coordinator, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Does Hand Sanitizer Expire?”, Health.com article accessed on 5/16/23 (last updated 3/5/23).