The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers and health care providers about hand sanitizers containing methanol. Methanol is a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested, and can be life-threatening when ingested.

The FDA has seen a sharp increase in hand sanitizer products that are labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) but that have tested positive for methanol contamination. The FDA maintains an up-to-date list of these products. Methanol is not an acceptable active ingredient for hand sanitizers and must not be used due to its toxic effects. Substantial methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system, or death. Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol and are experiencing symptoms should seek immediate treatment for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning.

The FDA is especially concerned with warning consumers about:

  • The dangers of drinking any hand sanitizer under any conditions. The FDA urges consumers not to drink any of these products.

  • Certain hand sanitizers that may not contain a sufficient amount of ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend consumers use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent ethyl alcohol when soap and water are not readily available.

  • Hand sanitizers that are sold or offered for sale with false and misleading, unproven claims that they can prevent the spread of viruses such as COVID-19, including claims that they can provide prolonged protection (e.g., for up to 24-hours).

  • Products that are fraudulently marketed as “FDA-approved” since there are no hand sanitizers approved by FDA.

  • Products packaged to appear as drinks, candy or liquor bottles, as well as products marketed as drinks or cocktails because their appearance could result in accidental ingestion or encourage ingestion. Children are particularly at risk with these products since ingesting only a small amount of hand sanitizer may be lethal in a young child.

The FDA’s investigation of methanol in certain hand sanitizers is ongoing. The agency will provide additional information as it becomes available.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA Updates on Hand Sanitizers with Methanol. Updated July 17, 2020. Available at: click here. Accessed July 20, 2020.