Does Hand Sanitizer Stain Clothes?

  • By: Tiffany Peris
  • Time to read: 7 min.

For several reasons, hand sanitizer has become popular in recent years. This is because hand sanitizer; is an easy way to clean hands without water, it is effective at killing bacteria and viruses, it is convenient and portable, it is affordable, and it is available in various formulations, including gel, foam, and spray. But what happens once you spill or splatter hand sanitizer on clothes? Does it stain the clothes?

Both alcohol-based sanitizers and non-alcohol hand sanitizers stain clothes. When hand sanitizer comes into contact with your garments, the fabric might be bleached. This is because alcohol and benzalkonium chloride present in the hand sanitizer are bleaching agents.

But can hand sanitizer stain clothes? Can it bleach black clothes and can it be used to sanitize clothes and make them germs-free? Among others, this article discusses whether hand sanitizer can bleach clothes and how marks left when hand sanitizer spills or splatters onto clothes can be removed.

How Is Hand Sanitizer Made?

There are two types of hand sanitizers, and each is made differently. The first type of hand sanitizer is made with alcohol, and the second type is made without alcohol. However, both types of sanitizers are effective in killing germs and viruses.

The process of making alcohol-based hand sanitizer involves combining ethanol or isopropyl alcohol with a gel base. The gel base helps to thicken the mixture and provides a platform for the alcohol to evaporate more slowly. This slow evaporation process is important, as it allows the alcohol to remain on the hands long enough to kill bacteria and viruses.

Non-alcoholic hand sanitizer is made by combining benzalkonium chloride and water. The mixture is then heated to evaporate the water, leaving behind a thick, viscous solution. A small amount of the solution is applied to the hands and the hands are rubbed together until dry.

Whether you are using alcohol-based or non-alcohol hand sanitizer, it is important to take caution that the sanitizer does not come into contact with your clothing. When hand sanitizer comes into contact with clothing the alcohol and benzalkonium chloride in the sanitizer can break down the fibers in the fabric, causing it to weaken and fray. In addition, the chemicals in hand sanitizer can interact with dyes in clothing, causing them to remove the color.

Does Hand Sanitizer Stain Clothes?

Hand sanitizer does not stain clothes. However, when it comes into contact with the clothes, you will notice it might cause fading or discoloring on the specific spot that it spilled or splattered into.

The tiny spots on clothing caused by hand sanitizer are due to the evaporation of the chemicals in the sanitizer. As the alcohol evaporates and other chemicals in the sanitizer are deposited into the fabric, the fabric can be stained or discolored.

Even though hand sanitizer can have a bleaching effect on clothes, it should not be used as bleach. The chemicals in hand sanitizer are not meant to be used on fabric and can cause damage to the material. In addition, using hand sanitizer as bleach can also detrimentally affect the color of the clothing.

Does Hand Sanitizer Stain Black Clothes?

When a substance comes into contact with a fabric, it can cause a stain. Stains happen when the molecules in the substance attach to the fibers in the fabric. The type of fabric, the type of substance, and how long the two are in contact all affect how likely it is that a stain will occur. Some substances, like water, quickly evaporate and are less likely to cause stains.

When hand sanitizer comes into contact with a fabric, it breaks down the color molecules, causing bleaching. It is important to point out that hand sanitizer does not stain but instead bleaches. Indeed, bleaching is different from staining since, in staining, it is color molecules that adhere to the fabric while in the case of bleaching, the colors on the fabric are broken down.

When hand sanitizer comes into contact with black clothes, it causes a chemical reaction that results in the bleaching of the clothes. This is due to the fact that hand sanitizer contains alcohol or benzalkonium chloride, which are solvents that can break down dyes in fabric and cause bleaching.

To avoid your black clothes being bleached by hand sanitizer, one should take care and ensure that the clothes do not come into contact with hand sanitizer.

Does Hand Sanitizer Come Out Of Clothes?

The nature of the molecules staining clothes determines whether the stains will come out of clothes or not. Specifically, when the stains are further inside a fabric’s fiber and they happen to dry, it will be difficult to remove the stains. However, if the stains have not set in and have not dried up, they can be easily washed away with soap and water.

If your clothes have been splattered with hand sanitizer, it is important that the sanitizer is immediately washed or wiped with a wet cloth before it dries up. Once the sanitizer settles into the fabric’s fibers and dries up, removing it will be a challenge.

The active ingredient in hand sanitizer is typically ethyl alcohol, which can be difficult to remove from clothing. If the stain is fresh, you can try blotting it with a clean cloth or sponge. You can also try using a solution of water and dish soap. If the stain is old or persistent, you may need to use a stronger cleaning agent, such as rubbing alcohol or vinegar.

If the garment stained by the sanitizer is dark-colored, you should either add a sew-on or iron-on patch on the stained area or use a matching fabric pen marker to mark the spot and make it less visible. For leather or suede fabrics, you should enlist the services of a professional cleaner since trying to remove the stain could result in further damage to your garment.

How To Remove Hand Sanitizer Stains From Clothes

Once your clothes have been stained by hand sanitizer, removing the stains can be a challenge. Indeed, the fact that hand sanitizer bleaches instead of staining clothes means that the only ideal thing to do is to try to conceal the damage that the sanitizer has done to your clothes.

If possible, try to remove the sanitizer as soon as it comes into contact with your clothes since if it stays on the clothes for a long time, the damage might be irremovable.

For fresh hand sanitizer on clothes, you should a clean wet cloth to gently wipe off the sanitizer. Thereafter, wash the cloth in a normal wash cycle. You can also wash the freshly stained spot with warm water and dish soap.

However, take note that the success or failure in efforts to remove the hand sanitizer will be determined by the time that the sanitizer stays on clothes. Fresh stains will be easy to remove while dried-out stains that have already set in will be hard to remove.

Does Hand Sanitizer Bleach Clothes

We use bleach to remove stains, whiten, or brighten our clothes. The main reason why bleach works on clothes is that it discharges oxygen molecules in a process known as oxidation. Specifically, the oxygen molecules discharged by bleach breaks down the chemical bonds of chromophores resulting in the clothes being bleached.

Even if hand sanitizer has a bleaching effect on clothes, it cannot be used to bleach clothes. The reason why that is the case is that when used to bleach clothes, hand sanitizer would not be able to have a bleaching effect similar to the one that commercial bleaches have on clothes.

If you want to bleach clothes and you don’t have bleach, you should consider sun bleaching the clothes instead of attempting to use use a hand sanitizer as a bleach on your clothes.

Can Hand Sanitizer Remove Stains

The alcohol content in hand sanitizer is a known stain remover and is able to remove some common stains on clothes and other surfaces. However, since hand sanitizer is known to have a bleaching effect, it is not advisable to use it as a stain remover.

When you use hand sanitizer to remove stains on clothes and other surfaces, you might end up having more damage since even if the stains will be removed, the clothes or surfaces that had stains treated with a hand sanitizer will most likely be left with some spots from the bleaching effect of the sanitizer.

Does Hand Sanitizer Ruin Clothes? 

Hand sanitizer can ruin clothes. As you might already know, hand sanitizer can cause discoloration and deterioration of fabrics. Specifically, the active ingredient in hand sanitizer, ethyl alcohol, can break down the fibers in fabrics, causing them to weaken and break. This can lead to fading, staining, and eventually, holes in your clothes.

To avoid your clothes being ruined by hand sanitizer, ensure that you are always cautious with hand sanitizer coming into contact with your clothes. When your clothes have come into contact with hand sanitizer, it is important you do your best to remove the sanitizer as soon as possible.

When the sanitizer sets in the clothes, it will be hard for you to hand sanitizer out of clothes and the bleaching spots left by the hand sanitizer will be hard to conceal.


Even if hard sanitizer is good at keeping germs and viruses away, it should never be used as a stain remover on clothes. The chemicals in sanitizer can break down the fabric of your clothing and make the stain permanent. If you need to remove a stain, use a mild detergent or spot cleaner instead. When clothes are stained with a hand sanitizer, the best way to get hand sanitizer out is to lightly wipe the fresh stains with a wet cloth before washing the garment.