Reminder: It is *not* a good idea to drink or wash your food with hand sanitizer.

Karla Walsh
August 06, 2020
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Credit: Getty / Taechit Taechamanodom

Back in June, we warned against washing your food (or yourself) with bleach. That was because a CDC survey discovered that 39% of Americans they polled admitted to turning to high-risk practices like washing foods like fruits and veggies with bleach and intentionally ingesting cleaning products to try to reduce their risk of acquiring COVID-19.

The best guess is that this was spurred by a comment by President Trump at an April press conference, where he suggested that injecting disinfectants may be a potential coronavirus treatment. In response, the CDC clarified on Twitter that, "Household cleaners and disinfectants can cause health problems when not used properly. Follow the instructions on the product label to ensure safe and effective use."

This week, the CDC is back with some disturbing news about what we're doing wrong regarding hand sanitizer. "Alcohol-based hand sanitizer products should never be ingested," the CDC warns in a new report related to "adverse health events" in Arizona and New Mexico this May and June. During that timespan, 15 adults in Arizona and New Mexico were hospitalized for methanol poisoning after consuming alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Four of those people died, six had seizures while receiving treatment in the hospital and three experienced visual impairment, according to CDC researchers.

While you shouldn't drink any hand sanitizers (or disinfecting products of any kind, for that matter), methanol-based ones were the particular focus on this study because methanol is toxic and can poison people through their skin—unlike safer ethanol-based sanitizers. For that reason, the FDA has been on a mission to alert the public to avoid these dangerous hand sanitizers, although concerns are now arising that more ethanol-based hand sanitizers are contaminated with methanol than we previously thought. (Check out the complete list of ineffective and unsafe hand sanitizers the FDA currently knows about here.)

A 44-year-old man described in the CDC's report drank hand sanitizer a few days before eventually being hospitalized for six days for acute methanol poisoning. As he was discharged, he had complete vision loss.

While proper hand hygiene is vital to stay healthy and prevent the spread of many diseases, it's even more important to use products that are safe for the skin—and to use them only externally. Stick with good old soap and water, if available, or an ethanol-based, CDC-approved hand sanitizer. And never, ever consume, inject or inhale it.