False claim: If you touch your pet after using hand sanitizer, its highly toxic ingredients can kill it

Posts on social media claim pet owners should not touch their pets after using hand sanitizer, warning that ingesting it can be deadly for them. Different iterations of the claim have around 530,000 shares on Facebook as of April 29, 2020 ( here , here , here ).

One post reads: “Please do not pet your dog or any pet after using hand sanitizer. It contains ethanol glycol that’s also found in anti-freeze that’s toxic to them! They might lick the area you’ve touched them. Please share to make others aware.” Another reads: “Pet owners please be aware that hand sanitizer has the same ingredients as antifreeze. Don’t let animals lick it off your hands it can kill.”

The claim is circulating amidst the coronavirus outbreak and the increased demand for hand sanitizer, as governments and health authorities advise people to keep their hands clean ( here ).

The information in these posts is misleading. Reuters found no evidence that hand sanitizers contain ethylene glycol, which is commonly used in anti-freeze and is indeed highly poisonous for pets ( here ) and humans ( here ).

Propylene glycol (PG), a substitute for ethylene glycol in anti-freeze (, is sometimes used in hand-sanitizers (here). The Pet Poison Helpline says poisoning can occur if dogs or cats ingest “large amounts” of propylene glycol but says PG is one of the least toxic glycols and has a “wider margin of safety” as compared to ethylene glycol” ( here ). While propylene glycol is listed in Cornell’s Small Animal Toxins list ( here ) , Dr Karyn Bischoff of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine told Reuters that it is “not nearly as dangerous as ethylene glycol”.

Most hand sanitizers contain alcohol (ethanol or ethyl alcohol). Alcohol usually does not entice pets (as ethylene glycol does) but can be toxic if ingested in large amounts ( here , here ).

For these reasons, the Pet Poison Helpline says a “large ingestion” of hand sanitizer would be dangerous for a pet. ( here ).However, Dr Bischoff told Reuters via email that hand sanitizer is not a hazard for pets if owners use it properly in normal amounts.

“If an animal licks the skin of someone who used hand sanitizer properly (in a reasonable amount), I would not consider it a veterinary emergency,” she said.

She said hand sanitizer might cause other types of discomfort for pets with its “pungent odor and fumes”. This could provoke irritation of the nose or eyes and anxiety “particularly if used around cats who tend to be sensitive to such things.”


False. While ingesting a large amount of hand sanitizer could hurt a pet, animals are not in danger from being touched by a person who has cleaned their hands with it, or from licking their hand.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts  here .