Does Hand Sanitizer Stain Clothes?

It’s fair to say that hand sanitizer has become a big part of our daily routine. Many of us now use sanitizer every time we go out or arrive home to stay more hygienic and clean. However, is it just us or have you started to notice a rise in strange stains on your clothes too?

Finding small little stains on our clothes also seems to be more common making many of us wonder if the two are somehow linked. Is hand sanitizer staining our clothes?

If you want to know the answer to this question, you’ve come to the right place. We have asked “does hand sanitizer stain clothes?” for too long.

Does Hand Sanitizer Stain Clothes

That is why we decided to do the research and find the answer. In this article, we will give you the answer as well as how you can solve the problem and a list of other substances that can stain clothes. 

If this sounds like something you’re dying to learn more about too, be sure to stick around.

Let’s get to it!

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In A Hurry? Here’s What You Came Here For!

If you don’t have time to read the whole article, don’t worry we’ve put the answer you came here looking for right here for you.

Most brands of hand sanitizer can leave stain-like marks on clothes. Interestingly enough, the ingredients found within the type of hand sanitizer can play a big part in how much it can mark clothes and how big the stain-like mark can be.

While stain marks are generally pretty small, hand sanitizers containing benzalkonium chloride can leave nasty stain-like marks on your clothes. Benzalkonium chloride is actually a type of bleaching agent.

When the sanitizer containing this bleaching agent touches the surface of your clothes it will start to remove some of the fabric’s color. These marks are usually referred to as bleaching spots.

If your hand sanitizer contains alcohol, your clothes can still appear stained. Alcohol is known to be a stain remover, and it doesn’t distinguish between stains and color. Therefore, your clothes will also look discolored from an alcohol sanitizer landing on them.

What Ingredients Are Found Within Hand Sanitizer?

To make perfect sense as to why sanitizer may or may not leave stains on our clothes, it is a good idea to take a closer look at what ingredients they are typically made of. 

Generally, there are two different types of sanitizer on the market. The most popular of these hand sanitizers has an alcohol base. Also, the easiest to use, alcohol-based hand sanitizer effectively fights germs. To be considered alcohol based, it must have an alcohol content of at least 60%.

This alcohol definitely isn’t the type you drink. It is normally rubbing alcohol, known by the name Isopropyl alcohol or ethanol.

The second type of hand sanitizer is non-alcohol. As the name would suggest, this type of sanitizer contains no alcohol. Instead, this sanitizer usually contains an ingredient called benzalkonium chloride, a type of bleaching agent and germ killer.

Alcohol hand sanitizers are runny, dry, and smooth on your hands, whilst non-alcohol sanitizers are foamier like soap. They tend to be less gel-like and more liquidy, making them a lot less convenient to use and not as popular.

Do Hand Sanitizers Stain Clothes?

Though both hand sanitizers contain slightly different ingredients, they can cause stain-like bleaching marks on clothes. Although they don’t actually ‘stain’ clothes, there is a wider range of fabrics that can be damaged as a result of being exposed to both types of hand sanitizer.

When we apply sanitizer to our hands, it can quite easily spill or splash onto our clothing and other surfaces. When the sanitizer lands on our fabric, it starts to form small discolored spots that normally look just like stains. However, the marks are in fact where our fabrics have been bleached. 

Alcohol is a key ingredient in sanitizers as a result of its antibacterial properties. As we mentioned above, it is also a stain remover. This can cause big problems when it hits our clothes.

The alcohol doesn’t know the difference between colors and stains. The stain removing abilities of the alcohol, like the benzalkonium act as a bleaching agent

Unfortunately, as the sanitizer is only normally dropped in small drops and in tiny amounts, fabrics are only bleached in the affected area. This removes color and leaves a spotted effect across the fabric. 

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Which Fabrics Are Damaged By Hand Sanitizer?

Sadly, most fabrics will be affected as a result of the bleaching properties hand sanitizers have. The damage from the hand sanitizer can be harder or easier to hide depending on the type of fabric and its color.

For example, lightly colored materials better conceal the paleness of the spots the bleaching has created. 

Clothes that are dark in color or have special finishes are a completely different story. No matter what sort of staining it is, it will be easily noticed. As bleaching damage makes colors lighter, bleached spots will stick out like a sore thumb on dark clothes. 

It isn’t just dark clothes that sanitizer damage can be seen easily. Unfortunately for us, materials like suede and leather can also be pretty susceptible to hand sanitizer bleaching.

As we all know, leather is available in many colors thanks to its ability to be dyed. When the sanitizer’s bleaching agent comes into contact with the leather’s dye, it’s quickly removed. This takes the leather back all the way to its original color. Shoes, upholstery, and purses are also susceptible to this bleaching.

Most types of suede are susceptible to any kind of liquid damage, so hand sanitizer is no different. As it is not waterproof, getting suede wet is an absolute disaster, so you imagine the problems we face when suede meets a liquid with bleaching properties. 

Even luxurious fabrics are vulnerable to hand sanitizer. Chiffons and silks are only delicate , so the alcohol in hand sanitizer easily strips the fragile materials of their color.

How To Remove Hand Sanitizer From Your Clothes

We don’t want to come across as negative, but to put it simply and honestly, there is no easy way to remove hand sanitizer from your clothes. On top of this, the longer it’s on your clothes, the more damage it can do. 

One good thing to do is to first try removing the sanitizer by scraping it off without rubbing it. Rubbing the sanitizer is one of the worst things you can do so avoid that.

Once you’ve scraped as much sanitizer as possible off your clothes but them straight into the wash. We can’t guarantee this will work, but if you don’t try, you definitely won’t succeed.

Seeing as though sanitizer bleaches fabric, fixing your clothes can be very tricky. If you get sanitizer on a dark garment, one of the few solutions is to try and find a fabric pen that closely matches the color of the fabric. The pen will help camouflage the damaged area. 

The only other solution would be to cover the damaged area with a patch or button or take the clothing to a professional dry cleaner to see what they can do.

Are There Other Liquids That Stain Clothes?

If you have a stain on your clothing, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was caused by your hand sanitizer. There is actually a wide range of other liquids that can stain clothes.  Below you will find some of those liquids.


Liquor is a type of alcoholic beverage made from grains. Types of liquors include whiskey, tequila, gin, and vodka. Also known as spirits, these drinks have the same impact on your clothing as the alcohol found in hand sanitizer.


Believe it or not, water can have a massive impact on your clothes. Whether it be rainwater or splashes from your drink, materials like suede can be ruined by even the smallest amount of rain because they aren’t waterproof.


Coffee stains can look pretty awful, but luckily they can be removed. To remove coffee stains use a mixture of baking soda and water before giving your clothes a good wash in the washing machine.

Red Wine

We all know how bad red wine stains can be. In fact, is there anything worse than those horrific red blotches that are left all over our clothes? Despite common beliefs, red wine stains can also be removed. 

You can use vinegar to first soak the stain. You should then rinse the item of clothing and let it dry. Alternatively, you could cover the affected area with salt and pour boiling water over it. Again put it in the washing machine after this step.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Should I Use Hand Sanitizer?

Most individuals like to use hand sanitizer throughout the day depending on what they are doing. For example, some people like to use it every time they leave a public toilet.

Others prefer to use it when they enter and leave a shop. In terms of how much you should use, there isn’t a defined number of times. Having said that, it is a good idea to try and limit your usage to once every four hours.

How Do You Use Hand Sanitizer Correctly?

Using hand sanitizer correctly is easily done. For starters, only use it on your hands as hand sanitizer shouldn’t be used anywhere else.

Simply apply a small amount of sanitizer into the palm of your hands before rubbing your hands together thoroughly until dry. No water or rinsing is required.

Does Hand Sanitizer Stain Gray Clothes?

Just like with other colors of fabric, hand sanitizer will leave them with stain-like marks that are hard to remove. However, they may not be as noticeable as the marks left on darker-colored materials.

As hand sanitizer makes clothes lighter, stains will be harder to notice on light gray clothes than those on dark black pieces of clothing.

Final Thoughts 

Hand sanitizers are capable of causing marks that look just like stains. These are especially noticeable on darker pieces of clothing. While sanitizer damage affects most fabrics, the severity of said damage can depend on the type of clothing involved.

Trying to remove hand sanitizer or repairing already damaged clothes can be difficult, but hopefully, now you’ve read this article you have a better idea of what you can try to solve the problem. 

Though we have shown you the solutions and given you the answers, ultimately, the best way to avoid stain-like marks from hand sanitizer is to simply try your best to keep it off your clothes in the first place.

Amanda Brown
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