Can Hand Sanitizer Stain Clothes? How to Avoid It?

Can Hand Sanitizer Stain Clothes? How to Avoid It?

Hand sanitizers DO NOT “stain” clothes. However, their ingredients can cause damage to certain fabrics. 

When hand sanitizers come into contact with certain fabrics, they cause bleaching spots, removing their color. Often, these bleaching spots are incorrectly labeled as stains.

The type of hand sanitizer you use plays a crucial role in whether you stain your clothes.

Your clothes get “stained” by the ingredients in your hand sanitizer. By knowing its composition, you will be able to choose a product that will not stain your clothes.

For your understanding, here are the two types of sanitizers available along with their composition. 

  1. Alcohol-based sanitizer
  2. Alcohol-free sanitizer

Irrespective of whether you are using an alcohol-based or alcohol-free sanitizer, they can cause some damage to the clothes. The different elements present in the composition have a bleaching effect on the fabric.

The elements are either alcohol or a bleaching agent called benzalkonium chloride.

These elements cause the color of the fabric to fade in whichever portion, small or large, the sanitizer has come in contact with.

The discoloration of the fabric creates visible marks on the fabric which are known as bleaching spots.

You now know what these products are, but now let’s see how they stain/damage your clothes.

Does hand sanitizer stain? How?

Technically, hand sanitizers do not stain clothes. Although they leave marks on the clothes, these marks are not necessarily stains. They are the spots that are seen after the fabric’s colors get faded or removed completely.

The fading of the color is the actual thing that happens. The so-called “stains” are just a misconception or a misterm for color fading due to bleaching.

The alcohol present in alcohol-based sanitizers is a natural stain remover that discolors the area of the garment that it comes in contact with.

Even the alcohol-free hand sanitizers do not relieve you from getting faded blemishes on the dress if you are not that cautious with your hand movements. The benzalkonium chloride present in the solution has a bleaching property that discolors the clothes.

Can hand sanitizer stain all clothes?

Hand sanitizers can create stains on different varieties of clothes. But it has a greater impact on some and mild to nil on others.

They are particularly damaging to fabrics dyed with natural dyes such as cotton, silk, linen, and leather.

Here are some of the clothes that are particularly affected by hand sanitizer:

Dark-colored clothes

Dark-colored clothes are more susceptible to getting stains from sanitizers. The bleached spots on darker clothes are more noticeable.

Leather garments

Leather garments are dyed to give them color. When they come in contact with hand sanitizers, the bleaching agent present in the solution causes a chemical reaction on the fabric. The dye gets removed from the area of contact.

There are products that can remove stains from leather clothes. Here is a video that explains the process.



Suede is another cloth that is prone to sanitizer bleaching damage. The material is porous and tends to absorb liquid faster than other materials. This makes it easier for the bleaching agent to cause damage to the fabric.

Silk and chiffons

Just like hard clothing materials, soft and delicate fabrics like silk and chiffon are prone to hand sanitizer stains. The bleaching properties can wipe out the color from these fragile pieces of clothing in a matter of seconds.

Now that we know the concerns related to hand sanitizer staining clothes, let us take a look at how you can remove the sanitizer from your clothes.

How do you remove hand sanitizer from clothes?

Getting hand sanitizer removed from clothes is not that easy. In fact, once the fabric comes into contact with the solution, you can only think about damage control.

Keep in mind that the longer the sanitizer stays on the clothing, the more damage it is going to do.

To remove the sanitizer from your cloth, scrape it off gently. Do not rub too forcefully as it might damage the garment further. Wash it immediately.

This is not a fool-proof method, but it is worth a try.

Another way to control the damage is to hide the bleached spots with clothing accessories.

How to avoid staining clothes while using a hand sanitizer?

The best approach to avoid getting your clothes stained is to be cautious with your hand movements.

Ensure that you use the hand sanitizer only on your hands, keeping it away from your body and clothes. Keep your hands away from your clothes until the sanitizer is completely dry.

As long as you take precautions, you will never get stains on your clothes when you use hand sanitizer.

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