Hand Sanitizer Fire Project

Easy Fire Project with Flames You Can Hold

Flame temperature and color depends on the fuel that is being burned. This ethanol and water mixture produces a flame that is cool enough to hold.
Flame temperature and color depends on the fuel that is being burned. This ethanol and water mixture produces a flame that is cool enough to hold. Anne Helmenstine

Here is an easy fire project that produces flames cool enough for you to hold. The secret ingredient? Hand sanitizer!

Hand Sanitizer Fire Materials

Be sure your hand sanitizer lists ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol as the active ingredient. Other chemicals may not work or they may burn too hot.

  • hand sanitizer gel
  • lighter or match

Instructions

  1. On a fire-proof surface, make a pattern using the gel.
  2. Ignite the edge of the gel. The flame will spread.
  1. If you like, you can touch the flame. Be careful! Although the hand sanitizer flame is relatively cool, it is still fire and it can burn you.

Colored Fire

You can mix colorants into the hand sanitizer gel to produce a colored flame. Boric acid or borax (found in cleaners and pest control products) will produce a green flame. Potassium chloride (lite salt) will give you a purple flame.

You can create cool special effects by applying the burning gel to other surfaces. For example, coating a metal object will form a halo of flame around it, which makes a great effect for photos. If you choose to coat a flammable object (e.g. a stuffed animal or a cardboard shape), first soak it in water. While this won't completely protect flammable matter from damage, it will keep it from busting into flame.

Watch the video of this project.

How to Put Out the Fire

Because hand sanitizer is a mixture of water and alcohol, once some of the alcohol burns, the water puts the fire out on its own.

How quickly this happens depends on the specific product you're using, but it's usually around 10 seconds. If you want to put out the flames before that, you can simply blow them out, like a candle. It's also safe to douse the flame with water or suffocate it by covering with the lid of a pot.

About Hand Sanitizer Fire

Hand sanitizer has applications beyond killing germs.

Gels that contain ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol produce a relatively cool flame that is made more manageable by the high percentage of water in the product. You use the gel to draw with fire or for projects in which you need to hold fire. Keep in mind, the flame is still hot enough to burn you if you hold it too long and can ignite paper, fabrics, etc. Use care to perform this project in a safe location, away from flammable material. As with any fire project, it's a good idea to have a fire extinguisher or at least a glass of water handy.

Hand sanitizer fire is an adult-only project.

Fun Fire Projects

If you liked making fire using hand sanitizer, try these related flame science experiments.