How To Recycle Hand Sanitizer [5 Best Ways ]

In today’s world, hand sanitizers have become an essential part of our daily routine, especially in light of the ongoing global health challenges.

While these products play a crucial role in maintaining personal hygiene and safety, they also contribute to environmental concerns due to the sheer volume of disposable plastic bottles they generate.

Fortunately, there is a sustainable solution that allows us to maintain our cleanliness while reducing our carbon footprint: recycle hand sanitizer bottles.

Recycling hand sanitizer bottles not only helps us mitigate the environmental impact of single-use plastics but also conserves valuable resources and energy. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), hand sanitizers are formulated with a minimum of 60% alcohol content, rendering them highly flammable.

In addition, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) emphasizes that effective hand sanitizers typically incorporate alcohol content ranging from 60% to 95%, with ethyl or isopropyl alcohol being the primary constituents.

In this guide, we will explore the importance of recycling hand sanitizer containers, discuss the different types of bottles commonly used, and provide practical tips on how to properly recycle them.

By making a conscious effort to recycle these small but significant items, we can all contribute to a cleaner, greener planet without compromising our health and well-being.

Why is hand sanitizer necessary?

Hand sanitizer is a crucial tool for maintaining personal hygiene and reducing the transmission of harmful germs and pathogens. It serves as a convenient and efficient option when traditional handwashing with soap and water is not readily accessible.

Hand sanitizer’s importance is most evident during public health crises, where it plays a vital role in preventing the spread of contagious diseases like colds, flu, and even more severe threats like the COVID-19 pandemic. 

By quickly and effectively killing a wide range of bacteria and viruses, hand sanitizer helps protect individuals and communities, especially in high-risk environments such as healthcare settings, crowded public spaces, and during travel.

Its widespread use promotes overall health and well-being, making it an essential tool in our modern world.

What is the proper disposal method for expired or unneeded hand sanitizer?

The proper disposal method for expired or unneeded hand sanitizer is to treat it as hazardous waste and follow local regulations for its safe disposal.

Hand sanitizer contains a high alcohol content, making it flammable and potentially harmful to the environment if not disposed of correctly.

In most cases, you should take it to a hazardous waste disposal facility or consult with your local waste management authorities for guidance on safe disposal methods.

Avoid pouring it down the drain, or toilet, or throwing it in regular trash bins to prevent contamination of water sources and the environment.

Responsible disposal of expired or unneeded hand sanitizer is essential to protect public safety and environmental health.

5 Ways to dispose of hand sanitizer

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The proper way to dispose of hand sanitizer depends on the type of hand sanitizer and its container. Here are guidelines for disposing of different types:

1. Liquid Hand Sanitizer in Pump Bottles or Squeeze Bottles

If your hand sanitizer is still within its expiration date and is stored in a reusable container, consider donating it to local organizations or individuals in need.

However, if the hand sanitizer has expired or you no longer have a use for it, you can typically dispose of it in your regular household trash, as long as it’s in small quantities.

Be sure to check the label for any specific disposal instructions before doing so. This way, you can help those in need while responsibly managing any unneeded or expired hand sanitizer.

2. Empty Hand Sanitizer Bottles (No Residue):

Empty hand sanitizer bottles with no residue can typically be recycled with other plastic containers in your recycling bin. Be sure to rinse the bottle thoroughly before recycling.

3. Empty Hand Sanitizer Bottles (With Residue):

If the hand sanitizer bottle has any residue left, it’s essential to rinse it out completely with water before recycling. Once rinsed, you can recycle it with other plastic containers.

4. Expired or Unwanted Gel Hand Sanitizer:

Gel hand sanitizers often contain a higher alcohol content, rendering them flammable. When it comes to disposing of expired or unwanted gel hand sanitizer, it’s essential to follow these steps for safe disposal:

Mix the gel hand sanitizer with an absorbent material such as cat litter or coffee grounds inside a sealable plastic bag. Ensure the bag is securely sealed to prevent any potential leaks.

Label the bag as “Hazardous Waste” or “Flammable Waste” and seek guidance from your local waste disposal facility or hazardous waste collection site for proper disposal procedures.

It’s crucial not to discard it in your regular household trash to prevent environmental and safety risks.

5. Commercial or Bulk Quantities of Hand Sanitizer 

For businesses or institutions with large quantities of expired or unneeded hand sanitizer, contact a hazardous waste disposal service or consult local authorities for proper disposal procedures. It’s crucial to follow regulations for hazardous waste disposal in such cases.

It is important to always check your local regulations and guidelines, as disposal methods may vary by location. Proper disposal of hand sanitizer is essential to ensure public safety and protect the environment.

Proper instructions to dispose and recycle hand sanitizer

Properly disposing of and recycling alcohol-based hand sanitizer is important for both safety and environmental reasons. Here are some instructions:

  1. Check the Label: Start by checking the hand sanitizer bottle for any specific disposal instructions. Always follow these instructions if they are provided.
  1. Empty Bottles: If the hand sanitizer bottle is empty or nearly empty, it’s generally safe to dispose of it in your regular household trash.
  1. Rinse Bottles: For empty hand sanitizer bottles, rinse them to remove any residue. Ensure they are completely dry before recycling.
  1. Recycling Bin: Place the clean, empty hand sanitizer bottles in your recycling bin along with other recyclable plastic containers. Most recycling programs accept these bottles.
  1. Local Guidelines: Be aware of your local recycling regulations, as they can vary. Some areas may have specific rules regarding the recycling of certain plastics.
  1. For Larger Quantities of Gel-Based Hand Sanitizers: It’s crucial to follow local hazardous waste disposal guidelines. Contact your local waste disposal facility or hazardous waste collection site for specific guidance on safely disposing of potentially hazardous materials. This ensures responsible disposal and protects both the environment and public health.

Regulations for the disposal of hand sanitizer

The regulations for the disposal of hand sanitizer can vary by location and depend on several factors, including the specific formulation of the hand sanitizer and local environmental and waste disposal laws.

However, here are some general guidelines and considerations:

  1. Check the Label: Always start by checking the label on the hand sanitizer bottle. Manufacturers often provide specific disposal instructions. Follow these instructions if they are provided.
  1. Empty Bottles: Empty hand sanitizer bottles that are completely free of residue are generally considered non-hazardous and can often be disposed of in regular household trash. Rinse them out if necessary.
  1. Expired or Unwanted Gel Hand Sanitizer: Hand sanitizer with a gel consistency and a high alcohol content may be classified as hazardous waste, especially in larger quantities. Mixing it with an absorbent material like cat litter or coffee grounds in a sealable plastic bag may be recommended. Label the bag as “Hazardous Waste” or “Flammable Waste” and follow local hazardous waste disposal guidelines.
  1. Local Regulations: Local regulations and guidelines may differ, so it’s important to be aware of the disposal rules in your area. Contact your local waste management authority or visit their website for specific information.
  1. Hazardous Waste Facilities: In some cases, you may need to dispose of hand sanitizer at a hazardous waste collection facility or designated drop-off location. Check with your local authorities or waste disposal facility for guidance.
  1. Flammability: Keep in mind that hand sanitizers, especially those with a high alcohol content, can be flammable. Store them away from open flames, heat sources, and direct sunlight.
  1. Environmental Considerations: When disposing of hand sanitizer, consider the potential environmental impact. Avoid pouring it down drains or toilets, as this can harm aquatic ecosystems.

You should keep in mind that regulations can change over time and can vary by location, so it’s essential to stay informed about the latest guidelines for the safe and responsible disposal of hand sanitizer in your area.

Always prioritize safety and environmental responsibility when disposing of any potentially hazardous materials.


In conclusion, recycling hand sanitizer bottles is a simple yet impactful way to contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable world while maintaining personal hygiene.

By following the proper disposal and recycling guidelines, we can reduce the environmental footprint of single-use plastics, conserve valuable resources, and ensure that these essential products don’t end up as waste in our landfills.

Every effort to recycle these small but significant items adds up to a more responsible and eco-conscious approach to hand hygiene, benefiting both our health and the planet.


Is it safe to reuse hand sanitizer bottles?

Yes, it’s safe to reuse hand sanitizer bottles if you clean them well and use the same type of sanitizer in them.

Make sure they aren’t damaged and check the expiration date. You should also keep them out of children’s reach.

Will hand sanitizer evaporate?

Yes, hand sanitizer can evaporate over time. Hand sanitizers typically contain alcohol, which is volatile and can evaporate when exposed to air.

This can lead to a reduction in the sanitizer’s effectiveness over time, so it’s essential to keep the cap tightly closed when not in use to prevent evaporation and ensure it remains effective.

Is expired hand sanitizer considered hazardous?

Expired hand sanitizer might not work well, and while it’s usually not as hazardous as some other expired items, it’s best used within its shelf life.

If you need to dispose of a lot of expired gel hand sanitizer, it might be seen as hazardous waste in some places, so follow local disposal rules.

Can skin absorb alcohol?

Yes, skin can absorb alcohol, like the kind found in hand sanitizers. But when you use it on your hands, it usually doesn’t get inside your body enough to make you drunk or cause harm. Just use it as directed to keep your hands clean and safe.

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