Are hand sanitisers wearing out your car’s interior?

Using hand santitiser

The market for hand sanitisers is expected to rise by 60 percent by 2024, which could be bad news for your car’s interior.

That’s according to Ford engineers, who have warned that chemicals found in everyday products, such as hand sanitisers, sun lotions and insect repellent, can cause interior surfaces to wear prematurely.

Higher sun protection factor lotions contain greater quantities of titanium oxide that can react with plastics and natural oils that are found in leather.

Meanwhile, diethyltoluamide (DEET) is found in insect repellents, and many hand sanitisers contain ethanol. As a result, our car’s interior is being subjected to a chemical attack.

Using sun lotion

Mark Montgomery, senior materials engineer at Ford’s Material Technology Centre, said: “From hand sanitisers to sun lotions to insect repellent, consumer trends are constantly changing, and new products are coming on to the market all the time.

“Even the most innocuous seeming product can cause problems when they come into contact with surfaces hundreds and even thousands of times a year.”

The teams test at extreme temperatures to replicate the inside of a car parked at the beach on a hot day. In other tests, the engineers subject samples with ultra-violet light, equivalent to the brightest place on earth, for up to 48 days.

Based on the findings, Ford reformulates the chemical constitution of protective coatings to protect the interiors. The same tests are also used for accessories, such as boot liners and plastic covers.

‘Detective work’

“Sometimes what we do requires a bit of detective work,” said Richard Kyle, materials engineer, based in Dunton.

“There were instances of particularly high wear in Turkey and we managed to trace it back to ethanol potentially being a contributing factor, and most likely a popular hand sanitiser that contained 80 percent ethanol – far higher than anything we’d seen before.

“Once we knew what it was, we were able to do something about it.”

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