Ask the Experts
December 12, 2017

Concerns Using Hand Sanitizers

Many of our line operators have been using hand sanitizers. Should we be concerned that we might be contaminating our circuit board assemblies if our operators handle them without gloves shortly after using a hand sanitizer?

B. R.

Expert Panel Responses

Yes there are some issues with Hand Sanitizers. Hand Sanitizers are made with Glycerin. Glycerin is considered a "contaminate" for circuit boards. It can negatively affect circuit boards because it is Hygroscopic and can attract moisture to the Circuit. A lot of this used to be used in HASL Fluxes and is a no go for Circuits that are not going to be washed. They too could dissolve the natural Halides from your fingers and transfer the Halides to the Circuit with added moisture leads to potential failure. Alcohol Based Sanitizers are also like alcohol based napalm, it is highly flammable, and when lit it considered to be a white flame (hottest that a flame can be). There are Antibacterial Lotions is being used by electronic assembly plants that do not contain any of the contaminants of PCB's Ex. Lanolin, Glycerin, Mineral Oils, or Silicones. You should probably have your company provide these approved lotions on the factory floor and restrict the use of personal lotions.

Scott Wischoffer
Marketing Manager
Fuji America Corporation
Scott Wischoffer has been in the SMT industry since 1986 with experience in service, training, sales & applications, and marketing.

Absolutely you should be concerned. Oils, both natural and those in various sanitizers can easily cause surface contamination on sensitive/delicate surfaces.

Jim Williams
Polyonics, Inc.
Jim Willimas is a PhD Chemist in Polymers and Materials Science. He specialize in printing, cleaning, inks, and coatings used in electronics manufacturng operations. Williams has more than 30 years experience.

If you are using original scent hand sanitizers which are mostly alcohol I would think that it would be OK. Just stay away from the scented or "enhanced with moisturizers" as they may carry contaminates to your process.

Edward Zamborsky
Regional Sales Manager
OK International Inc.
Mr. Zamborsky serves as one of OK's technology advisers to the Product Development group. Ed has authored articles and papers on topics such as; Low Volume SMT Assembly, Solder Fume Extraction, SMT Rework, BGA Rework, Lead Free Hand Soldering, Lead Free Visual Inspection and Lead Free Array Rework.

I did a study on this topic a few years ago. It was published in the IPC Apex proceedings. The title was "An Investigation Into Hand Sanitizers and Hand Lotions and Potential Risks to High Performance Electronics". Whether it is a concern or not depends largely on whether you are incorporating cleaning or not, but for hand sanitizers, we found no real issues. Our concerns were more for hand lotions. See:

Doug Pauls
Principal Materials and Process Engineer
Rockwell Collins
Doug Pauls has a bachelors in Chemistry & Physics, Carthage College, BSEE, Univ of Wisc Madison. He has 9 years working experience for US Navy - Materials Lab, Naval Avionics Center Indianapolis. 8 years Technical Director, Contamination Studies Laboratories. 11 years Rockwell Collins Advanced Operations Engineering.
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