Is Hand Sanitizer Safe For Snakes?

is hand sanitizer safe for snakes

Snakes are, well, different from us!  They’re legless, cold-blooded animals that are still mysterious to humans.  Handling snakes is definitely a source of disagreement in the reptile world.  Do snakes like handling?  Is handling snakes safe for us and for them?  Another question we sometimes ask is;

Is hand sanitizer safe for snakes?

Despite the common misconceptions, hand sanitizer is totally safe for snakes.  Professional snake keepers often use hand sanitizer to disinfect their hands between different snakes.  Hand sanitizer is a useful tool that you can use to avoid making yourself or your snake sick!  It’s convenient and safe for both you and your pet. 

In this article, we’ll discuss just why you might want to use hand sanitizer around your snake!  We’ll talk about when it’s not safe to use hand sanitizer and what else you should be doing for good hygiene.

What Is Hand Sanitizer Made Of?

The most important thing that decides whether hand sanitizer is safe or not for snakes is what it’s made of.

According to Chemical Engineering & News, most hand sanitizers are either made of ethanol or ethyl alcohol.  Many hand sanitizers are diluted with water.   Usually, a very small percentage of the hand sanitizer is also made up of ingredients to protect your skin and give the hand sanitizer texture.  Alcohols are not dangerous for your snake’s skin in small amounts.

Even though hand sanitizer is safe for use around your snake, you should never apply hand sanitizer directly to your snake!  If you cover a snake in sanitizer, it’s the same idea as pouring sanitizer all over a person’s body.  At the best, it’s uncomfortable, at worst it could make your pet really sick!

Why Would You Use Hand Sanitizer When Handling Reptiles?

So why do people want to use hand sanitizer in the reptile world?

Hand sanitizer is an incredibly convenient disinfectant.  Hand sanitizers usually claim to kill 99.9% of the germs on your hands.  There are two main reasons why people use hand sanitizers around snakes.

The first reason you might want to disinfect your hands before touching your snake is to protect them from illness.  Snakes don’t have the same immune systems that we do.  They might not be able to catch the same illnesses, or you might unknowingly give them something really bad.  Plus, if you have other reptiles, you’re going to need to clean your hands in between handling each one.  Breeders and pet stores especially will want to disinfect in between cage cleanings.

The second reason why hand sanitizer is a handy tool to use around snakes is that it also helps to protect you from getting sick!  If you’re already a reptile owner, you’ve probably heard of salmonella.  Salmonella is a group of bacteria that make people very sick.  All reptiles carry salmonella and infections can be caused by contact with reptiles.   It’s one of the main reasons why you shouldn’t go around kissing reptiles!

So it’s a good idea to use hand sanitizer after handling your pet reptile, just in case.

We know that hand sanitizer is safe for snakes, but, can it hurt other reptiles?

Does Hand Sanitizer Hurt Reptiles?

In moderate amounts, hand sanitizer does not hurt reptiles!  You can go straight from using hand sanitizer to picking up your pet.  But, it’s not a bad idea to let your hands dry for a minute before going in.

Reptiles should be able to handle the amount of hand sanitizer you use to disinfect your hands.  It won’t cause them any harm unless you use it in excess or get it in a sensitive spot, like an eye!  But, even though hand sanitizer isn’t harmful to reptiles, there are some reports of snakes not liking the smell of it.

Why Do Snakes Hate Hand Sanitizer?

Not all snakes hate sanitizer, but some do!  Snake owners might notice their pets backing away from them after using hand sanitizers.  There are two pretty obvious explanations for this!

The first reason your snake might dislike hand sanitizer is that they don’t like the smell or taste of it!  Snakes are able to smell really well, and they usually smell with their tongues!  It’s a little weird but it’s one of the reasons why snakes seem to lick everything, including you!  Since snakes have a pretty good sense of smell, it’s natural to assume that they can smell the hand sanitizer.

If your snake doesn’t like the smell of alcohol, you’re out of luck!  You can try letting your hands dry out fully before picking up your snake.  That might reduce the smell that is making them stay away from you.

Another reason it might seem like your snake dislikes hand sanitizer is that they just dislike your hands in general.  We’re not trying to be rude here but it’s possible that your snake is averse to handling.  All snakes have different opinions on handling.  Even though you might enjoy having your buddy wrapped around your arm, they might be scared, stressed, or overwhelmed.

If it does seem like your snake backs away from your hand or strikes at it when you use hand sanitizer, try working on your handling with your snake.  This video gives a few tips and tricks so that you can make sure you’re not scaring your own snake away from you.

In addition to the video above, we also have a list of the most handleable reptiles, with a few snakes on it!  Check our article here to see if your snake made the cut for easy handling or not.

Do You Need To Wash Your Hands When Handling Snakes?

So, if you’re able to use hand sanitizer safely with snakes, is there any reason to wash your hands with soap and water?

Yes!

Washing your hands with soap is almost always more effective at cleaning and disinfecting than hand sanitizer is.  While hand sanitizers kill up to 99.9% of germs, they can’t get everything.  In some cases, hand sanitizers have been shown to be ineffective against things like E. Coli and norovirus.

We always recommend a thorough hand wash after handling your pet snake!  Especially if you’re headed somewhere like the kitchen or the bathroom right after.

Is Hand Sanitizer Harmful To Any Animals?

One of the reasons for the common misconception of hand sanitizer being harmful to snakes is that it can be very bad for other animals!

Amphibians like frogs, toads, and salamanders are incredibly sensitive to chemicals.  These animals absorb everything through their skin.  Frogs actually get most of their intake of oxygen daily through their skin.  But, they can also absorb bad things through it as well.  If you handle an amphibian after using hand sanitizer, you might kill them.  You can pick up a frog after putting on lotions, perfumes, or anything else like that.  With frogs, you’ll need to wash your hands with gentle soap before handling them.

For more information on how to safely handle frogs, you can read more about it here!  We’ll give you the dos and don’ts of holding your frog.  Plus, we picked our top 4 most handleable frog species!

Final Thoughts

You don’t need to worry about your pet snake getting injured from hand sanitizer.  Hand sanitizer is a very good thing to keep around when you have a reptile.  Hand sanitizer can keep you and your pet protected from illness.  As long as you don’t use too much, your snake might not even notice.  If they do, try letting your hands dry a little before you pick them up and work on your handling technique.   And remember, even though hand sanitizer is great, there’s no replacement for a good handwash and spending some time with your snake!