The Washington Post
Christine Bader Debrecht’s daughter bought a used 2018 Honda Civic with fewer than 5,000 miles on it in June. It was the first car the 19-year-old ever bought. The St. Peters, Missouri, teen saved money from her grocery store job and a gift she received from her late grandmother to make her down payment.
She had no idea that an aerosol can of dry shampoo would destroy it.
Her car now has a hole in the sunroof, and the middle console is blown off the hinges – all because she left a can of one of her go-to beauty products inside Wednesday.
Debrecht said her daughter, whom she didn’t want to name, is heartbroken about the car that could end up being a major financial loss.
“My daughter has been constantly on the go since she got her driver’s license three years ago,” she said. “She has always kept a stash of beauty products with her in her car, and dry shampoo has been among them.”
Most dry shampoos consist of alcohol and cornstarch to absorb excess oil on the scalp and hair, according to Research and Markets. Some women swear by it, calling it a miracle product.
But all dry shampoos aren’t created equally.
Debrecht said the bottle that exploded was an Equate brand – Walmart’s generic line of products. It was the first time her daughter had used it, but she added that there was also a Dove brand dry shampoo among the rubble that didn’t explode.
Walmart, the maker of Equate, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Michelle Francl, a professor of chemistry at Bryn Mawr College, took a look at the dry shampoo can in question. “Its got propane and butane in it, which are the same things that are in lighters,” she said.
The two flammable ingredients are common in aerosol products. They act as propellants to release the product out of the can, Francl said. Hydrofluorocarbon 152A propane, which replaced the now-banned Chlorofluorocarbons, is in there for its dispersal properties. The denatured alcohol, which simply carries the product, is also flammable, Francl said.
Debrecht said she knew that chemicals were under pressure in aerosol cans, but she was shocked to see propane and butane on the list. She said she was also surprised to see Hydrofluorocarbon 152A propane on the list, saying that she didn’t see it listed as the first ingredient when she compared the Equate can to other brands.
“At least if you are transporting butane or a propane tank you know it’s dangerous and can take special safety precautions,” she said. “This was a seemingly innocent can of dry shampoo.”
The Equate can had a warning that said the product is flammable and “may explode if heated.” It also cautioned against leaving the can in sunlight and suggested that it be stored at temperatures below 120 degrees. It was about 90 degrees outside that day.
Francl theorizes that the temperature probably got too hot in Debrecht’s daughter’s car, which caused the can to explode.
“I would not have wanted to be in the car when that happened,” Francl said, adding that sharp, flying parts of the can could’ve been dangerous, in addition to the flammable items inside. “It’s like a small explosive device.”
Debrecht said insurance has agreed to pay for damages as long as they don’t exceed 5,000. If it’s more, the vehicle will be totaled and they will end up owing a ,000 deductible no matter what. She and her daughter are still waiting to hear back about the estimated damages.
“But everyone has been grateful, as are her father and I, that she was not in or near the car when this happened,” Debrecht said. “Injuries from this could have been so severe.”