I'm Upset That You Can't Eat This Candy-Themed Hand Sanitizer

Why does it exist, and will it kill your hand germs?
April 15, 2020, 11:00am
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Photo: Getty Images

The r/WTF subreddit is a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to stay awake at night worrying about something other than their own mortality. It's for people who have never considered that they could reach into a toilet paper dispenser and touch a giant spider (LOL REMEMBER TOILET PAPER?), for anyone's never seen a wasp carrying its own severed head, and for those of us who have never been concerned that a bridge will suddenly collapse while we're driving across it.

And, true to its name, it's also where users share any picture that could be captioned with a simple "What the fuck?" which is why one of the top posts from the past week was a pic of a two-pack of Warheads-brand hand sanitizer. "How many people did this go through and not one said “Hey you know a kid might think this is candy, right?” the OP, u/Zlester5172, wrote.

It's a legit question: Each bottle of hand sanitizer features the uncomfortable-looking man who serves as the Warheads logo; they use the Warheads name; and the scents are described as green apple and lemon, which are both traditional flavors of the sour candy. The cardboard packaging is labeled "For Ages 5+" and "This is not a food item," but it's unclear from the photo whether those warnings are printed on the bottles themselves.

"No part of this product existing makes any sense," one commenter responded, which is true –– but nothing about this entire calendar year has made any sense. OP shared a second photo from the same retailer, which also stocked Mike & Ike and ICEE-branded hand sanitizers. According to the Chicago Tribune, the three candy-themed sanitizers are being sold at 7-11s in the Chicago area.

The hand sanitizer is listed as alcohol-free—possibly for obvious reasons—and it uses benzalkonium chloride as its active ingredient, which the CDC says "has less reliable activity against coronavirus" than either ethanol or isopropanol alcohols. A safety data sheet for the product recommends contacting a physician or the Poison Control Center if the Warheads Hand Sanitizer is accidentally ingested, so the existence of this stuff seems like...maybe not the best idea? (It also seems to put its faith in humans not being idiots, which is risky at best.)

But is this an actual Warheads-licensed product? Good question. VICE has reached out to Impact Confections for comment, but has not yet received a response. The sanitizer appears to be distributed by a Florida company called Flex Beauty Labs LLC. As of this writing, they have not yet responded to our request for comment, either.

The ICEE hand sanitizer seems to be produced by JFL Enterprises - Just for Laughs, a novelty company based in Cleveland, that has a full range of other candy-branded sanitizers. An order form for a floor display of the products lists Tootsie Rolls, Dots, Airheads, and Dippin Dots versions as well. (Just for Laughs, which specifically listed hand sanitizers on its trademark application, also operates a website called thestinkfactory.com, which it claims is "your source for the best scratch-n-sniff stickers on the market today.")

Curiously, the JFL Enterprises – Just for Laughs hand sanitizers do seem to contain ethyl alcohol, and the 62% concentration is just above the CDC's minimum threshold for effective use against coronavirus. VICE has also reached out to JFL Just for Laughs for comment, although its website appears to have been recently taken over by a company that provides as-built property plans for building contractors.

The question of whether these are officially licensed products remains unanswered, but Just for Laughs did previously sell a line of what it claimed were "candy licensed dog toys" which were soft squeaky toys shaped like Tootsie Pops, pieces of Double Bubble gum, and boxes of Razzies and Junior Mints.

So if you see this stuff in your local 7-11, it's probably not going to be the most effective hand sanitizer that exists, and despite the branding, it's not edible. What the fuck, indeed.