Why soap is the best weapon against COVID-19

Scientists like Palli Thordarson, a chemistry professor at the University of New South Wales, tell us that regular hand-washing with soap is one of the best ways to stop the COVID-19 virus from being spread. Corona viruses like COVID-19 spread when mucus or droplets containing the virus get into your body through your eyes, nose or throat. Most often, this happens through your hands. Hands are also one of the most common ways that the virus spreads from one person to the next.

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April, 2020

Why does hand-washing help?

When an infected person coughs or sneezes into their hand, uses a hand to wipe their nose or gets mucus on their hand in some other way, viral particles in the mucus can stick to their hands and be transferred to other people or surfaces. If a non-infected person touches these particles with their hands and then touches their face, they risk contracting the virus.

By washing our hands often, we can help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and avoid becoming infected.

Why is soap best?

Washing your hands with water alone is not enough, however. To be effective against COVID-19, handwashing must be done with soap. Thordarson explained in a Twitter thread that is because the virus is “a self-assembled nanoparticle in which the weakest link is the lipid (fatty) bilayer.”

He says that soap dissolves the fat membrane of the virus particle, causing the virus to fall apart. Soap molecules also trap fragments of the virus and ensure it gets washed away down the drain.

This is why handwashing with soap is better than using hand sanitiser. While hand sanitisers with an alcohol content that’s higher than 60% can also help to break up the viral particles, they remain on your hands. Vigorous handwashing is advised by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the first choice. Hand sanitiser can be used when handwashing is not possible (for example, in the car or grocery store).

Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds to help fight the spread of COVID-19.

Does the type of soap matter?

The type of soap you use does not matter, according to Dr Carl Fichtenbaum, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He told HuffPost, “There is no clear evidence that antibacterial soap works better than any other soap. The most important thing is washing hands for at least 20 seconds, and then it is a combination of soap plus mechanical disruption that works [to rid hands of the virus].”

Thordarson agrees. He says that “disinfectants, or liquids, wipes, gels and creams containing alcohol (and soap) have a similar effects [to soap], but are not really quite as good as normal soap. Apart from the alcohol and soap, the “antibacterial agents” in these products don’t affect the virus structure much at all.”

Because regular handwashing is required, we suggest using a soap from The Camel Soap Factory – soaps that are effective against the COVID-19 virus, but that are gentle and moisturising too.