Why soap more powerful than alcohol in killing germs, viruses

March 27, 2020
Hand washing

HANDWASHING is still the preferred measure to combat microbes and viruses though alcohol may have the same strength depending on its percentage solution.

With Coronavirus (COVID-19) fast spreading and infecting anyone and had killed many people including doctors and several health workers, people are often encouraged to wash their hands with soap and disinfect surfaces with 70 percent alcohol solution.

According to science, viruses have a lipid (fat) coating. Viruses are built from RNA, proteins, and lipids. When a virus enters the cells of the ocular, nasal or buccal mucosa, it takes over and starts giving orders. It makes healthy cells create its viral RNA, proteins and other building blocks. Basically, the cell becomes a little factory pumping out the parts the virus needs to assemble new viruses.

When all the new viruses become too much for a cell, the cell dies or explodes… which spreads the viruses into additional cells in the body.

In the case of a respiratory virus like coronavirus, these viruses take over the airways and mucous membranes of a person’s lungs. In fact, when a person cough or sneeze, he releases virus-containing droplets that can spread from seven to 30 feet away. This is the reason why sick people especially those with cough and colds to wear facemask to prevent infecting other people.

The droplets released from coughing or sneezing land on surfaces and they remain active for several hours and even a few days in some cases because they interact differently with different surfaces. That is why when you touch another surface that has a virus on it, it sticks to your skin.

If you travel, never shake used or unused clothing, sheets or cloth.  Thin virus molecules are glued to a porous surface, and they slowly disintegrates after three hours. If you shake clothes or use a feather duster, the virus molecules float in the air for up to three hours, and you may inhale it.

Having a virus on your skin isn’t enough to get you infected except when you touch your eyes, nose or mouth.

Washing your hands with water alone would not disintegrate the virus. You need soap because it contains substances that are similar to virus’ lipid (fat).

With the use of soap, this fat coating dissolves and causes the virus to disintegrate and fall apart. When the virus disintegrates, it become inactive and clinically dead.

On the other hand, disinfectants and alcohol-based products have a similar impact on viruses. However, they just don’t cause the virus to fall apart quite easily.

Alcohol-based products that are at least 60 percent alcohol would cause viruses to fall apart.

You would need alcohol and alcohol-based hand sanitizer on-hand when a sink isn’t nearby.

Because thin droplets float in the air and would stick on your skin, you need to really rub and soak your hands to make sure the soap reaches all the active (and clingy) viruses on your skin.

The FDA and Harvard doctors recommend that you soap up your entire hand (inside of your fingers, around your nail beds and up to your wrists). And make sure to wash for at least 20 seconds.

When using hand sanitizer, use at least 3 milliliters (a little more than half a teaspoon) of sanitizer and rub the sanitizer on your hands for at least 25 to 30 seconds.⁠

You can use soap and water to disinfect surfaces too.

It was also found that heat melts virus lipid fat. That is why it is recommended to use water above 25 degrees Celsius for washing hands, clothes and everything.  In addition, hot water makes more foam and that makes it even more useful.

To make your own disinfectant, mix one part of bleach with five parts of water directly. This mixture is powerful enough to dissolve the virus protein and breaks it down from the inside.