We’re all doing our best to avoid contracting and prevent spreading coronavirus. With so many different recommendations, from vaccines to social distancing to mask wearing, the question about hand cleaning comes up over and over... What’s the best way to keep my hands free of the virus?
Per CDC guidance, “The best way to prevent the spread of infections and decrease the risk of getting sick is by washing your hands with plain soap and water.”
Many people think:
“Antibacterial soap kills 99.9% of germs, so that’s best... right?”
“Alcohol spray dries out my hands, so it must be killing everything... right?”
“This hand sanitizer smells like a rough night in Tijuana, so it must put the hurt on the virus... right?”
Listen, preventing the spread is top priority, so use what you can find. Any of the above will help, but soap is best.
So, let’s take a quick look at why soap works, what kind to use, and how to use it.
Regular soap is still made using generally the same ingredients as it was millennia ago. Fats or oils are mixed with an alkali, ash or lye, to make alkali salts or fatty acids. The end result still proves to be the most effective and widely accessible way for people to avoid contracting and spreading harmful pathogens.
Specifically with coronavirus, chemistry is the Valyrian Steel that helps slay the White Walker virus (shout out to my GoT peeps). Soap molecules consist of a water-loving head and a fat-loving tail. These molecules arrange themselves in spherical clusters with the water-loving heads on the outside, which is why soap dilutes well in water. Coronavirus encases it’s dreadful genetic material within a fatty sheath with protein spikes that attach themselves to your cells, causing infection. When soap comes in contact with the virus, the molecules whip out those fat-loving tails and literally slice through the protective coating of the virus. And just like that, soap becomes Arya Stark and puts a dagger into the Night King that is this damn virus.
So, what kind of soap do you need to use? Honestly, any kind of real soap. From the fancy-pants bars in department stores to the pink stuff dripping out of a dispenser in a gas station bathroom on the 395. Any real soap will accomplish the goal.
Now, the key to using soap is using it effectively. And that takes time — 20 seconds. That provides enough time to produce a thick lather and properly scrub your palms, backs, in between your fingers, around and under your nails, and wrists. Don’t worry so much about the water temperature — room temp or above will work fine. Just think of a good song and crow, or hum, your way through the first verse and chorus.
The other thing you should remember is to wash your hands frequently. Washing often can result in dryness and cracking, so using soap with nourishing plant-based oils or a good moisturizer will help.
Simply washing your hands with soap is an extremely effective and easy way to help keep yourself and the rest of us safe and healthy.