Soap & Water or Hand Sanitizer: Which is Better to Breakdown Coronavirus?

One thing which is unchanged since Covid-19 outbreak is, A good handwashing practice keep the Corona virus at bay. With lines and creases, rifts and folds, there are plenty of places where a virus can stick to and hide on your hands. If you touch any part of your face with hand, the hiding virus can enter your body and infect you. But you don’t have to worry. There are two simple ways that prevent virus from entering your body : Soap & Water and Hand Sanitizer

How Soap & Water and Hand Sanitizer work in breaking down the virus? Let’s dig deeper

Let’s look at the structure of the virus, to understand the action of Soap & Water and Sanitizer against corona virus

Structure of Corona Virus

The Coronavirus that causes Covid-19 consists of genetic material, RNA, surrounded by a protective envelope with protein spikes. It’s protective outer layer is made up of a LIPID Bi-layer. These lipids are pin shaped molecules with a Head and a Tail. These lipid spikes or heads help the virus to break through the cellular membrane of the human cells causing infection.

Though the structure of Corona virus facilitating it easy hi jacking of human cells, it’s structure has so many weak points. A right molecule can break the lipid outer layer and stop the virus from sneaking through our cell membrane.

Corona Virus image in Blue Colour

Read: The Stronger the immunity, the weaker the viruses’ virulence becomes

How Soap & Water Breaks Down the Corona Virus?

The lipids that form protective outer layer of the virus consists of a HEAD & a TAIL. The heads of these lipids attract to water where as the tails repose. Hence in the water rich environment, lipids form a shell with heads outside and tails inside. Thus the reaction of lipids to water make them stick loosely together forming a layer. This is called HYDROPHOBIC EFFECT.

Irrespective of the brand, a drop of soap molecule contains trillions of Amphiphiles that resemble biological lipids. Having a similar structure, the heads of amphiphiles attract to water and the tails repose.

When you wash hands with soap and water, due to the same Hydrophobic effect, these amphiphiles compete with the lipids of Virus to form a layer. Though they resemble biological lipids of  corona virus, they are aliens to Corona Virus. Hence, they break the regularity of the virus protective layer, crashing down the whole structure of the virus.

The amphiphiles don’t just stop there. Now, these amphiphiles form bubbles of their own, around the contents of  Corona virus including virus’s RNA and protein molecules. Now when you apply water, it washes the bubbles along with contents of virus away. But remember, soap and water should reach to each and every rift and fold of your hand.

How Sanitizer Breaks Down the Corona Virus?

When you surround Corona Virus with Ethanol or Isopropyl Alcohol which is commonly found in sanitizers, the bond among the molecules of virus break and they start to move around. Sanitizers do demolition work here; simply removing all the nails and mortar of a house causing it’s crash. The cell membrane collapses and the spike lipid proteins crumble causing the virus crash.

Hand sanitizers are convenient to use on the go. But make sure that you go to every rift and corner of your hand and dry properly.

Which is Better: Soap & Water or Hand Sanitizer?

Though Soap & Water and Hand Sanitizer are equally efficient at killing the virus, Soap & Water has two advantages.

  • It washes away the dirt which otherwise hides Corona Virus
  • If you cover your hands with soap and water for 20 sec, you can be sure that your hands are free from Corona Virus which is not the case with Hand Sanitizers.

Access to clean water is a major problem in most of the countries. But whenever you have access to clean water ,it is recommended to use Soap & Water instead of Sanitizers.

Bottom Line!

Either way i.e washing with sanitizer or Soap and water, it takes less than 2 sec for the virus crash. However experts recommend washing for at least 20 sec as they have to reach every rift and crease of your hand; finger tips, between fingers, outside your hand and palm to protect yourself. If you have access to clean water, it is recommended to use soap and water to kill corona virus considering its’ advantages. Wash your hands with any brand soap and water for 20 sec to keep Corona virus at bay.

Our Strong Weapon To Kill Invisible Enemy; A Drop Of SOAP & Water


Reference: Based on the Lesson by Alex Rosenthal and Pall Thordarson.

Find it here: Soap & Water or hand Sanitizer?

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