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Do you know which one is better Soap or Sanitizer?

COVID-19: Health officials have suggested various measures to reduce the risk of infection from the COVID-19 pandemic and one such is the importance of good personal hygiene. Frequent handwashing with soap or an alcohol-based sanitizer. Do you know which one is better soap or hand sanitizer?
May 8, 2020 10:19 IST
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which one is better Soap or Sanitizer
which one is better Soap or Sanitizer

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, WHO recommended several precautionary measures in which one is clean your hands often. Use soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Now the question arises that which one is better soap or sanitizer? Let us find out!

Why frequent hand washing is important?

One of the simplest ways is to wash hands with soap which can kill any viruses that you may have come in contact with. It is said that virus remains for long hours on different surfaces and when you touch these surfaces they comes into your hands. That is why frequent hand washing is important.

First, we will see how washing hands with soap helps get rid of coronavirus?

Hands grim contain several viruses and bacteria. Washing hands with soap help to remove the virus and bacteria completely.

According to Palli Thordarson, a professor at the School of Chemistry at the University of New South Wales, Australia explains the molecular chemistry rule that will help us to understand the answer to the question.

He explained that viruses are made up of three things namely a nucleic acid genome like DNA or RNA which is genetic material, a protein which fits with the nucleic acid and replicates inside a host body and a fatty outer layer of lipids. Therefore, we can say that most of the viruses consist of three key building blocks: RNA, proteins and lipids. One thing to note here is that these three things don't provide strong connections between them in the virus because covalent bonds are not there that binds them completely to provide a stable structure.

Together like a Velcro, they act and so it is very difficult to break up the self-assembled viral particle. But soap can break up the particle and help in dissolving the lipid layer that surrounds the virus. It also breaks the weak bonds present within the virus and makes hands clean.

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What does Soap contain?

Soap consists of fat-like compounds called amphiphiles, which are similar to lipids and found in the membrane of the virus. When soap comes in contact with these fatty substances, it binds with them and causes them to detach from the virus. Also, forced virus to separate from the skin.

Or we can say that soaps are mixtures of sodium or potassium salts of fatty acids that are derived from oils or fats by reaching them with alkali at a certain temperature and the process is known as saponification.

That is why it is suggested to wash hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds because the virus can stick to any minuscule crinkles in hands.

Now let us study about sanitizer

Sanitizers are also effective like alcohol-based gels. Sanitizer containing 60 to 80% alcohols are recommended to remove virus from hands. It is also said that the alcohol present in the sanitizers dissolves the lipid envelop and make the virus inactive. 60% of alcohol sanitizers are considered effective. On the other side soap lathers and cover whole parts of the hands whereas using sanitizers, the alcohol does not come in contact with all parts of the hand. Therefore, while using sanitizer it is important to cover whole parts of the hands.

Soap and Sanitizer: Comparison

- Hand sanitizer is handy can be easily carried in a purse, pockets, etc. In fact, when water and soaps are not immediately available, hand sanitizer is a good option and convenient option to combat with germs.

- It is also said that Hand sanitizers are active against all types of viruses except norovirus, etc. but are not a perfect prophylactic. Sanitizers don’t protect against some types of bacteria whereas soap can.

- Hand sanitizer can sometimes be more expensive than the hand soap. According to most of the doctors "Hand sanitizers are more convenient and good during a pinch, but at last soap and water are better”.

- Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but not able to eliminate all types of germs. Therefore, the CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible as it reduces all types of germs and chemicals on hands. But if soap and water are not available then use at least 60% alcohol-based sanitizer to avoid getting sick and will not spread germs to others. 

- Several studies showed that when hands are visibly dirty or greasy then hand sanitizers may not be that much effective.

- Some studies showed that harmful chemicals like pesticides and heavy metals present in the hands may not be removed via using hand sanitizers.

- If soap and water are not available then it is recommended to use sanitizers containing high alcohol amount at least 60%. Even studies showed that sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60-95% are simpler at killing germs than those having a lower concentration of alcohol or non-alcohol based sanitizers.

- CDC recommends to use hand sanitizer to the palm of one hand and rub it all over the surfaces of hands until hand becomes dry whereas soap lathers and spreads in whole parts of the hand.

- It is also seen that swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitizers sometimes can cause alcohol poisoning. Ethanol-based hand sanitizers are safe when used as directed but can cause poisoning if swallowed more than a couple of mouthfuls. But in the case of soap, it is not like that.

Therefore, we can say that to fight against COVID-19 maintain personal hygiene and take precautionary measures as recommended by health officials. According to WHO, wash your hands with soap and running water when hands are visibly dirty. If your hands aren’t visibly dirty, frequently clean them by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

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