Sanitize or Wash Your Hands…. Is the Question????
While America is in a frenzy, running to every store and searching every website for sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, antibacterial spray, and any form of antibacterial cleaning solution….not to mention now the consumer is wiping out the meat departments, dairy, etc. freezing everything they can in case we are quarantined to our own homes for months.
I am not opposed to taking precautions however does one truly know the best way to protect themselves? How many people are actually reading and researching how you get the virus, who it effects the most, how does it survive, what breaks the virus down, etc.
In my research I found this article to be consistent with the majority of articles and information I was able to find.
There are two measures we know of that effectively prevent the spread of the outbreak while the world waits on a vaccine: Quarantine/social isolation, and cleaning your hands. But what’s the best — if not only surefire way — to get that right?
Washing them with soap and water.
Not hand sanitizer.
Not just water.
It’s soap and water.
This might seem obvious, but it turns out there’s a truly fascinating bit of science involved in the way viruses cling to our skin. Once you learn just how weaponized you are with water and a little bit of soap, there’s no turning back. Also, it’ll make you realize that panic–buying hand sanitizer is slightly absurd — when all you need is water (and a little bit of soap).
Your skin is COVID-19’s favorite surface, basically:
For how long does the virus stay active? It depends. The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is thought to stay active on favourable surfaces for hours, possibly a day. Moisture (“dissolves”), sun light (UV light) and heat (molecular motions) all make the virus less stable.
The skin is an ideal surface for a virus! It is “organic” and the proteins and fatty acids in the dead cells on the surface interact with the virus through both hydrogen bonds and the “fat-like” hydrophilic interactions.
So when you touch say a steel surface with a virus particle on it, it will stick to your skin and hence get transferred onto your hands. But you are not (yet) infected. If you touch your face though, the virus can get transferred from your hands and on to your face.
And now the virus is dangerously close to the airways and the mucus type membranes in and around your mouth and eyes. So the virus can get in…and voila! You are infected (that is, unless your immune system kills the virus).
If the virus is on your hands you can pass it on by shaking someone’s else hand. Kisses, well, that’s pretty obvious…It comes without saying that if someone sneezes right in your face you are kind of stuffed.
So how often do you touch your face? It turns out most people touch the face once every 2-5 minutes! Yeah, so you at high risk once the virus gets on your hands unless you can wash the active virus off.
So let’s try washing it off with plain water. It might just work. But water “only” competes with the strong “glue-like” interactions between the skin and virus via hydrogen bonds. They virus is quite sticky and may not budge. Water isn’t enough.
Soapy water is totally different. Soap contains fat-like substances knowns as amphiphiles, some structurally very similar to the lipids in the virus membrane. The soap molecules “compete” with the lipids in the virus membrane.
The soap molecules also compete with a lot other non-covalent bonds that help the proteins, RNA and the lipids to stick together. The soap is effectively “dissolving” the glue that holds the virus together. Add to that all the water.
The soap also outcompetes the interactions between the virus and the skin surface. Soon the viruses get detached and fall a part like a house of cards due to the combined action of the soap and water. The virus is gone!
The skin is quite rough and wrinkly which is why you do need a fair amount of rubbing and soaking to ensure the soap reaches very crook and nanny on the skin surface that could be hiding active viruses.
Alcohol based products, which pretty includes all “disinfectants” and “antibacterial” products contain a high-% alcohol solution, typically 60-80% ethanol, sometimes with a bit of isopropanol as well and then water + a bit of a soap.
Nearly all antibacterial products contain alcohol and some soap and this does help killing viruses. But some also include “active” bacterial killing agents, like triclosan. Those, however, do basically nothing to the virus!
To sum up, viruses are almost like little grease-nanoparticles. They can stay active for many hours on surfaces and then get picked up by touch. They then get to our face and infect us because most of us touch the face quite frequently.
And finally, the conclusion, et voila: Soap. And. Water.
Water is not very effective alone in washing the virus off our hands. Alcohol based product work better.
But nothing beats “SOAP” – the virus detaches from the skin and falls apart very readily in soapy water.