The Truth About Handwashing
Why Soap Should be the New Toilet Paper
Toilet paper hoarding is the latest symbol of panic in a world learning more every day about the outbreak and spread of COVID-19. As a soap producer, I felt it was a good time to talk about the efficacy of using soap to stop the spread of germs and viruses during this time of rising anxiety and misinformation with a few basic facts.
So, put down that case of toilet paper and grab that bar of soap!
FACT #1 – PROPER HANDWASHING HABITS ARE YOUR #1 DEFENSE AGAINST COLD, FLU, AND THE COVID-19 VIRUS. This is not new information. It was true when you were a kid and it’s still true today. We’ve all been hearing this message over and over in the media, but it’s interesting that there seems to be a rush for hand sanitizing products. Washing well with soap – which effectively destroys the Covid-19 virus and washes it off the skin – is key to staying healthy.
Here’s the science – in a nutshell - of how this works. Soap molecules effectively break apart the outer lipid (fat) membranes that surround each virus, destroying the microbes, trapping them and washing them away with the water. According to Prof. Pall Thordarson, acting head of chemistry at the University of New South Wales, soap molecules “act like crowbars and destabilize the whole system”.1
In effect, when you use soap you’re not just washing away those nasties, but you’re actually killing them by virtue of opening them up and destroying them. Pretty solid defense, I’d say.
Just be sure to wash well for at least 20 seconds, getting in between the fingers, under the nails and up the wrists. Dry well after to remove any remaining moisture. Repeat often during the day, especially when you return from shopping, workplaces or other public spaces. Is the Happy Birthday song getting old? The chorus of most songs is about 20-30 seconds long, so you can easily expand your bathroom singing repertoire.
FACT #2 – ALCOHOL-BASED SANITIZERS ARE GREAT FOR ON-THE-GO AND FOR DISINFECTING PUBLIC SURFACES THAT YOU MAY BE IN CONTACT WITH, BUT KEEP IN MIND THAT ACCORDING TO THE CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL, DIRTY OR UNWASHED HANDS CANNOT BE ADEQUATELY SANITIZED. A sanitizer of a minimum of 60% alcohol is a great “in-a-pinch” solution, but it does not replace the effectiveness of properly washing your hands with soap. Any grime and dirt that’s already on your hands will reduce the effectiveness of sanitizers, and in fact, they do not easily remove microorganisms from the skin’s surface. I’m not saying never use them, but be clear about what they can and cannot do and where and how they are most effective.
FACT #3 – CONSIDER YOUR MOBILE DEVICE YOUR “THIRD HAND” AND BE CONSCIENTIOUS ABOUT CLEANING IT WELL AND OFTEN. Think about how many times a day you touch or hold your phone, or type on your keyboard, and then unknowingly touch your face. To keep your third hand just as sanitary as the other two, clean them every day. Use a soapy cloth (being mindful of those charging ports) to thoroughly wash all mobile device surfaces and buttons, rinse with a damp cloth and dry well. Alternatively, use an alcohol-soaked cotton ball or disinfecting wipe to clean all of the surfaces and then let them dry thoroughly (remembering to clean that germ-capturing case, too!).
FACT #4 – SHARING SOAP DOES NOT MEAN YOU’RE SHARING YOUR GERMS. Some people don’t want to use bar soap that others have used. Rest assured, there is no risk in sharing soap, especially when you consider that soap destroys the COVID-19 virus. Just remember to keep your soap well drained between uses to keep the bar firm and ready for the next user. If you’re still not a fan of sharing, switch to a natural liquid hand soap which is equally as effective.
For more information about proper handwashing, how to prevent the spread of flu and virus and updates on COVID-19, please visit the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
A general link for factual info on COVID-19 can also be found here