Washing hands with soap kills coronavirus

One tip that has been going around from the beginning of the crisis is that of washing hands with soap. And it is for a reason that soap is the best option for personal hygiene and for killing virus including coronavirus, simply because soapy water destabilizes the virus components holding the coronavirus (or any other virus) together and removes it from your skin.

Based on soap science, soap does not need to have any antibacterial additives to be effective, it is important that the hands are washed for at least 20 seconds to kill the virus on the skin, as per this video Ted Ex video here.

Soap is the most effective against viruses

Gels, disinfectants, wipes and creams containing alcohol (and soap) are alternatives with similar effect, but not to the same effect as regular soap primarily due to destabilisation and removal properties of the virus from the skin. Alcohol-based products include all “disinfectants” and “antibacterial” products containing a high share of alcohol solution, typically 60%-80% ethanol, sometimes with a bit of isopropanol, water and a bit of soap (Guardian reference).

Ethanol and other types of alcohol does dissolve the lipid membrane and disrupt other supramolecular interactions in the virus. Thus, alcohol gels and wipes are good alternatives when soap is not practical or handy and it has to contain alcohol levels of at least 60%.

Also when it comes to surfaces, the novel coronavirus is thought to stay active on favourable surfaces for hours, day or two. Viruses seem to stay on smooth surfaces for longer like wood, paper and skin and it is recommended to use soap even for easy sanitisation of surfaces as well as skin.

What type of soap is the most effective?

Any soap – regular or artisan soap can kill viruses including coronavirus. Soaps are categorised in ionic and nonionic. Ionic soaps derived using common surfactants are more efficient, while nonionic milder soaps are easier on the skin, as per Eric J. Beckman, Professor of Chemical Engineering statement (Reference).