how soap and sanitizer kill coronavirus

How Do Soap And Sanitizer Kill Coronavirus?

Did your fingers start to prune while washing hands for 20 seconds every time? Please don’t stop. You are helping the world to contain the spread of deadly disease Covid-19.

Give your 100% effort to wash or sanitize your hands in between. You are not only killing the deadly SARS-CoV-2 virus but wiping out many lethal viruses and bacteria that had been afflicting humans for centuries, including different coronaviruses and influenza viruses.

Dr. John Williams, virologist and chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh says there are four different types of coronaviruses that cause one-third of common colds, but they don’t kill anyone.

Vigorous application of soap and water can kill nasty parasites like coronavirus, influenza virus that kills millions a year and human metapneumovirus that can cause pneumonia and death.

But how can alcohol-based sanitizer or simple things like soap and warm water kill deadly viruses like the coronavirus?

Coronaviruses have pointy spires on their surface that appear like a crown or corona, which gave the virus the name. They have a fat or lipid layer beneath the crown, which serves as the outer

layer of the virus.

Now imagine that coronavirus is the butter dish on your plate. If you try to wash the plate with just plain water, it would be difficult. But as you use soap or alcohol you could see the grease dissolving. Soap or alcohol dissolves the outer fat layer of the virus.

But how does dissolving the outer layer helps to get rid of the virus? Dr. Williams says, it inactivates the virus and prevents it from entering the human cells.

Let’s understand the science behind soap’s powerful activity.

Soap molecules have two different ends, a hydrophilic head that binds to water and a hydrophobic tail that rejects water and binds to fat or oil. While trying to escape from the water, the tail is drawn to the fatty outer layer of the virus and splits open the virus or bacteria. As the outer layer dissolves, the virus falls apart and dies. Scrubbing hands with water and soap create more soap bubbles that would disrupt the chemical bonds between viruses and surfaces, that would prevent them from sticking to the hands or surfaces.

So scrubbing your hands for 20 seconds, which is nearly the time taking to sing Happy Birthday twice, won’t be in vain. All germs and viruses are washed away when you scrub and rinse your hands.

But why warm water?

We all know that warm water cannot kill bacteria or viruses like the coronavirus until it is boiled to a temperature that would injure our skin too.

Bill Wuest, an associate professor at Emory University who studies disinfectants says you can use cold water too, but you need to scrub vigorously to get a good amount of lather. And you might need to sing Happy Birthday thrice instead of twice to achieve that. But warm water can get a much better lather with soap. Good lather indicates that soap is trying to eliminate viruses and germs.

How do alcohol-based sanitizers destroy viruses?

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventative medicine and infectious disease at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville says the alcohol-based sanitizers can be as effective as soap if used properly. But sanitizers should have at least 60% alcohol in it. It is the alcohol in sanitizers that kill viruses and bacteria.

A little drop of sanitizer won’t be enough to completely wipe out viruses from the hands. You need to use enough amount and scrub thoroughly between the fingers and both sides of the hands.

Alcohol’s chemical properties can break the membrane of the virus if came into direct contact. But soap and warm water have their own benefits over alcohol due to their ability to trap and wash away viruses. Alcohol can kill viruses very effectively, but cannot wash them away.

If someone sneezed on to his hand and is grossly and visibly contaminated, he would have to use a lot more sanitizer to kill the bacteria or viruses like the coronavirus, but a better option would be to use soap and water.

So next time you wash your hands, enjoy the pleasure of making soapy bubbles as they are killing those microscopic deadly viruses and bacteria.

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