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Why is washing your hands with soap useful for fighting viruses

We all know the worldwide news on COVID-19 and its emphasis on washing your hands with soap, but do you know why and how it works? Let's explore this together.

An ordinary bar of soap contains molecules and these molecules have two sides; one side is attracted to water but repelled by fats and proteins, another side is attracted to fats and repelled by water. This dual-nature chemical construction is what makes soap a very effective cleaning product.

                                              Photo credit: Vox.com

Now think of viruses like tiny grease balls that have bits of genetic information, surrounded by a coat of fat and protein and do not mix with water. When you mix soap with water together it causes these soap molecules to start emulsifying and mixing with the oils, then it starts pulling things apart. The side of the soap molecule that is attracted to fat burrows into the virus's fat and protein shell and breaks the coating.

Once you pull the virus apart, you are now able to rinse your hands and wash the virus and dirt away down the drain!

Soap will also wash away any bacteria and viruses that are even stronger than the coronavirus but it can be a little bit harder to disintegrate and to take apart, which is why it's very important to take your time and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.

Your hands have fine lines in them and can take time for the soap to penetrate into those folds to break down the virus. Follow these steps to properly wash your hands:

  • Wet your hands and your bar soap then rub the soap between your hands to create a good lather. Rinse the soap off and put the soap back into its container
  • Rub your hands together counting to 5
  • Rub the back of your left or right hand counting to 5 and alternate to your other side, counting to 5
  • Web your fingers together and wash in between your fingers counting to 5
  • Clean under your fingernails counting to 5
  • Finally, rub your soap to about 3 inches above your wrist on both sides counting to 5
  • Rinse your hands well and dry them properly to avoid bacteria sticking back to your hands

Remember you do not need anti-bacterial soap, studies have shown that a regular bar of soap will do the trick! Always wash your hands after coming in from outside, before you eat and take precautions when handling anything coming from an outside source such as mail or groceries!

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