Wash Your Hands: Soap, Water & Science

Are you worried about contracting COVID-19? Wash your hands. Just get home from the grocery store? Wash your hands. Standing up from a seat on your toilet? Wash your hands.

Wash your hands any opportunity you can, because it can’t hurt.

What was once thought to be common courtesy (and common sense) has now become a lifeline being used to prevent society from collapsing any further. But what exactly makes washing your hands with soap and water so much more effective at battling coronavirus than other disinfecting methods?

Breaking Bonds

Bonds. No, not relationships you develop with other people. We’re talking about molecular bonds.

COVID-19 is a virus that, ironically, is notorious for not having any strong molecular bonds keeping it together. Like a raw egg with its hard shell, you have loose particles inside. In the case of the coronavirus, these parts are contained by a fatty outer layer that survives particularly well on steel and plastic surfaces, like countertops or refrigerators.

But do you know where the coronavirus doesn’t thrive? Against soap, as soap contains a fatty compound that competes with the fatty membrane surrounding a coronavirus molecule over who gets to be king of the castle.

The result? Soap breaks the egg shell, so to speak. It means certain death for the fatty membrane surrounding the coronavirus. And then—just like an egg splashes into the frying pan when you crack the outside—without a fatty layer keeping the molecules together, they fall apart, making the virus completely inactive.

But a quick soapy rubdown and splash of water won’t be enough to dismantle the virus, so proper handwashing technique has never been more important!

Hand Washing 101

You’ve seen the advice and techniques pop up everywhere and, by now, we should all be handwashing pros! But it could never hurt to mention it one more time, could it?

  • Spend at least 20 seconds washing/scrubbing your hands. This does not include the time you spend rinsing the soap off.
  • When rinsing, use water as warm or hot as you can comfortably handle.
  • Pay special attention to your fingertips, your index fingers, and your thumbs as those are the most likely parts of your hands to come in contact with your face.
  • Dry your hands thoroughly as wet hands can serve as a breeding ground for other harmful germs and bacteria (or did you forget that there are dangers other than Coronavirus out there?)
  • DO IT OFTEN! How often is too often? Well, let’s just say that you probably won’t make it to the “too often” range no matter how hard you try. If you think you should wash your hands, then wash your hands.

These times are scary, but that doesn’t mean that we have to lose our heads. By using proper handwashing technique and understanding why it’s one of the best ways to fight COVID-19, we can go to sleep at night knowing we’ve done our part!

BONUS: Follow this handy little link to turn any song of choice into your perfect 20-second, germ-killing, hand washing tune.