16 Mar 2020
Taken from https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2020/3/11/21173187/coronavirus-covid-19-hand-washing-sanitizer-compared-soap-is-dope
How soap destroys viruses
One side of the soap molecule (the one that’s attracted to fat and repelled by water) buries its way into the virus’s fat and protein shell. Fortunately, the chemical bonds holding the virus together aren’t very strong, so this intrusion is enough to break the virus’s coat. “You pull the virus apart, you make it soluble in water, and it disintegrates,” he says.
Then the harmless shards of virus get flushed down the drain. And even if it the soap doesn’t destroy every virus, you’ll still rid them from your hands with soap and water, as well as any grease or dirt they may be clinging to. Soap will also wash away bacteria and other viruses that may be a bit tougher than coronavirus, and harder to disintegrate.
The trick is this all takes a little time to happen, and that’s why you need to take at least 20 seconds to wash your hands.
First off, your skin is wrinkly, and it takes time for soap to penetrate into all the tiny folds and demolish the viruses that lurk within. Then the soap needs a few moments to do its chemical work. “You do need a bit of time for all the soap to interact back and forth with the virus particle,” he says. Twenty seconds should do the trick just fine.
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