Why Soap Works

Fri Mar 20 19:38:39

With viruses being what they are, there is a need to take protective action as much as possible. The world is going through one of the worst phases of health challenges as the scare of Corona Virus or Covid 19 assumes pandemic proportion across the world. There are also other viruses that are equally bad and damaging to the body. The problem with viruses is that there are no known medicines that could kill viruses, though some drugs are being tried out. Hence, prevention is perhaps the best way forward and therefore, it would be a good idea to try and have a closer look at the question why soap works and find answers to the same. We may have come across many articles that talk about liquid sanitizers and other such methods of keeping the virus under check and prevent it from getting into our bodies.

We need to understand that viruses can remain active outside the body for quite a long time. In many cases, they are known to survive on many surfaces for hours and even days. Hence it is common to see people stocking up and using liquids, wipes, gels, disinfectants and creams that contain alcohol. They are useful in killing viruses outside the body and also on the surface of the body, especially hands. But we also need to bear in mind that soaps perhaps are a much more effective and better option when compared to sanitizing liquids. We will try and learn about the importance of soap and why it could be effective in killing all types of viruses.

Some Basic Facts That We Need To Understand

If we go through the health messages that are put out by health professionals and doctors, there are a few facts that come to light. The problem with viral infection is that there are no formal or effective drugs that can help kill them or help you to get rid of them. It would be always a better idea to be proactive rather than being reactive. Though there are no drugs that could help a person if he or she has been infected with a virus, the good old soap of your grandmother could come in very handy. They are capable of killing many types of viruses, including the much feared COVID-19 virus by the millions. Hence let us learn more about it so that you can start using quality soaps as a means to kill viruses before they start attacking the body and create all sorts of complications.

Why Does Soap Work So Well?

Let us try and answer the question as to why soap works so well in killing viruses that cause SARS, Cov-2 and a host of other diseases. The answer is quite simple. We need to understand that any virus is a nanoparticle that is self-assembled. The weakest link of that nanoparticle is the fatty bilayer or fatty layer. Soap has the unique capacity of dissolving the fat membrane and the virus will not be able to withstand this attacks. It just takes a few second before the virus collapses like a pack of cards and dies. They also may become inactive because viruses are actually not alive.

Some Technical Aspects

To understand the way in which soap works, we need to understand the building blocks of viruses. They are made of three main building blocks. They are RNA or Ribonucleic acid, and proteins and lipids. When a cell is infected by a virus, it automatically replicates a number of these building blocks. These self-assemble automatically and this is how viruses are formed. The viruses do not have any covalent bonds to hold them together, and therefore, there may not be the need for using harsh chemicals to tear and split those units apart. Infected cells do die and these viruses escape and cling onto other healthy cells and infect them also. Thus the chain continues. Many of them also end up infecting the airways of the lungs.

Some Facts That We May Not Have Known

When we cough and even more when we sneeze, the body releases tiny droplets from the airways. These droplets come out with extreme force and they are capable of flying up to 10 meters. The larger droplets are the ones that carry the COVID-19 viruses and these are the ones that lead to corona virus infection. The tiny droplets end up on different surfaces and they become dry almost instantaneously. However, the viruses still remain active. Human skin is considered to be one of the most ideal surfaces for these viruses to survive. The proteins and other organic substances and fatty acid on the dead cells interact with the virus. Hence, when you touch a steel surface, or other surface, it is quite possible that there could be a virus particle sticking to it. The moment you touch it, the viruses stick to your skin and they get embedded in your hand. If you touch your face, mouth or nostrils or eyes, the chances of getting infected are quite high. Many people touch their faces at least once every three to five minutes.

How Washing With Soap Helps

Washing your hands though slightly effective may not work fully. Water is not good to remove the strong and glue like interaction that take place between the virus and the skin. Hence using soapy water is a good idea. We need to understand that soap contains a substance known as amphiphiles. These are fat-like substances and they are structurally the same as the lipids that are found in the virus membrane. The soap molecules have the capacity of competing with the virus membrane that are inside the lipids. This is how soap could be effective in removing normal dirt from our skins.

Soap loosens the glue between the skin and the virus and this helps to efficiently remove the viruses as they fall apart like a pack of cards. While alcohol based sanitizers are recommended, soap could be a better option because you just need a small amount of soap and it covers the entire hand through rubbing and spreading over the entire hand. Gel or sanitizer on the other hand may not ensure that each and every corner of the hand is covered.


Going by the above factors and studies, there are some unmistakable and proven benefits when you decide to use soap in place of alcohol based sanitizers. Soap is easily available and they are a low cost option and therefore it could be quite useful in less developed countries where buying cans of sanitizers may not be possible.