NEW DELHI: Ever since COVID-19 broke out, the World Health Organisation and health experts have insisted on washing hands with soap, claiming it is one of most effective ways to remain safe from the infection. The WHO guidelines on use of soap state that “regularly and thoroughly cleaning hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water kills viruses that may be on hands”.
But, why soap? According to Dr Naval Vikram, Professor, Medicine, AIIMS-Delhi, soaps are detergent based that helps to wash away the grease on hand. “If you see the structure, inside the envelope is the DNA. Nanoparticles of coronavirus have an envelope or bilayer on it, which is fatty and oily in nature. This envelope cannot be removed by simple use of water. Even in general case, the oil normally doesn’t get removed from hands using plain water and the same theory applies here.” Therefore, Dr Vikram said, soap is the best way as it cleans away the grease. “As the microbes inside the layer gets washed away, it does not remain viable for long time.”
Dr Atul Kakar, Internal Medicine Physician, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, however, noted that soaps doesn’t ‘kill’ the virus and it only washes out. “The chemicals of the soap help to get rid of the greasy substance attached to hands. The layer when it comes in contact of the chemicals loses its grip and falls off the palm, but doesn’t imply that the virus is killed,” he explained.
Vikram noted that while any kind of soap is advisable as all of them have detergent, it is better to use the liquid one as the solid one can be used my multiple people and the surface is touched.“The usage of soaps depends on circumstances an individual is. If the person is at home frequent wash may not be necessary, however if travelling outside one should keep washing hands,” he said.
In India, liquid hand wash and soaps contain sodium-based components such as palmate, chloride, palm kernelate, sulfate other than ingredients like glycol stearate, chloroxylenol, glycerin which are considered effective in killing bacteria and germs.