The coronavirus expansion has valued an essential hygienic measure that has helped to fight diseases since ancient times. Washing hands with soap and water is a necessary preventive measure that serves to close the door on bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
For deep cleaning, experts recommend washing your hands for at least 20 seconds. We explain why.
The alarm raised by the coronavirus has highlighted the importance of regular hand washing, not only to maintain minimum hygiene habits but also to prevent certain diseases that are easily transmitted by viruses and bacteria.
To understand its importance, we must bear in mind that our hands are a paradise for all kinds of microorganisms: be they bacteria, viruses, or fungi, which usually settle in them with relative ease.
Proper hygiene is an essential solution to create a barrier to entry for these infectious agents, responsible for millions of deaths worldwide, especially in developing countries where there is no universal access to drinking water.
1. The hands: a gateway to microorganisms
We touch everything with our hands, becoming a first-rate transmission agent, especially when we consider that, unlike surfaces and objects, it is a hot and humid surface, with traces of sweat and scaling of the skin that acts as a magnet for all kinds of microorganisms, even in innocuous-looking places.
The surface of a mobile phone, for example, can harbor 30 times more bacteria than a toilet.
2. What is the microbial footprint?
Touching anything leaves behind the so-called ‘microbial footprint,’ a trace that contaminates the next person we feel, which contributes to exponentially multiplying microorganisms’ potential.
For this chief reason, every time we don’t wash our hands, we promote microbial contamination. It is like giving a contagious agent free rein to run freely without encountering any barrier.
3. Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds
Of course, to kill germs, we must use more than just water. In this case, the best one is soap, a product that has helped us fight diseases since the time of Ancient Egypt and whose recipe has changed little since then: a water-soluble solution composed of the combination of alkali (a soluble compound produced from alkali metals) with acids from oil or another fatty body.
When you touch something, the germs stick to the oils and fats on your hands, which cannot be removed by water alone. However, when we wash with soap, this component’s molecules act as a kind of ‘mediator‘ between water and oil.
When rinsing, the oil coupled to the microorganisms ends up disappearing with the help of water.
To get rid of all those fats and microorganisms, it is necessary to take your time and be thorough. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is essential to dedicate yourself to handwashing for at least 20 seconds, without leaving any corner of the skin unwashed, with special care to the nails and knuckles and gaps between the fingers.
4. Why is washing hands energetically against Coronavirus?
As Pall Thordarson, a chemist at the Australian University of New South Wales, explains through his official Twitter account, viruses are made of genetic material (RNA), external proteins that help them to anchor themselves to human cells (among other things ) and a fat envelope, a membrane) that protects everything so much and that helps the virus to spread and invade new cells.
A soap dissolves the lipid membrane, and the virus falls apart like a house of cards and” dies, “or instead, we should say that it becomes inactive since viruses are not alive.
“In fact, according to the scientist, disinfectants, gels, creams, that contain alcohol have similar effects, but in reality, they are not as good as normal soap. Essentially, as Thordarson points out, “soap effectively” dissolves “the glue that holds the virus together.” Here’s the full thread on soap’s action on viruses:
1/25 Part 1 – Why does soap work so well on the SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus and indeed most viruses? Because it is a self-assembled nanoparticle in which the weakest link is the lipid (fatty) bilayer. A two part thread about soap, viruses and supramolecular chemistry #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/OCwqPjO5Ht
— Palli Thordarson (@PalliThordarson) March 8, 2020