[ExI] soap - Rafal

Ben Zaiboc ben at zaiboc.net
Sat Mar 14 10:54:18 UTC 2020

On 14/03/2020 01:16, BillW wrote:
> Big article in the NYT about how soap kills viruses, but when I  
> search for 'soap does not kill germs' I find reputable sources that 
> say that it does not.
> Has anyone ever researched this?  Rafal

I suspect the phrase "soap kills viruses" is about as meaningful as the 
phrase "humans eat tubers". Some humans eat some tubers, some tubers are 
never eaten by humans, some humans don't eat any tubers, some eat lots 
of different ones, etc.

It probably depends on which soap, and which virus.

As soap is a salt of various fatty acids, it can disrupt viral coats 
that are made of fatty membranes, but not all viruses have coats like 
that, some are a protein shell instead. Many soaps these days are not 
actually soap but detergents, which are chemically a slightly different 
thing, and could have different effects.

Coronaviruses do have a lipid envelope as far as I know, so soap could 
be effective at breaking it down and killing the virus, but the details 
matter. Probably a good idea to heed the advice to wash your hands for 
20 seconds, to give the soap molecules a chance.

But washing your hands with soap and water does other useful things 
besides (possibly) killing (some) viruses. Getting them clean of the 
dirt which accumulates on them which can contain virus particles, spores 
and bacteria, for instance.

So soap doesn't have to kill viruses for washing to be a good idea

Ben Zaiboc

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