Soap Is a Coronavirus-killing Badass
That’s right, real soap kills COVID-19. It literally tears it apart. But it doesn’t stop there. When it’s finished destroying the virus, it goes about cleaning up after itself by collecting virus fragments, along with dirt and other germs, and preps everything so water can wash it down the drain. And what makes real soap really amazing is that it does it all in about 20 seconds.
Covid keeps some bad company
Real soap doesn’t kill every virus lurking on your skin, but it does wreak deadly havoc on some really nasty ones. Ebola, dengue, H.I.V, hepatitis B and C, herpes and Zika can all be destroyed by soap. So can coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. That’s a scary list of nightmare-inducing viruses. So how is it that the soap sitting innocently on your sink can take them on, take them down and wipe them out? The answer lies in one thing these viruses have in common—a lipid envelope.
The (lipid) envelope, please
Real soap is effective in killing COVID-19 because, like all the vicious viruses mentioned above, it’s held together by a lipid envelope. A lipid envelope is an oily membrane made up of fats and proteins. It surrounds the viral genetic material (RNA) and protects it. But when it comes to soap, the lipid membrane becomes COVID-19’s Achilles’ heel. If, like us, you’re a Star Wars fan, think of COVID-19’s lipid envelope like the DEATH STAR’s thermal exhaust pipe, a really major design flaw that allows soap to obliterate the virus.
Meet the amazing REAL soap molecule
Just to be clear, we’ve been talking about REAL soap. Real soap is made by mixing fats/oils (coconut oil, shea butter, etc.) with an alkali (usually lye). This creates a chemical reaction called saponification. The result is a fatty acid salt, or REAL soap. Anything that’s antibacterial, antimicrobial or a detergent, works differently. And, according to experts, none of them work better than soap.
Real soap molecules are pin-shaped with a head and a squiggly tail. The hydrophilic head is drawn to and bonds with water. The hydrophobic tail avoids water and is attracted to oils/fats.
The science behind the 20-second takedown
Part I: The Attack
You wet your hands and lather up with soap. Immediately, the soap molecule tails try to get away from the water. They’re frantically looking for an escape when, "HELLO," they come across something they find irresistible. That’s right, it’s the oily lipid envelope of the COVID-19 virus. Remember, soap molecule tails love oil, so they make a bee-line to the virus and burrow into the oily lipid membrane. As they burrow in, they pry open the lipid envelope and destabilize the virus. The virus breaks apart and the RNA escapes.
Part II: The Clean Up
With the lipid envelopes destroyed, the soap tails need a new hiding place. Multiple soap molecules encircle virus fragments, creating watertight bubbles called micelles. The bubbles lift virus debris, as well as dirt and other germs, from your skin. When you rinse your hands, the micelles escort everything down the drain. Done!
Soap molecules deserve a hand
Not sure why, but 20 seconds can seem like forever when you're washing your hands. Don't rush it! Time yourself. Sing "Happy Birthday to You" twice through (takes us 22.82 seconds). Turn hand-washing into a brief relaxing "me-moment" by using an irresistibly scented, skin-pampering soap—we suggest Flirty Soap : ). And, think about giving those tiny superhero soap molecules all the time they need for their seek-and-destroy-and-clean-up mission. Lives depend on it.