Wash your hands, not just now but always
You must be surprised by the sudden addition of instructions from your mom. Well, the instructions never cease but in wake of the current situation, mommies have gone a bit paranoid about hand wash. You think? Well, you’re wrong. Actually, mommies are right (aren’t they always!), washing your hands would help stay safe from Covid 19 most of the time.
And of course, you must have heard about the 20 second rule, but is soap helpful? Let’s find out.
Water AND soap
Water is good, but it doesn’t do the work. Germs such as bacteria and viruses stick to the natural oil (a type of fat) on your skin. Water without soap isn’t very successful at getting the germs off your skin because water and oil don’t mix.
Soap is made with a special kind of fat or oil, water and some kind of alkaline substance, such as salt. It sometimes also has small quantities of other things in it, such as perfumes or colours.
When the fat and the alkaline ingredient are mixed together with the help of some water, there is a chemical reaction, called saponification. And that’s soap for you.
How does it help?
If you wash your hands with soap, the soap molecules act as a link between the water you’re washing with and the oil on your skin. A molecule of water joins to one end of the soap molecule and a molecule of oil joins to the other end.
When you rinse your hands, the whole lot washes off, lifting the oil off your skin and taking the germs with it.
Also, scientists have looked at particles of COVID-19 virus under a microscope and know it is what is called an “envelope virus”, which means each particle has a coating of fat molecules around it. When you wash your hands with soap, the coating falls apart, destroying the virus particle.
And yes, dry your hands
Germs love damp environments, so drying your hands is important. Disposable paper towel or a hand dryer is best if you are in a public bathroom.
What about hand sanitizers?
Many hand sanitisers are made with a type of chemical called ethanol, a form of alcohol. To kill germs such as viruses, the hand sanitiser has to have a minimum of around 60 per cent alcohol in it. The alcohol can kill virus particles much like soap does, but you have to soak every part of your hands thoroughly with the sanitiser. For this reason, a squirt of sanitiser gel or a wipe may not be thorough enough.
Use hand sanitiser only if it isn’t possible to wash your hands with soap.