Use of Soap and Sanitizer to Prevent COVID-19

Use of Soap and Sanitizer to Prevent COVID-19 | Dr. Ali Ghahary

We’ve heard about the different things we can do to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as physically distancing from others, staying home as much as possible and only going out unless it is absolutely necessary, as well as wearing a mask or cloth covering to prevent your droplets from spreading (as, even if you’re asymptomatic, you could be infected with the virus.) But we have also heard about one other key factor that can significantly prevent the spread of COVID-19: Washing your hands! Because our hands come into contact with so many people and surfaces on any given day, it’d be impossible to not pick up germs along the way – which is why keeping our hands clean is so important, and one of the best things we can do to prevent ourselves from getting COVID-19.

The technique in which you should wash your hands is fairly simple – lather them together with soap and warm water, making sure both the palms and tops of your hands, as well as fingers, are covered, and scrub for at least 20 seconds (equivalent to singing your ABCs.) However, some people wonder if certain soaps (or other products, such as hand sanitizer), are better than others.

For example, one of the most common questions that people have is whether there’s a difference between regular bar soap and liquid antibacterial soap? While antibacterial soap is promoted as being able to kill several types and a certain amount of bacteria at once, the short answer is no. Because COVID-19 is a virus, using one type of soap as opposed to another isn’t going to make any difference and one doesn’t have an advantage over the other. There are many different types of soap out there, such as soaps that are scented or made with different ingredients (i.e. goats’ milk) – and, if your skin is the type that becomes easily irritated, then there’s soap designed for those with sensitive skin, too. Whatever kind of soap you choose to use is entirely up to you.

As a secondary/back-up measure in preventing COVID-19, it can also be a good idea to have hand sanitizer on hand – especially if you might not always be able to get near a sink/soap and water. While the process of using soap and water is still the best prevention of this disease, you can still benefit from the use of sanitizer – although, you should keep in mind that in order for it to be effective, the hand sanitizer you use must contain at least 60% alcohol (or more.) The higher the alcohol content, the more effective it will be in killing off bacteria on your hands. Unlike soap, which is great for cleaning off dirt and grease, hand sanitizer becomes less effective when your hands are dirty.

If you are going to opt for using hand sanitizer, then just like hand washing there is also a certain technique for doing so. The product should be rubbed all over each palm of your hands, the back of the hands, and on and in between the fingers. Rather than drying off your hands on a towel, let your hands air dry on their own. This should only take a few seconds at most. Once your hands are dry, the sanitizer will be effective.

As for how much we should be cleaning our hands? The answer is often. That being said, it’s also not uncommon for your skin to become irritated due to increased hand washing and use of hand sanitizer. For example, you may develop dry skin, or pre-existing skin conditions that you have may start to flare up (such as eczema.) This is because over time, the top layer of our skin (known as the stratum corneum), which is its protective layer, can become disrupted which can ultimately lead to the dryness and inflammation. If you’re prone to skin problems, try choosing soaps that are gentle, as well as dry your hands thoroughly after washing them – as irritation can also occur when there is a buildup of excessive moisture and soap residue.