Cleaning Your Hands with Soap vs. A Hand Sanitizer: What is Best to Protect Yourself
If we have a closer look at our hands then it is anything but smooth as there are folds and valleys, folds and rifts which provide numerous places for viruses to stick. If the viruses or other microbes get to your hands and then you touch hand to your face, then you can get yourself infected. You can reduce this risk and protect yourself from any illness caused by these viruses by using any of the two following extraordinarily simple techniques. - Hand Soap - Hand Sanitizer It is highly recommended to wash hands or use sanitizers several times during a day as it is a healthy habit and increases our probability of staying safe from any viral attacks or microbial infections. If we have a look at the mechanism of working of each of them then we can understand their efficacy in a better way so let us start with soaps.
Hand Soaps Mechanism
Do you know the structure of viruses and how they cause damage to your body cells? Let me make it simple for you. Most of the viruses have a lipid bilayer which are pin shaped molecules. The head of these molecules is attracted towards water and the tails are repellant to it. Therefore, in the water rich environments they sustain by making a shell with heads towards outside and tails towards inside. This helps the lipids to stay together and is called hydrophobic effect. This is helpful for viruses to invade our body cells and hijack them causing severe damage. But this layer formed by lipids has some weak points which soaps use to kill these viruses. If we have a look at the chemical makeup of the soaps then we can see that a single drop of every soap contains quadrillions of the molecules called amphiphiles. These are similar to lipids in their structure and fight with the lipids resulting in breaking the outer membrane of virus and then these amphiphiles surround its cell particles which are then washed away with water. This mechanism explains us the importance of cleaning hands with soap.
Hand Sanitizer Mechanism
As we have already discussed the structure of the viruses, Hand sanitizers are more effective in dealing with the viruses as they destroy their chemical makeup completely. For example, if we have a look at covid-19, the hydrophobic effect gives additional strength to the bonds inside membrane and due to the same effect the proteins on its membrane which form spikes outside it makes it easier for the virus to infect your cell. This virus is more resistant to heat than it is to hand sanitizers because hand sanitizers have high alcohol concentrations i.e. ethanol or isopropanol. If we are cleaning hands with hand sanitizer, the alcohol inside it makes the hydrophobic effect disappear due to which the virus loses the strength which is keeping its structure intact and it destroys.
Soaps vs. Hand Sanitizers
As now we know how each of them works, now we can easily conclude which one of them is more effective and in what ways. We cannot ignore the usefulness of either of them as they both are very helpful in getting rid of the viruses and other microbes resulting in our safety. None of them can be regarded as a winner as both are better than the other in some ways. Soap vs. hand sanitizer is a serious debate these days due to the covid-19 outbreak and we all are more interested than ever to know if soaps provide us the protection we need.
Firstly, let’s see how soaps are better than hand sanitizers; - As soap is used with water, it washes away any dirt particles stuck on your hand which might be covering any viruses underneath it giving it shelter. Using hand sanitizer on it may not kill the viruses as it is being covered by the dirt and when dirt gets off it is more than ready to cause you serious damage. Soaps reduce this risk for you. - Secondly, it is comparatively easier to cover your hands with soap and water. - Soaps are comparatively cheaper and we can’t deny their effectiveness so cleaning hands with soap is also a good and healthy option. Now, we have a look on how hand sanitizer is superior to soaps; - You may not always have access to sink and water to use soaps so hand sanitizers come for your rescue at such times. You can apply hand sanitizers anytime and anywhere. - We cannot deny the fact that being easier to carry is a big advantage as we can carry them in pockets. We just have to open the sanitizer, pour a drop or two on our hands and rub it thoroughly until they are dry to ensure our safety, - Another major advantage of sanitizers is that they help us fight rhinoviruses too. Rhinoviruses have a geometric protein structure instead of lipid membrane and is called a capsid.
It challenges the efficiency of soaps and soaps may take longer than normal to fight them successfully. These are the viruses which are responsible for causing common cold. But destabilizing effect of hand sanitizers is also effective on these viruses and they are destroyed by the alcohol in the sanitizers. But we can still not declare any of them to be ultimate choice as the ultimate choice in illnesses should be after seeking advice from any accredited medical professional.
In such times of outbreak, it is highly recommended to carry a hand sanitizer with yourself every time so you can keep yourself protected from any viral attacks even if you don’t have access to soap and water. May it be workplace, educational institute, sports center, entertainment areas, family or friends gatherings (which are highly discouraged these days) you are recommended to carry your sanitizer along so you can keep your hands virus free or even if you catch virus somehow, you are more than capable to fight it.