Soap or sanitizer: Which is better?

Text by Geoff Bansen, Video by Michelle Divon:

Hand sanitizer and hand washing have been all over the headlines for a week now. In times like these, they are common sense. But is one better than the other?

Yes, says Andrea Love, Immunologist and Microbiologist from Vital Statistics Consulting.

"The coronavirus has a lipid and protein-based envelope that surrounds and protects the virus from having its RNA degraded. This envelope is exactly what it sounds like - a fatty coating. Soap is a detergent, and one property of that is it is able to disrupt fat molecules and disperse them. This is why soap and other detergents clean your greasy stove so well. So, in the case of COVID-19, what happens when soap interacts with this fat-enveloped virus? Exactly the same thing. The soap that you wash your hands with disrupts the virus’ protective coating and demolishes it. It also will dislodge any attached viral particles and wash them down the drain. This is why regular old soap is the best practice!” says Love.

But what makes this different from hand sanitizer?

"Sanitizer doesn't actually clean your hands, which isn't ideal. But it's also OK if you aren't able to get to a sink," says Love.

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