In the times of the Covid-19 worldwide pandemic, since no proven drug therapy or vaccine has been developed yet, so the old saying of prevention being better than cure is being adapted into practice, since the inception of the SARS-2-CoV virus into our lives. Use of soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers are the two prime options available to kill this virus if contacted on hands. Non-alcoholic sanitizers that contain quaternary ammonium salts as an active ingredient are said to be ineffective against Novel coronavirus.
Thus, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended only using alcohol-based sanitizers containing alcohol percentage between sixty to ninety percent. These alcohol-based sanitizers usually have ethanol, iso-propyl alcohol, or n-propanol or a combination of these. Due to this, the Department of Commerce of the Indian government has allowed only the export of non-alcoholic sanitizers while the export of alcohol-based sanitizers, artificial respiratory apparatus, ventilators, oxygen therapy, and other breathing apparatus has been banned taking into account the rapid increase in the Covid-19 cases throughout the country. Companies like Tata Chemicals and NIVEA India have come forward to manufacture alcohol-based sanitizers.
Now, since we know what type of hand sanitizers to buy. The next thing that comes to our mind is what is better soap and water or sanitizer?
The short answer is to prefer using soap and water than sanitizer if the facility of running water is available near you.
The reason behind this is backed by science and to understand this, we need to understand the basic structure of SARS-2-COV. Its main body is covered by a large no. of the lipid bilayer, just like many other viruses causing viral infections. The heads of these lipid bilayers are attracted to water and tails repelled by it, so they make this similar formation around the spherical main body. These thousands and thousands of lipid bilayer molecules help the virus to hijack our cells and replicate their RNA to multiply inside our bodies.
But there are many weak points where a foreign molecule comes there. Even a single drop of any brand of soap has quadrillions of such amphiphiles which compete with that of the lipid bilayer of virus and break its structure and then rearrange themselves as spheres enclosing the RNA and proteins of the virus, which when rinsed with water removes them away. In the case of a hand-sanitizer, the high concentration of alcohol breaks its spike-like structure and makes it collapse.
Both of them, kill any virus within two seconds of application but due to irregular microscopic shape of the hands’ surface, doctors recommend twenty seconds of application. However, soap and water offer two major advantages over hand sanitizers:
1. They remove any possible dust or dirt where viruses may hide.
2. The soap molecules readily get distributed over the entire hand surface including corners and fold better than sanitizers.
But, unfortunately not everyone has access to ample clean and ample running water, there hand-sanitizers are the go-to safe choice to protect yourself.