So why don’t you need to go into the internet trenches shopping for antibacterial soap? Well, first off, because COVID-19 is a virus, not a bacteria. But the scientific answer as to why soap works to protect us against COVID-19 is a technical one. Soap–whether it’s all natural, hand made, liquid, bar, or foamy–has a particularly molecular makeup, made up of what are actually called “soap molecules.” Soap molecules possess both hydrophobic (water-averse) and hydrophilic (water-attracting) properties. When introduced to water, the water-attracting parts of the tiny soap molecule point outward and, in turn, are able to dissolve fatty substances and lipids (this is why soap is so great for cleaning dishes). This is a particularly special quality in a time where the culprit of COVID-19 is a coronavirus–which is a virus that is encased inside of a lipid (aka fatty) envelope. Soap is able to dissolve the protective coating around the virus–making it less capable of surviving–while rinsing your hands off with water after breaking down the virus’s coat removes it from your skin completely.
“Basically, soap inactivates viruses to some degree when it breaks down the protective lipid layer on these viruses,” Dr. Pavia says. “By washing your hands with soap and water, you’re removing the virus and the mucous associated with the virus from your skin. And if it’s not on your skin, it’s not going to get inside of you.”
So what soaps are good to use? Well, we know that good old homemade or cold process bar soaps are a good choice, Dr. Pavia says that basically soap is a smart choice.