The simple act of washing your hands has taken on a whole new meaning in the face of the coronavirus. As one of the top ways that we can help prevent the spread of the virus, proper handwashing is vital for health and safety. From watching fun science experiments to learning tunes to hum while you wash, there are more ways than ever to learn why a quick rinse isn't enough. Now, food expert Alton Brown is tackling another angle to hand washing by explaining why all that hand sanitizer that's being hoarded can't replace good old-fashioned soap.
Brown's video gives a quick and amusing breakdown of why soap and water actually do a better job of killing germs. As he explains, lathering up causes molecules in soap called amphiphiles to be released. It's these molecules that are vital to fighting off germs. “The proper agitation amplifiers in soap water can emulsify with this nastiness removing it from your skin and escorting it down the drain,” Brown explains. “But wait there’s actually more. A virus like coronavirus is protected by a kind of coat made of fat-like substances and soap’s amphiphiles can just literally take hold of that coat and pull it away leaving the virus feeling ‘naked and afraid' and mostly dead.”
While alcohol-based hand sanitizers can kill viruses, they don't have any emulsifying properties. That's why Brown sticks to soap. “Since they can’t emulsify the nastiness that you got on your hands, they can’t physically remove the viruses or even actually reach them all.” So while hand sanitizer is good in a pinch when you don't have access to soap and water, there's nothing that can truly beat a good hand wash when it comes to removing germs and viruses.
If you are still worried that your hand washing isn't enough, Brown includes an extreme—if not gory—method for full-proof disinfection at the end of his video. But be warned, it's not for the faint of heart. If you're looking for a kid-friendly version of Brown's tutorial without the horror film ending, he's also posted an alternate version.
h/t: [Laughing Squid]