Why Soap Works Best

Filed in Just In by March 30, 2020

So why do the experts keep telling us to use soap and water and detergents and that they’re better than the disinfectants and hand sanitisers?

Watch the video, or continue reading below:

It’s because soap and water works in two ways:

  1. It removes the grime, bacteria and viruses from your hands, washing them down the sink 1 and
  2. The coronavirus has a fat membrane, which soap dissolves, inactivating the virus 2 ,3.

When you wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water, both of those processes will be occurring.

If you want to back it up with hand sanitiser that’s great, or when you can’t access soap and water, it’s a really good option.

But you don’t tend to get as much coverage with the hand sanitiser compared to soap and water, so soap and water is still the best.

The same concept applies to cleaning products.

Use your detergent and your water to clean the surface thoroughly first, because if there is a film on the surface, the disinfectant won’t necessarily penetrate the film, leaving the bacteria and viruses untouched.

So you need to clean the surface thoroughly first, then you can use the disinfectant.

Read the back of the disinfectant bottle, most of them stipulated to leave the disinfectant on the surface for 10 minutes to be effective.

It’s the same with many of the disinfectant sprays, so read the instructions for use and follow them for them to be effective.

Using disinfectant wipes, the same concept applies, wiping down with soap and water is best, but if that is not possible, the disinfectant wipes are a good option.

So, Nanna was right, the experts still agree soap and the water is the best first option.

Nanna was also right about sunlight, sunlight does denature the coronavirus,4 so hang your clothes out in the sun, it can help.

When wiping down a surface, think of it like sweeping dirt from an area, there is no point in just rubbing it around the floor and the same applies when wiping down a surface.

The “S motion” is recommended were you gradually move across the surface with out doubling back.

So, soap and water is still the best and it’s great if you can back it up with hand sanitiser or disinfectant, but please just wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water regularly, that’s how we can get a handle on the coronavirus.


  1. Thordason, Pall, The Science of Soap – Here’s How it Kills the Coronavirus, The Gaurdian, March 12, 2020. (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/12/science-soap-kills-coronavirus-alcohol-based-disinfectants. []
  2. Pall Thordason, The Science of Soap – Here’s How it Kills the Coronavirus, The Guardian, March 12, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/12/science-soap-kills-coronavirus-alcohol-based-disinfectants. []
  3. Dr Michelle Dickinson, Facebook video discussion with Jacinda Ardern, https://www.facebook.com/jacindaardern/videos/615164082657847/ []
  4. Water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management for the COVID-19 virus, Technical Brief, World Health Organization, March 3, 2020. []

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