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Soap: Keeping Hands Virus Free Since 2800 B.C.

Colorful rectangles of handmade soap
Jess Sheldahl
Rock Creek Soaps in Billings carries a variety of soaps and hand sanitizers.

  As COVID-19 cases continue to rise health officials urge people to practice social distancing to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. One of the simplest ways to keep yourself and others safe is washing your hands with soap and water.

Wet your hands, add soap, lather for at least 20 seconds, make sure to get suds on every part of your hands, rinse and dry.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, state and federal health officials have advocated for more frequent hand washing. But how does soap actually work?

Rachael Brower, co-owner of Rock Creek Soaps in Billings, says nothing’s better than soap to remove dirt, bacteria and viruses like the coronavirus from your hands.

"Everybody is like sanitizer, sanitizer. They’re great. We have sanitizers, too. Sanitizers, when you spray on your hands, will render the virus inert, but it doesn’t remove them from your skin, they’re still there. Gross, right?" Brower says.

Soap molecules have two ends, like a magnet. One side is hydrophobic while the other is hydrophilic, meaning one side hates water but the other loves it.

When a person uses soap to wash their hands, the hydrophobic side of the molecule attaches to the coronavirus or other bacteria and grime. When that person rinses their hands the hydrophilic side attaches to water, taking the virus with it down the drain.

According to the American Cleaning Institute, soap was invented as early as 2800 B.C. but in 2020 it’s still one of the most effective tools in combating the spread of COVID-19.

Montana health officials say staying home if sick, using a face covering while in public and cleaning frequently touched objects and surfaces can also help prevent spread of COVID-19.