What are disinfectants Is soap a disinfectant

wash your handsCorona protection: Soap brings more as Disinfectants

Disinfectant is currently sold out everywhere (as of March 19, 2020). The soap should actually have disappeared from the shelves. It is the much better virus killer. Also applies to smartphone cleaning!

Virologists emphasize again and again: Those who do not have a weakened immune system and are not in contact with particularly endangered or already infected people do not need a disinfectant against the new type of coronavirus. Washing hands is sufficient, says Deutschlandfunk-Nova reporter Sophie Stigler.

Soap is the all-rounder when it comes to removing pathogens: it destroys all viruses, bacteria and even some parasites. It is different with disinfectants, because not all disinfectants help against all viruses, says Sophie Stigler.

"Not all disinfectants work against all viruses. Soap works against all viruses, including bacteria and even some parasites."
Sophie Stigler, Deutschlandfunk Nova reporter

Destroying viruses like the corona virus with disinfectants only works if the agent contains very high percentage alcohol. But even then you would have to drown the viruses properly in alcohol to break them, says Australian chemistry professor Pall Thordarson.

For that you would need a lot of gel or spray. According to the WHO, disinfectant wipes are not at all suitable for the hands and do no more than the normal rubbing with cloths without disinfectant, explains Sophie Stigler.

Soap destroys the fatty envelope of the viruses

Ultimately, when it destroys viruses, the soap does what it usually does with our fingers: it removes the greasy dirt. The coronavirus is also enclosed in a greasy shell, which is then broken open by the soap molecules. The virus bursts and breaks.

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By lathering it, the soap also manages to penetrate into small skin folds and under the fingernails. It also breaks the connection to the skin, such as old and dead skin cells, to which the viruses tend to stick. The process until the virus components are enclosed in small molecular "soap cages" and washed away, however, takes some time.

Washing up is important

Hence the general recommendation to wash your hands for 20 to 30 seconds. You can read again here how to do this most thoroughly.

The rinsing itself is another advantage over the disinfectant. Because if not all viruses have been properly destroyed, they will not be washed off afterwards and will simply stay on the skin.

Too much soap is harmful to the skin

Nevertheless, there is one problem with the soap: It not only removes the viruses, but also our protective skin oil. The result is dry, cracked hands. If you only use disinfectants, the protection is retained. The worst thing for the skin is to wash your hands first and then disinfect them, explains Sophie Stigler.

"The worst thing for the skin is when you do both in a row - washing and disinfecting."
Sophie Stigler, Deutschlandfunk Nova reporter

The Robert Koch Institute therefore recommends the use of disinfectants for people in the healthcare sector who constantly have to clean their hands. Of course, a washbasin is not available in all situations. Sophie Stigler therefore says that anyone who is out and about or wants to clean their keyboard can still use disinfectants. But soap does the same when cleaning smartphones.

Smartphones can be cleaned with soap

In principle, many cell phone manufacturers advise against using harsh detergents or soap, as this could break the grease-repellent layer of the screen. But if you have a protective film, you can simply switch off the smartphone and wipe the smartphone once with a dry or wet lens cloth.

"It also helps if you take a dry cloth for glasses or just a damp cloth for glasses and wipe it down on your mobile phone."
Sophie Stigler, Deutschlandfunk Nova reporter

In a video from the BBC, a microbiologist also shows that a damp microfiber cloth and soap or washing-up liquid are more than enough for cleaning your smartphone.

But with all disinfection we should be clear: the viruses stay on our own skin the longest. So washing your hands and not touching your face is still the best, says Deutschlandfunk-Nova reporter Sophie Stigler.