Coronavirus: Regular Soap Bar vs Antibacterial Hand Wash or Sanitizer Gel

Having recently launched our Gift Wellness cleansing bar range, which includes a hand-wash soap bar, we felt we had a responsibility to find out if our natural hand-wash bar was suitable for using to fend off the coronavirus. Amidst all the hysteria with supermarkets having to limit the number of hand-washes and sanitizer bottles you can buy, we set out to find the scientific, expert advice on the most effective methods of washing our hands to avoid catching and spreading the coronavirus. We researched whether we needed to stock up on antibacterial washes and hand sanitizing gels to keep ourselves and our families safe from the coronavirus, or whether regular soap and water would do the job.

When we see the words ‘Kills 99% of germs or bacteria’ on a hand wash bottle, we instinctively feel that this product will provide us with the best chance to avoid catching the virus. Not true. What we found was that antibacterial washes were no match for good old soap and water when it came to kill the coronavirus.

Market analysts Market Watch published scientific research (8th March 2020) called “Deadly viruses are no match for plain, old soap — here’s the science behind it”. The research shows how soap works better than alcohol-based hand sanitizing gels, disinfectants and anti-bacterial hand washes at destroying the structure of viruses. The findings explain how:

“Soap dissolves the fat membrane, and the virus falls apart like a house of cards and “dies,” or rather, it becomes inactive as viruses aren’t really alive. Viruses can be active outside the body for hours, even days.

Disinfectants, or liquids, wipes, gels and creams containing alcohol have a similar effect but are not as good as regular soap. Apart from alcohol and soap, antibacterial agents in those products don’t affect the virus structure much. Consequently, many antibacterial products are basically just an expensive version of soap in how they act on viruses. Soap is the best, but alcohol wipes are good when soap is not practical or handy, for example in office reception areas.”

NHS guidelines state that

“Hand hygiene is one of the simplest and most effective procedures for preventing the spread of disease. It is essential that everyone takes responsibility to ensure that the care provided is carried out in a safe manner.”

The NHS document provides research and evidence suggesting that “soap and water is as effective as hand washing preparations containing antimicrobial agents (antiseptic solutions) for decontaminating hands and removing transient micro-organisms.”

Another NHS article states how "Antibacterial handwash is NO better than soap – and cold water kills as many germs as hot” according to experts. Findings of the research were published in The Sun, Daily Mail and BBC. In a study by The American Society for Microbiology, Sally Bloomfield, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, that alcohol based hand sanitizers should only be used when soap and water is not available and in the meantime, to avoid touching things that you don’t have to touch, including your own face. Kao Corporation, which owns some of the major high street toiletries brands reportedly said earlier this monththat too much hand gel can cause irritation and skin sensitivity, by drying out the skin and removing natural oils. Damaged skin increases vulnerability to infection, so hand sanitizers, like most things, are best used in moderation – and only when hand-washing is not an option. The Guardian (4th March 2020)

The latest NHS advice on “How to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus” states that you should:

  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • always wash your hands when you get home or into work
  • use hand sanitizer gel if soap and water are not available
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
  • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean 

As we’ve found, the harsh chemicals found in the 99% killing antibacterial washes and alcohol-based hand sanitizers, also kill the good bacteria on our hands that protect us from the bad bacteria. Hand sanitizing gels in particular, strip your skin of its natural oils. These oils are your skin’s natural defense so regular use of hand sanitizer can lead to dermatitis and eczema. Indeed, all of our research recommends that washing your hands as often as possible with soap and water is the most effective protection for you and family against the coronavirus.

When choosing a soap bar do also consider the environment. Just because we feel like we’re in survival mode, it doesn’t mean that we should forget that our planet is also in survival mode. Even some soap bars that are packaged in paper or cardboard boxes are wrapped internally with plastic, defeating the object somewhat. If you do choose our cleansing bars, you’ll be pleased to hear that our packaging is 100% plastic free. The key ingredient in our Gift hand wash bar is Grapefruit Peel extract. Known for its natural antibacterial properties, Grapefruit Peel extract will gently but thoroughly cleanse your hands without stripping your skin of its essential oils and good bacteria that protect you. Our hand wash bars are hand-made made in Dorset in Britain and also contain therapeutic Rosemary oil, Coconut oil and Epsom Salts, which leave your skin feeling soft and refreshed. One of the main advantages of our hand wash bars is that they last longer than liquid hand washes and sanitizer gels, because our bars are made using vegetable glycerin, which stays solid and doesn’t become messy. Thankfully, we have a good amount of hand washes in stock at the moment and you can order online for delivery to your door within 3 days. You can see all of our products and more information on our website.

Times of adversity bring out the best (and worst) in humanity, we at Gift Wellness pray that these challenging times give rise to kindness, friendship and unity and we wish you and your families good health and happiness. We would love to hear your thoughts, experiences and ideas of how else we may be able to help you or your community.

Gift Wellness Team

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