person holding bubbles

Soap vs. Hand Sanitiser: Which is most effective against COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us all of how essential basic hygiene is in stopping the spread of disease.

In this blog, we’ll explain why humble soap is so effective and which type of sanitiser you should be using to stay safe.

Is soap effective against COVID-19? 

Before we can answer this question, you need to understand a little about micro-organisms.

Micro-organisms, like the COVID-19 virus, protect themselves from the outside world with a thin cell-wall.

The cell wall of the COVID-19 virus is made from fat and is known as a ‘lipid cell wall’.

Soaps which are a mixture of oils and fat that when mixed with water can surround a micro-organism and break open their cellular wall and disrupting their chemical structure. This stops the micro-organism from working effectively and we often say we have ‘killed’ them. 

There is a great article about how soap works in the New York Times which explains how soap smashes up the chemical structure of bacteria and viruses.

Which is most effective against COVID-19 – soap or hand sanitiser?

Hand sanitizers with at least 60 per cent alcohol (ethanol) break open the lipid membranes of micro-organisms which is good, but they don’t remove microorganisms from the skin.

This means hand sanitisers are not as reliable as soap.

The demand for hand sanitizer during the COVID outbreak has been massive, but remember washing hands with soap and water regularly is our best defence. NHS has issued guidance on the best way to wash your hands which includes a handy video to watch. 

How to wash your hands with soap effectively

Many businesses that have recently, or are about to, return to work are installing hand sanitizer stations as par to their Covid-19 risk assessments. Health and Safety Executive have issued a range of guidance for employers who are providing hand sanitizers for workers. This guidance is also useful for the public.

Where can I buy hand sanitiser?

Since the pandemic began not only was hand sanitizer hard to get hold of but it also doubled or tripled in price overnight.

Now the peak is overhand sanitizer is available but due to demand, its price remains high.

Some businesses, including notable distilleries in Scotland, have been making sanitizers to support the NHS and their income streams.

One such is Badachro Gin who started making World Health Organisation formula sanitiser at the end of March 2020 when lockdown started. 

In remote communities where access to shops is difficult, community organisations have started to try and help local communities access sanitizer.

In Wester Ross, Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum (GALE) have been co-ordinating local community access to free sanitizer. GALE (Gairloch and Loch Ewe) Action Forum is an independent, community-owned, charitable, Development Trust and Social Enterprise working towards building strong, resilient communities in the Gairloch and Loch Ewe area.

A community refill station, giving access to free sanitiser

Cory Jones, one of First Aid training Co-operatives Directors has taken on the challenge of managing one of the GALE local community access to sanitizer stations. Cory lives in the rural township of Melvaig which is 10 miles from the nearest corner store in Gairloch. A collection point for sanitizer has been set up for local people to come along and collect hand sanitizer in their small plastic bottles. For local people who can afford it, donations are accepted to help pay for the scheme, but it is free to those who can’t afford to buy sanitizer. 

Is this something that you could maybe do in your community? Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to find out more from Cory about how the scheme works.

Scroll to Top