- By Dana Sparks
Science Saturday: The new super power of hand-washing
Researchers are hard at work identifying ways to help patients with COVID-19, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. But in the meantime, one common household object can be used to help prevent infection.
Good old soap, the Clark Kent of clean, is really the superhero fatty acid salt, the Superman of clean. Soap is made from a reaction between a fat, and either sodium hydroxide (lye), or potassium hydroxide (caustic potash). When these substances combine, they form a substance that is both attracted to water and repelled by it.
The part that is repelled by water is attracted to oil — naturally occurring on your hands, from whatever you were doing, such as eating, and what's found in the protective envelope around some viruses. You can see this when you put water and oil together. It naturally separates into two layers. But when you add dish soap, and swish it around, the layers blend. The molecules of soap are attracted to the oil/fat, causing the layer to bead up into droplets.
Other Mayo Clinic medical research websites:
- Research at Mayo Clinic
- Discovery’s Edge
- Advancing the Science
- Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine
- Center for Regenerative Medicine
- Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery