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23 March, 2020
Did you know a simple bar of old fashioned soap is the best way to destroy the COVID-19 coronavirus? Its hardly a surprise. Flue pandemics are nothing new, history has shown us they spread in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions.
Up until the modern-day era of cheaper mass-produced options, people have always used soap to clean themselves. So, with soap being easy to buy these days and affordable too, why are we finding the coronavirus so tough to beat? To put it simply, much of the products we think of as bars of soap don't contain any soap at all!
The big change in the soap industry began in 1955 when Dove launched its first beauty bar with a neutral PH. This marked the birth of the ‘syndet bar’, a portmanteau of ‘synthetic’ and ‘detergent’. While it was a godsend for those with sensitive skin, as the high PH value in traditional soaps can sometimes be too hard, it marked the departure from soap to detergent for most people and paved the way for the other big brands to manufacture similar products, leaving the production of real soap for the smaller producers and the craft industry.
Understanding what soap actually is will be instrumental in the fight against the coronavirus. Both the WHO (World Health Organisation) and the CDC (Centres for Disease Control) are very clear to advise that only soap and water or hand sanitizers are effective in stopping the spread the virus with soap being the most effective. All other cleaning products such as detergents, bleach, shower gels and the rest, simply do not work.
Let's not get overwhelmed by science. Soap is straight forward and easy to understand. It was first produced in ancient times by Babylonians, Mesopotamians, Egyptians, as well as the ancient Greeks and Romans. Back then soap was made by mixing animal fats with naturally occurring alkaline salts which could be found in the ashes of certain plants. These days, and with modern-day science, the alkaline salts are either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide and the animal fat is often replaced by vegetable oils. Although animal fat is kinder to the environment as it’s a waste product from the meat industry, vegetable-based soaps have become increasingly more popular with consumers looking for vegan products.
The first way to identify soap is to check the packaging. If it’s labelled as ‘soap’ it’s safe to buy, if not it's a detergent product that won't prevent the spread of the virus. You’ll be shocked how many don’t so please check the ones already in your home. The good news is that there are many small producers of good quality traditional soaps giving plenty of choices and with products easy to buy online. One of the best I’ve found is Gabriella Oils because of the high essential oil content which provides an extra boost of antiviral and antibacterial action.
Whichever soap you choose please remember the next step is to use it! Don’t just leave it in a draw. Don’t just sit and smell it. Soap has been around for thousands of years to provide protection from viruses and bacteria, and it only works with water!