Don't Forget the Soap: Effective Handwashing in the Age of COVID-19

By SC Johnson Professional Canada

The 2020 pandemic has turned a focus on hand hygiene – and for a good reason. Yet while using hand sanitizer is important for preventing the spread of SARS-COV-2, the virus which can cause COVID-19, it's critical to keep regular handwashing with soap in the mix.

As Global Hand Washing Day makes clear, the power of washing with soap and water cannot be understated.  Using soap and water physically removes germs from the hands; soap contains ingredients known as surfactants, which break down contaminants on the skin. Friction created by rubbing the hands helps the surfactants to encapsulate the dirt and hold it away from the skin – water then rinses this away.

At the molecular level, soap breaks things apart. The soap takes care of things such as viruses like it takes care of the oil in the water. Much like a crowbar; one side of the soap molecule buries its way into a virus’s fat and protein shell. The chemical bonds holding the virus together aren’t very strong, so this is enough to break the virus’s coat, making it soluble in water, and it disintegrates.  Sanitizers, on the other hand, kill germs present on the skin.

In short: soap simply works. This an important factor in the fight against the spread of SARS-COV-2, an "enveloped virus" with lipid membranes that are particularly vulnerable to soap.

Still, while hand soap is an effective weapon against the likes of SARS-COV-2, it only works when applied using effective handwashing techniques. Quick rinses and haphazard techniques won't do much to mitigate the spread of germs, especially in public areas such as offices, commercial settings, and facilities where coming into contact with surfaces that may be frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, tables, shopping carts, or electronic cashier registers/screens, etc., is more common.

Hand hygiene best practices come down to common sense: wash often and wash thoroughly.

Sealed cartridge vs. bulk

Proper handwashing techniques are critical, but so is ensuring that soap is stored and distributed in a clean environment, with the highest considerations for hygiene. Here's where the advantages of sealed cartridge systems over bulk dispensers in high-traffic areas (e.g., offices and commercial settings) makes a difference.

The differences between bulk and sealed soap come down to how the material is stocked. In bulk dispensers, soap is kept in an unsealed environment that can be exposed to bacterial contamination during refills or everyday usage. Additionally, there is the risk of "new soap" being contaminated by older soap that has been sitting within the dispenser's reservoir.

In contrast, sealed dispenser systems are refilled by inserting sealed cartridges into the dispenser. This method eliminates contact between the product and the environment and minimizes the risk of contamination of the soap.

Sealing the deal

Ultimately, any soap is better than none. In a time where public safety relies on effective and consistent handwashing, however, there is value in providing Canadians access to clean, gentle, and user-friendly hygiene products.

This is something we've taken to heart during our 80-plus years of developing skincare programs for institutional, industrial and healthcare environments. It's also the philosophy behind our Refresh Foam Soap line, which utilizes the world's first hygienically sealed inverted foaming soap pump and cartridge system.

Developed using input from facility owners, cleaning professionals, fragrance experts, and users, Refresh Foam Soap was designed to elevate the handwashing experience. One pump eliminates over 99% of dirt when combined with proper handwashing techniques, and the soap is formulated with mild preservatives, skin conditioners, and signature fragrances to promote comfortable, consistent handwashing in public places.

In the fight against the spread of SARS-COV-2, the benefit of proper hand hygiene cannot be understated. Herein, facility owners and occupants alike have a role in making clean, reliable handwashing a daily priority.