POST – How does SOAP “kill” the Covid-19 virus?

It is now late March 2020, and everyone of us are very familiar mantra, “Wash your hands”, attempting to avoid getting infected.

More importantly, we should wash our hands with SOAP, not just water.

This raises the question, “How does simple SOAP get rid of the virus, while complex, hi-tech, engineered medications have not been able to stop the virus?”

The answer is quite simple, but it requires a little bit of science to fully understand how SOAP kills the virus.

So, here we go again – buckle up for some fun scientific education.

Before we discuss how to “kill” the virus with SOAP, we must first understand the structure of a virus.

Structure of a virus

  • A Virus is NOT a living organism
  • A virus is  a piece of genetic code (usually RNA) that is sitting inside a “capsule” or “shell”
  • This “shell” is made of “protein” and “lipid” (fat) layer.

What is the best way to “kill” a virus before it infects you?

Since it is not a living organism, it cannot be “killed” in the traditional sense.

The goal of fighting viral infections is to destroy the outer shell or capsule, causing the inner RNA genetic code to “spill out” and be destroyed.

What are some ways to “destroy” the outer shell or capsule?

The mechanisms below refer to ways of destroying the virus OUTSIDE of the human body, BEFORE it can infect you.

(The previous post discussed how to destroy the virus AFTER it infects the human body.)

  • Ultraviolet (UV) light
    • destroys the outer cell wall, releasing the genetic material before it has a chance to infect
  • Heat
    • similar to UV light, heat destroys the outer cell wall
  • Soap
    • soap attaches onto the “fatty” (lipid) component of the viral capsule, and destroys the capsule
    • washing hands with soap in hot water for 20 seconds is recommended to destroy the viral capsule
  • Alcohol
    • 80-90% alcohol content will also destroy the capsule
    • any cleaning agent that contains alcohol will be effective in destroying the capsule


But, once the infection gets INTO your body, you cannot use soap or heat or soap or alcohol to destroy the viral capsule.

Once inside the body, we must now rely on medications to destroy the virus (see previous post).

Hence, it is MUCH, MUCH easier to destroy the viral capsule before it gets inside the body, than to try to fight the virus after infection.

The mantra should now make some scientific sense – wash your hands with soap, in hot water, for 20 seconds !!

Stay Safe !

  • Sudhir S. Athni, MD