I must confess, it has taken me nearly 57 years to learn how to properly wash my hands.  That is one good thing that has come from this COVID nightmare.  I lather up then I wash between my fingers, by over lapping my hands first palm to palm then I reverse.  Then I take my fingernails and dig under all of them, followed by my thumbs.  Then I wash my palms really good, and then I recite the alphabet one time before rinsing.  I feel cheated if I short-cut the process. 

Soap is one of those things that is so easy to take for granted.  Like utilities or the mailman, you don’t realize how valuable they are until they’re gone.  Soap supposedly gets its name from mount Sapo in Rome.  Sapo is Latin for soap.  The first records of soap-making occurred 2800 BC, by the Babylonians.  Fatty oils, water and lye, combine to form together a molecular assassin, that we easily take for granted.   

We need to learn a few things to get to the bottom of how soap really works.  First the terms:  Hydrophilic (hydro=water and philic=loving); and hydrophobic (hydro=water, phobic=fearing).  Since oil and water do not mix, we know that hydrophilic and hydrophobic compounds do not mix.  Non-polar compounds, like grease and oil, cannot dissolve in water; while polar compounds can dissolve in water.  

So, the soap molecule has two different ends, one is hydrophilic, the polar head that binds with water; the other is hydrophobic, this polar head binds with oil and grease.  So, the soap and water molecules are kind of like molecular football players, that shove the oil and grease molecules apart, inject them into the water, and rush them away from your hands.  Hotter water helps melt the oil and grease, making it easier for the soap and water to complete their assassination.   

A virus is known as a nanoparticle in which the weakest link is its lipid fatty bilayer.  Soap dissolves that fat membrane and the virus falls apart, like a house of cards and dies, or becomes inactive.  And just so you know, Oct. 15, 2020, is National Hand-Washing Day. 

Now we know a little bit more about what is really going on when we wash our hands. 

God bless you all -- RHM