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Are soap-free cleansers effective for the removal of coronovirus during hand washing?

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There is currently no specific study published that addresses this specific question. 

However, there is a wealth of data from various studies on washing with soap (with or without antibacterial agents) on other microbes to suggest that the act of washing with soap and water is an effective measure to reduce contamination and aid infection prevention strategies to stay well.

Of notable mention, one study evaluated the efficacy of soap and water versus alcohol-based hand-rub preparations against live H1N1 influenza virus on the hands of human volunteers. It found that both methods were highly effective in reducing influenza A virus on human hands. In the study, the soap used was with a non-medicated liquid soap (pH-balanced, with emollient and moisturiser, but not containing sodium lauryl sulfate, instead contains other surfactants), which was found to be effective in reducing viral load from the hands after washing for 40 seconds.

Using soap to wash hands is more effective than using water alone, and is postulated because the surfactants in soap lift soil and microbes from skin, and people tend to scrub hands more thoroughly when using soap, which further removes germs.

Thus from the above information, it would be expected that use of such cleansers should still work, esp. for selective individuals with eczema or sensitive dry hands, where frequent hand-washing may increase existing irritation and compromise the skin barrier. The WHO 20-second hand washing technique should be used regardless of the type of soap for effective cleaning.



Authored by:

Dr Wang Aiwen

Member of Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore