Soap vs Sanitiser : Which Works Better Against COVID-19?

Everyone’s worried about COVID-19, but which works better against the coronavirus – soap or a hand sanitiser?

Find out what are the advantages and disadvantages of both options, and WHICH we should use against the COVID-19 coronavirus!


Soap or Sanitiser vs COVID-19 : TLDR Summary

Here is a quick summary for those who just want to know what they should use :

  • Soap is better at preventing COVID-19, than hand sanitisers
  • When using soap, scrub your hands thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds before rinsing off with water
  • If soap is not available, use a hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol – anything less will not kill microbes
  • When using a hand sanitiser, rub it all over the surfaces of your hands until they dry completely


Why Soap Is Better Than Hand Sanitiser Against COVID-19

Reason #1 : Soap Breaks Down Viruses

Viruses are basically RNA protected by a fat membrane (a lipid bilayer). Soap literally dissolves that fat membrane, breaking apart viruses like the COVID-19 coronavirus.

But you need to make sure you scrub your hands properly with soap, for at least 20 seconds, to make sure the soap gets into every nook and cranny of your skin.

As Professor Palli Thordarson of the University of New South Wales explains,

“[T]he weakest link is the lipid (fatty) bilayer. The soap dissolves the fat membrane and the virus falls apart like a house of cards and “dies”, or rather, we should say it becomes inactive.”

Reason #2 : Soap Cleans Your Hands!

Soap also removes dirt and grease, as well as bacteria and viruses like COVID-19, from your hands.

And if you happen to touch any harmful chemicals like, well pesticides or heavy metals, soap will take them right off your hands too!

This is why doctors and nurses do not use hand sanitisers, but scrub their hands with soap before performing surgeries.

Reason #3 : Hand Sanitisers Don’t Work Well With Dirty / Greasy Hands

Hand sanitisers work well in clinical settings like in a hospital, where your hands may come into contact with microbes but are otherwise not dirty or greasy.

Their effectiveness in killing viruses like COVID-19 is greatly reduced when used on dirty or greasy hands. That is why it is recommended that you wash your hands with soap where possible.


Bar Soap vs Liquid Soap : Which Should You Use?

Using liquid soap is more hygienic because it is served from a sterile container. A bar soap, on the other hand, will harbour microbes (even the COVID-19 coronavirus) from previous users.

Of course, when you wash your hands with bar soap, the microbes it transfers to your hands will get washed away.

So, using a bar soap is better than no soap at all. But where possible, use liquid soap.

More importantly, learn how to properly wash your hands using this pictorial guide!


Hand Sanitiser : When Should You Use One?

Don’t throw away the hand sanitiser just yet. Where soap and water are not readily available, or convenient to use, a hand sanitiser can quickly kill microbes on your hands.

When it comes to COVID-19, using a hand sanitiser can dissolve the coronavirus’ fat membrane, but only if it has a high-enough alcohol concentration – usually 60%-95%.

Make sure you follow this guide, and properly rub the hand sanitiser all over your hands until they are both completely dry.


Hand Sanitiser : Alcohol Or Alcohol-FREE?

For a hand sanitiser to be effective at breaking apart coronaviruses like COVID-19, it needs to have an alcohol content of 60% to 95%.

Top healthcare authorities like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the World Health Organisation (WHO), recommend using alcohol-based hand sanitisers over any other type of hand sanitiser.

This is partly because non-alcohol hand sanitisers use an antibiotic like Triclosan or Triclocarban, which not only exacerbate antibiotic resistance, but may also cause health problems with long-term use.

It is true that alcohol-based hand sanitiser can dry out your hands. But many alcohol-based hand sanitisers now include moisturisers to prevent that. Here are some options you can buy online :



United States

United Kingdom


If you are concerned about dry skin, just apply some moisturiser after rubbing the alcohol-based hand sanitiser dry on your hands.


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