Plain Old Soap: The Best Disinfectant For Coronaviruses

Why does soap work so well on SARS-CoV-2?, Virology Down Under, Ian M Mackay, PhD (EIC), 9 March 2020

Below is a diagram of a coronavirus, specifically a mouse hepatitis coronavirus.
Source: SARS-CoV-2 and the lessons we have to learn from it, Edward Nirenberg.

Why does soap work so well on the coronavirus and on most viruses? Because soap is made with fat. And like dissolves like:

The soap dissolves the fat membrane [lipid bilayer, in grey in above diagram] and the virus falls apart like a house of cards and “dies”, or rather, we should say it becomes inactive as viruses aren’t really alive.

Disinfectants or liquids, wipes, gels and creams containing alcohol (and soap) have similar effects but are not really quite as good as normal soap. Apart from the alcohol and soap, the “antibacterial agents” in these products don’t affect the virus structure much at all. Consequently, many antibacterial products are basically just an expensive version of soap in terms of how they act on viruses. Soap is the best but alcohol wipes are good when soap is not practical or handy (e.g. office receptions).

About alcohol, he says:

Alcohol does also dissolve the lipid membrane [but] you need a fairly high concentration (maybe +60%) of the alcohol to get a rapid dissolution of the virus. Vodka or whiskey (usually 40% ethanol), will not dissolve the virus as quickly. Overall alcohol is not quite as good as soap.

What do you do with this soap? You wash your hands:

So when you touch say a steel surface with a virus particle on it, it will stick to your skin and hence get transferred onto your hands. But you are not (yet) infected. If you touch your face though, the virus can get transferred from your hands and on to your face.

And now the virus is dangerously close to the airways and the mucus type membranes in and around your mouth and eyes. So the virus can get in…and voila! You are infected (that is unless your immune system kills the virus).


[Antibacterial agents like triclosan] do basically nothing to the virus!

In sum:

Water is not very effective alone in washing the virus off our hands. Alcohol-based product works better. But nothing beats soap – the virus detaches from the skin and falls apart very readily in soapy water.

The study below found no harms of using bar soap. They inoculated bar soap with 70 times the amount of bacteria you’d find on normal used soap bars and there was no detectable bacteria on respondents’ hands after washing. Bar soap is also better for the environment. Less plastic packaging.

Study: Washing With Contaminated Bar Soap Is Unlikely To Transfer Bacteria, Epidemiology and Infection, 1988

Pennsylvania State Shutdown


All schools
All daycare
Bars and restaurants, except for take-out
Liquor stores
Senior centers
Hair salons
My bank, except for drive-through and online
My dentist
All “non-essential retail” except for grocery stores, hardware stores, pet stores, and pharmacies

Almost everything is closed. Gas stations are open but I read that gas may be in short supply if the restrictions last for a while.

Oh well. Here’s a photo of a crocus I saw this morning.

How Much Time Will Families Spend Feeding Themselves During COVID19 Shelter-In-Place?

Take a look at this. It’s a schedule that the Lazarovics made for themselves and their two children, ages six and nine, during the pandemic restrictions that closed schools.

Source: Sample Schedules For Kids Home From School During Coronavirus Outbreak, HuffPost, 17 March 2020

First, it’s great. Top notch parents.

Second, being the food person in my household, I’m looking at their food time.

From what I can tell:
Breakfast is about a half hour.
Lunch is about an hour: prep is a half hour, eating is 15 minutes, cleaning is 15 minutes.
Dinner same as lunch.

Is that right? Is that how much time a family of 4 typically spends on feeding themselves these days? About 2.5 hours a day? For three meals plus snacks cooked at home from scratch? That includes all prep, cooking, eating, and cleaning dishes, pots and pans, and any labor-saving devices like blenders and food processors.

I don’t know. Maybe it is. I couldn’t do it. Just roasting potatoes or cooking brown rice takes longer than a half hour. A stock pot of water for pasta takes about 20-25 minutes to come to a boil. Beans from scratch? Welp.

I think the Lazarovics may be underestimating the amount of time food takes.

How Long Coronavirus Lasts On Various Surfaces

At a temperature of 68 degrees, SARS [and likely coronavirus] lasted:

— Less than 8 hours on latex
— 2 to 8 hours on aluminum
— 2 days on steel
— 4 days on wood
— 4 days on glass
— 5 days on metal
— 5 days on ceramics
— 5 days on plastics (but one strain survived up to 9 days on plastic)

In general, nonporous surfaces like doorknobs, desktops and airplane seat trays tend to transmit viruses better than porous surfaces such as paper money, human hair, rug pile and fabrics. The microscopic holes or spaces in porous surfaces can trap the microbes, preventing them from being transferred.

The easiest way to kill coronaviruses … is with a disinfectant. Solutions containing 62% to 71% ethanol alcohol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite will do the trick within a minute.

Source: How long coronavirus lasts on metal, glass, plastic and other surfaces, SFGate, 11 March 2020

Even Mild Zinc Deficiency Can Impair Immune Function. Dear Vegetarians, Get Your Zinc.

Zinc: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, National Institutes of Health

Immune Function

Severe zinc deficiency depresses immune function [51], and even mild to moderate degrees of zinc deficiency can impair macrophage and neutrophil functions, natural killer cell activity, and complement activity [52]. The body requires zinc to develop and activate T-lymphocytes [2,53]. Individuals with low zinc levels have shown reduced lymphocyte proliferation response to mitogens and other adverse alterations in immunity that can be corrected by zinc supplementation [52,54]. These alterations in immune function might explain why low zinc status has been associated with increased susceptibility to pneumonia and other infections in children in developing countries and the elderly [55-58].


The bioavailability of zinc from vegetarian diets is lower than from non-vegetarian diets because vegetarians do not eat meat, which is high in bioavailable zinc and may enhance zinc absorption. In addition, vegetarians typically eat high levels of legumes and whole grains, which contain phytates that bind zinc and inhibit its absorption [34,41].

Vegetarians sometimes require as much as 50% more of the RDA for zinc than non-vegetarians [2]. In addition, they might benefit from using certain food preparation techniques that reduce the binding of zinc by phytates and increase its bioavailability. Techniques to increase zinc bioavailability include soaking beans, grains, and seeds in water for several hours before cooking them and allowing them to sit after soaking until sprouts form [41]. Vegetarians can also increase their zinc intake by consuming more leavened grain products (such as bread) than unleavened products (such as crackers) because leavening partially breaks down the phytate; thus, the body absorbs more zinc from leavened grains than unleavened grains.

EPA And DHA “Clearly Related To Enlarged Prostate.” Another Reason To Avoid Seafood.

Photo source: Harvard and JanIngeskogheim/Thinkstock

The study in my prior post (Enlarged Prostate? There’s A Lot You Can Do Diet-Wise To Relieve Symptoms) referenced the study below:

Intakes Of Energy And Macronutrients And The Risk Of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 2002

I’ve been reading it to understand a little better how food affects the prostate.

What I’ve learned … There are two components to BPH, a structural component (an enlarged prostate which compresses the urethra) that is static or always there, and a dynamic component that causes lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS). The dynamic component is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. Norepinephrine or epinephrine (adrenaline) react with receptors in smooth muscle of prostate and urethra causing contraction. Drugs that block this receptor, like Flomax, relax smooth muscle, easing urination.

Their findings:

Of the 33344 members of the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, we observed direct associations between:

– Total energy intake and total BPH and high-moderate to severe lower urinary tract symptoms.
– Total and animal protein intakes and total BPH and BPH surgery.
– EPA and DHA and total BPH, BPH surgery, and enlarged prostate.
– Total polyunsaturated fats and all definitions of BPH.

When I look down the list of nutrients linked to enlarged prostate or symptoms/LUTS, three things stand out: 1. energy intake, 2. total and animal protein, and 3. polyunsaturated fat including omega-3s.

1. How can eating more calories cause symptoms? Especially when it doesn’t seem related to BMI or body size? One thing I can think of … anything that causes you to release adrenaline will contract smooth muscle and make it difficult to pee. For some people that can include a large meal. Certain foods can also produce high epinephrine. They said this:

One possibility for the positive relation between total energy intake and total BPH is that activation of the sympathetic nervous system by a high energy intake may cause the prostate smooth muscle to contract, resulting in a worsening of lower urinary tract symptoms.

2. They said this about why eating more protein can aggravate symptoms (protein makes you pee because you have to get rid of its nitrogen. But there may be other mechanisms, especially for animal protein, like IGF-1):

Another plausible role of protein may be related to its contribution to the osmolar concentration of the diet that increases the obligatory water loss, which may increase urination (100 g protein contains 16 g N that must be excreted, mostly as urea, contributing 500 mOsmol). Because the kidneys can only concentrate urine up to a certain osmolality, the osmolar concentration of the diet, which is largely related to protein and salt, induces an obligatory water loss. It is plausible that the osmolar load from a large protein meal as it is digested influences urinary flow, which may exacerbate any existing urinary symptoms.

3. One of the most potent contributers to symptoms was polyunsaturated fat, the type you find in margarine and seed oils and, of course, fish oil. The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, being highly unsaturated, are very problematic. They have been linked not only to BPH but to prostate cancer.

EPA and DHA were associated with total BPH, BPH surgery, and enlarged prostate. These polyunsaturated fatty acids were most clearly related to enlarged prostate, suggesting a mechanism of BPH etiology different from that of the other nutrients. The high degree of unsaturation of EPA and DHA suggests a mechanism involving lipid peroxidation. Lipid peroxides may result in increases in tissue concentrations of NAD and NADPH, which increase 5α-reductase and prostatic DHT concentrations, thus possibly increasing epithelial and stromal growth (1). A hormonal etiology appears consistent with the finding that EPA and DHA were associated with the mechanical, or static, component rather than with the dynamic component of BPH. A weak positive association between vegetable fat and total BPH and high-moderate to severe lower urinary tract symptoms and enlarged prostate also might be due to peroxidation. Serum DHT is reported to be positively correlated with vegetable fat intake (35), but the relation between plasma hormones and BPH risk is controversial (36). The degree of unsaturation of fatty acids in cell membranes appears to influence 5α-reductase activity (13), which is a determinant of intracellular DHT concentrations in the prostate.

Besides a mechanism involving androgenic effects, numerous previous studies have shown that lipid peroxides are involved in the regulation of cellar proliferation and cytotoxicity. Dietary EPA and DHA are sources of lipid peroxides, and their cytotoxicity is concentration dependent (37) and may influence BPH through nonhormonal mechanisms (38).

The paragraphs above don’t just say that these omega-3s aggravate symptoms, they implicate them in the very development of enlarged prostate. How does information like this get so buried? How do people still end up recommending seafood consumption, and taking EPA and DHA supplements?

The argument against eating seafood keeps getting stronger.