Palli Thordarson

Palli Thordarson



1/18 A soap is a soap is a soap! I am still flabbergasted by your response to my Twitter thread about the #COVID19 Coronavirus, soap and supramolecular chemistry! I have been quite busy today but I in this thread I will try to provide answers to some of your questions:

2/18 A lot of the questions are basically about which soap is best? Some people ask if detergents are better/worse than soap? Let me start with the latter one. Basically, what people call a detergent and what is a soap seems to differ! To me as a chemists they are very similar.

3/18 The Wikipedia entry on detergents seems to delineate detergents from soap mainly by calling alkylbenzenesulfonates & similar chemicals detergents, whereas fatty acid salts are soaps. You find detergents mainly in things like laundry detergents. See

4/18 However, both are what we call "amphiphiles" (molecules with one end loving water and the other hating water!) and both break up dirt and grease in a very similar way. From that point of view I can't see why they would be very different in dissolving and killing viruses.

5/18 But should you use detergents on your skin? I mean, have you tried to wash your hand with a dishwasher liquid? It "works" but it not so nice on the hands! You see, soap & detergents manufacturer do formulate their products to do their job for the intended use.

6/18 Detergents are formulated to work in your kitchen sink, washing machine or dish washer. So they are designed to wash say cutlery, not hands! They might include harsh chemicals that could hurt your hands because no-one expects you to be sticking your hand in the dishwasher!

7/18 Whereas soaps, be it ye olde soap bar, a foamy hand-soap or something similar, have all been formulated to be dissolve and clean the dirt of your hands, without hurting even the most delicate skin of a baby! So think about it? What should you wash your hands with?

8/18 For me the answer is obvious - soap! It works well and it won't hurt your hands even if you are using it all the time. Now - the next question - which soap? I think you can guess my answer now - it probably does not matter!

9/18 The soap industry is old and highly developed. If someone says they developed a "miracle" soap now I would take that claim with a huge grain of salt! Granted, I should have tried to marked the "Thordarson Magic Virus Soap (TMVS)" before started these tweets;-)

10/18 Soaps don't differ much really - a bit like rental cars. You need a car to get you from Houston to Austin, Texas? A cheap Hyundai will do the job fine but it would be a slightly nicer ride in a BMW. But it still take ca 3 hours in both cars at the legal speed limit.

11/18 My personal view but soaps are now 90% marketing and 10% real product differences. I am yet to be convinced that any soap product is that much better than some other, that just rubbing your hands for 20, instead of 10 seconds in the soap would not make a bigger difference.

12/18 Happy to be proven wrong (!) but yes, a soap is a soap is a soap. There are some indication bar soaps might be better to kill viruses simply because you will rub your hands more using those than foam. Flip side is they are sometimes slightly harsher on the hands.

13/18 Just use a soap that you feel comfortable with. One thing I would though discourage is trying to make your own soap unless you are already trained to do so. The changes that you do "better" than what is out there now are practically zilch (but easily a lot worse!).

14/18 Second point I want to raise, alcohol-based (disinfectants) wipes, creams or gels are not bad! They do kill viruses. Please use them! They are also very convenient. It is just you need much less of soap so when can use soap do so. Otherwise use the alcohol-based stuff.

15/18 But again, it is probably not a good idea to try to make your own alcohol-based cleaning products for your hands. Very strong whiskey for instance might be strong enough to kill viruses but do you really want to wash your hands from a bottle of fine single malt?

16/18 Take care of your hands. Soaking them constantly in alcohol based products is not good for them. It's actually the same with soap. Yes, wash them frequently but don't spend all day with your hands in soapy water. If your hands are hurting, something is wrong.

17/18 To summarise, just wash your hands with soap! Any soap - as long it is the real deal. Detergents are probably not good for your hands. Alcohol-based products do kill viruses and please use them whenever soap is not practical (e.g. when you are out and about).

18/18 Sorry to all those that had questions I haven't covered. I am still in a bit of a shock over the response yesterday (see activity report) and I just haven't had the time to go through everything. I am though glad that you enjoyed my previous thread. Take care!

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