Do you need soap to wash your hands?

What is soap and how does it work?

Soap is a mixture of fat or oil, water, and lye. Oddly enough, lye is made by leaching wood ashes. Who would have thought that black sooty ash would be the key ingredient in soap? The ingredients are mixed together, heated, and then, through the process of saponification, we get soap.

Soap is made of a lollipop shaped molecule called amphiphiles. The stick end of the amphiphile is attracted to fat, and the round head is attracted to water.

Pathogens stick to the oils and grease on our hands. Rinsing your hands with water is not enough to dislodge viruses and bacteria from the oils on your hand, but the friction of washing, and the amphiphiles, loosen the pathogens and bind them to the water to carry them down the drain. Additionally, the stick end of the amphiphiles can destroy some viruses, including COVID-19, by breaking apart the fatty lipids that keep the virus together.

How to wash hands effectively

Here’s the proper way to wash your hands according to the CDC .
  1. Wet your hands with clean running water, warm or cold. Turn off the tap and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.


Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap Peppermint

A bottle of Dr. Bronner's has been my go to soap for camping since I was a kid. The bottle is a far better solution for storing soap than a gunky bar. The peppermint is my preferred scent, especially because it can be used as toothpaste in a pinch. Best of all, the bottle has all kinds of crazy stories that make for good reading when you're bored. Check it out on