Disinfecting arc rated and flame resistant (AR / FR) clothing and PPE begins and ends with soap and water – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended method for disinfecting from COVID-19.
When we think of the word “disinfecting” we typically think of popular products such as Clorox, Lysol, or alcohol based sanitizers. Some internet sites suggest common chemical sanitizers are the best option for disinfecting, which is not accurate. These chemical sanitizers should be used on surfaces where soap and water is not possible, or not practical and should never be used to sanitize AR/ FR garments or other clothing. Standard household soaps and detergents are as effective, or better than common chemical sanitizers like alcohol or bleach.
What makes soap such a powerful agent in the disinfection of COVID-19?
Understanding this process begins with the molecular structure of the COVID-19 virus. All viruses are bits of genetic code bundled inside a collection of lipids and protein. COVID-19 has an outer shell made of lipids (basically a fat). Soap molecules have a head that bonds with water and a tail that bonds with fats (lipids). The mechanical action of scrubbing your hands or of a washing machine agitating, creates mechanical force on these molecules, prying open the COVID-19 lipid shell, which destroys it.
Then soap does something chemical sanitizers do not: it degrades the chemical bonds that let the virus stick to a surface, entraps tiny fragments of the virus, and washes them away in water. When you wash your hands, hard surfaces, clothing or PPE with soap and water, you are prying the virus apart, destroying it, and washing the remains away which protect against viruses like COVID-19.
Watch our VP of Technical, Scott Margolin explain how soap molecules break open the virus and surround COVID-19 to deactivate the virus.
Watch the video by clicking on the preview to the left.
Why you should use soap over hand sanitizers
Although sanitizers act similarly, many lack the necessary amount of alcohol—at least 60 percent by volume—to kill viruses. The advantage of using soap relies on the ease of removing microorganisms - destabilizing their lipid membranes – from surfaces including clothing and PPE. Furthermore, if your hands are wet or sweaty when you use the sanitizer, that can dilute it and diminish its effectiveness. Additionally, soap disrupts chemical bonds that allow the virus to stick to surfaces such as clothing and PPE and then entraps the particles and washes them away – a process that sanitizers simply cannot perform.
For further clarification of how soap works to eliminate viruses see the below graphic published by the New York Times which specifically outlines how soap deactivates COVID-19.
In conclusion, Tyndale advises our readers to continue disinfecting your AR / FR clothing and PPE with the appropriate washing procedures – soap and water for at least 20 seconds. By simply washing with soap and water you are doing your part to keep our communities and your families safe from COVID-19.