Sport and Health

How Soap Changed the World

Although to many, washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water is the norm, this seems to be news for a few. Washing your hands with soap has always been essential to assist in preventing the spread of germs which makes us sick.

The first people credited with creating soap was the ancient Babylonians who would use animal fats, wood ash and water. 

The general formula for soap hasn’t changed – a combination of fat or oils mixed with an alkali and water. Mixing in the correct proportions creates a chemical reaction called “saponification” and the final result is soap.

How does soap work? It doesn’t kill germs, it removes them.

How does soap work? It doesn’t kill germs, it removes them. Water doesn’t remove as many germs as it does with soap and water together. Soap molecules have a mixture of water (hydrophilic) and oil (hydrophobic) loving molecules. The result of washing with soap and water removes more germs than with water alone.

Although soap has been around for thousands of years, in the 1840’s one forward thinking doctor, Dr Ignaz Semmelweis from Hungary discovered that far less women died after childbirth if the doctor had washed their hands. Although at the time widely discredited by his peers, various publications showed that hand washing reduced mortality to below 1% which was huge at the time. Florence Nightingale was also an ambassador for hand washing. Luckily, this is the norm now with countless lives saved through basic hygiene.

Washing your hands with soap and water, thoroughly and frequently is important to help stop or slow the spread of disease.

How to wash your hands:
Work up a good lather
Wash frequently
Scrub both your palms and the back of your hands
Try to avoid touching your face, or other people’s faces

Quoting Dr. Bonnie Henry, Canadian Provincial Health Officer who recently said “Wash your hands like you’ve been chopping jalapenos and you need to change your contacts.”

“Wash your hands like you’ve been chopping jalapenos and you need to change your contacts.”

Although we as a nation love to be polite, avoid handshakes, hugs and hongi’s and adopt the “east coast wave” (lift your eyebrows) or simply say hello.

It may take some practice to avoid handshakes but you’ll get there. Here is a video of Prince Charles struggling to remember the new routine.

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