Wednesday, August 09, 2006


I don't know why I have a fascination with the topic of soap and handwashing, but I do. It's not like I'm a germ freak...though by all rights I should be at this point. lol But I once saw an Oprah show where she hid a camera in the bathroom and recorded her audience members before the show, timing them to see who actually washed their hands long enough to say that they were really clean. It disgusted me to see that the majority of people just don't wash their hands long enough to be effective. Can anyone say "GROSS"?

The tip that Oprah gave was to sing 'Happy Birthday' to is exactly the right length of time to measure a hand-washing. I mentioned this on a message board once and will now forever be remembered for THAT little tidbit. Hey, I guess it's better than the girl with two dead babies, right? :o)

So recently, I've been trying to instill in my son that he needs to really lather his hands with soap to get them clean. And like any normal four-year-old, he asked me, "Why?" And I said, "Because it gets them clean." And then he threw me..."How?" Huh. I have no idea.

So now I share with all of you what I have discovered about how soap works and why we should lather really well in order to get our hands clean.

First let's take a look at how soap works on a chemical level. To make soap, you need to combine an acid and a base (or alkali). The acid is fat (fatty acids and triglycerides), and the base is sodium hydroxide (NaOH). The mixture causes the fatty acids to separate from the triglycerides and fuse with the hydroxide ions, forming a salt that we call "soap." Soap has two main functions:

* Decrease water's surface tension
* Bind to dirt, oil and bacteria

It can do these things because one part of the soap molecule is hydrophilic (water-binding) and the other is hydrophobic (water-repellent). The hydrophilic part allows the hydrophobic fatty acids to come into contact with other hydrophobic substances, such as the dirt on the surface that is being cleaned. When the grime adheres to the soap's fatty acids, it becomes encapsulated in droplets of water. Dirt, oil and bacteria are easily scrubbed off and washed away in this suspended state.

May that be my legacy...that I have educated the masses on WHY you need to use soap while singing Happy Birthday to yourselves when you wash your hands.


kate said...

Ah, but now, can you tell us how to make soap from scratch?

sarahbobeara said...

parenting magazines are now saying to sing it twice. maybe we need better soap. or maybe some lye available for serious handwashers ;b

One Mother's Journey said...

I went through a phase where I was EXTREMELY concerned about handwashing. I worked in an office and was in the bathroom with a woman I worked with once and watched her come out of the stall, adjust her hair and head back to our office without so much as even turning on the water. All day long I imagined everything I was touching was probably touched by her at some point. It took me the longest time to get over that... I could have easily worked myself into a panic attack I was so grossed out. lol

I sing Happy Birthday (just once like Oprah) and still use hand sanitizer through out the day.

Of course, I also avoid public bathrooms now if at all possible but that's a completely different

Great post!

Renae said...

My friend owns a preschool and they teach the kids to wash and scrub as long as it takes to say their ABCs. Works great! Especially when one little kid skipped the letter P and the aid asked why. His answer, "Because it's in the toilet, not on my hands!"

Oh, oh, and I've made soap from scratch! But it was kind of nasty. Big fan of Bath & Body works hand sanitizers (the kids one smell really fun) and Dial flowery soap. Good stuff!

Kathy McC said...

Wanna hear gross?? My grandmother wiped Kameron's face with a kitchen sponge this morning. I could have died. I said, "ewwww, that thing is full of germs!" She said, "Oh, c' all are too paranoid about germs...we used to wipe our kids faces with a sponge after using it to clean the floor!"...Oh.My.God. This is the same woman who eats raw hamburger meat and licks her fingers after preparing raw chicken. It's a wonder none of us got poisoned as kids.

Julie said...

Kathy McC: Eww!!!!!! My mom used the excuse once "Well, I didn't pee on my hands".
I have witnessed many people just turn on the water, flash their fingers under there for a millisecond, and shake dry on the way out the door - yuk!
But on a similar subject - antibacterial soap. Not all it's cracked up to be, really. As soon as you touch something, your hands are contaminated all over again. Now, if I was mixing meatloaf with my bare hands, I would use it to wash up afterwards. Some people think the stuff prevents them from catching colds. Nope!