We all know that being able to wash our bodies is important for preventing disease, but most of us don’t know exactly how soap works its anti-microbial magic. One may wonder, for example, how it is that germs can develop immunity to antibiotics and yet not develop an immunity to the effects of soap?
The reason soap will always be effective is because its action is actually mechanical in nature rather than medicinal. Regular (non anti-bacterial) soap doesn’t necessarily kill microorganisms – it simply removes them from your skin. It does this in two ways:
- By increasing the ‘slipperiness’ of your skin at the microscope level so that microbes are more easily removed.
- By attaching the relatively large and heavy soap molecules to the microbes themselves, soap basically yanks the microbes off your now-slippery skin. The germs that have been removed from your body and washed down the drain won’t make you sick.
In our modern world it is easy to take personal hygiene for granted because it is so available and our exposure to disease-causing microbes is minimal. In a post-disaster situation, however, that exposure is going to grow exponentially and good hygiene, which has as its foundation the availability of soap, is essential. Having a stockpile of soap stored for a post-disaster situation may very well be as vital as having access to food and water.