Think of virus like a bag–a bag filled with genetic material. Pretend that the bag, a circular bag, is the envelop of a virus. Inside the bag, or the virus’s envelop, you can find either DNA or RNA (i.e. the genetic information of the virus).
SARS-CoV-2 is the kind of bag that contains RNA, not DNA. In fact, the SARS-CoV-2 bag only contains a long strand of RNA. The “bag” or the envelop of SARS-CoV-2, like many other viruses, is made of lipid bilayers, i.e. fatty acids chains organized in two layers. (See Figure 1 below)
Figure 1. This is the structure of a lipid bilayer. Fatty acids have hydrophilic heads and hydrophobic tails. (Photo: Bioexplorer)
And now, think of it as an oily bag. That is why soap is so effective. Soap can disrupt the structure of the oily bag and break it apart, releasing the RNA inside. RNAs that are spilled out of the “bag” will disintegrate very quickly without the protection of the bag. (See Figure 2 below)
So, wash your hands and clean all surfaces with soapy water. Oh, don’t forget the door knobs.
Oh, and #stayhome!
Figure 2. How soap destroys viruses. Think of the lipid membrane shown above as the bag mentioned in the text–a circular bag. The SARS-CoV-2 virus contains a long single-stranded RNA as its genetic material. Soap can disrupt the lipid bilayer (bag) of the virus and hence destroy the virus. (Photo: The New York Times)
Fehr AR, Perlman S. Coronaviruses: an overview of their replication and pathogenesis. Methods Mol Biol. 2015;1282:1–23. doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-2438-7_1
Jabr F. Why soap works. The New York Time. Accessed March 22, 2020.
Bioexplorer. The fluid mosaic model: phospholipid bilayer. Accessed March 22, 2020.