Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Is Hibiclens soap?

The question arose in a FB discussion as to whether Hibiclens would be effective in hand washing against the virus.  I wanted to memorialize our discussion.

The idea of soap is that it is a wetting agent.  It makes surfaces slippery.  This makes it easier to remove dirt -- including germs. Soap does also dissolve lipids.  Now what I need to check out is this stuff I've seen about virus coatings being lipids.

Skimming this article, it seems like at least SARS had a lipid bilayer with protein inside https://virologyj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12985-019-1182-0

This one says there's a lipid envelope for this virus

This one says soap does break the lipid envelope

I looked through the hibiclens website and they do not mention viruses

This is a Wikipedia article defining "soap" as a "salt of a fatty acid". In order to qualify it has to have an alkyl and a metal ion. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soap

This website has a list of ingredients for Hibiclens. I am not seeing one that matches the chemical description listed in Wikipedia.

Chlorhexidine gluconate solution 4.0% w/v

fragrance, gluconolactone, isopropyl alcohol 4% w/v, lauramine oxide, poloxamer 237, purified water and red 40

I now looked up these ingredients.

This is what I get when I search for lauramine oxide. It's a foaming agent, but it does not include a metal ion, therefore it is not a soap.

This is an article about the active ingredient. Again there is no metal ion, so it is not a soap


The other mysterious ingredient, is a surfactant, polaxamer or 237. These are non-ionic. They do not contain a metal ion. Therefore they are not a "soap."

I have to conclude that Hibiclens is not a "soap."  It might foam like "soap," but that doesn't mean that it has the ability to dissolve lipids that soap has.

 I looked on their website, as I said above, and there is no mention of it being effective against viruses. I searched their help section for "virus" and found nothing. I feel the chemistry is very important here. Hibiclens may be a wetting agent, like soap, in that it makes things slippery; but, if it lacks the ionic form of soap, it probably lacks the ability to dissolve the lipid envelope around the virus. Ions are very important in the chemistry of dissolution.

Dissolving lipids is a key soap property that should help kill the virus.

More about lauramine oxide



Chemicals considered detergents


Lauramine oxide is listed -- therefore it should have oil dissolving properties.

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