Will "Witch Hazel" wipes deactive coronavirus?
March 9, 2020 5:08 AM   Subscribe

I've been reading about how soap and water is the most effective prevention against coronavirus. In very simple terms, I understand this to be due to soap's ability to break bonds in fats. Since witch hazel is also effective at cleaning fats, I wonder if it could reasonably be expected to deactivate this particular virus?
posted by Jon44 to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Coronaviruses are known as envelope viruses, which means that they are contained in a lipid (fatty) bilayer. This is why washing your hands is so effective: it breaks down the lipid envelope and deactivates the virus. You can also wash surfaces with soap and water. As for witch-hazel: interesting question, but why? Just use soap. It's incredibly effective and not very expensive.
posted by k8lin at 5:59 AM on March 9 [9 favorites]

I would not chance it.
posted by spitbull at 6:10 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]

but why? Just use soap.
not everyone has a sink around them at all times?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:44 AM on March 9 [14 favorites]

Some studies indicate that witch hazel may be beneficial in fighting certain types of viral infections.

One test-tube study, for example, found that the tannins in witch hazel exhibited antiviral effects against both influenza A and human papillomavirus (HPV).

Another test-tube study showed that witch hazel extract inhibited the activity of herpes simplex virus 1, which is often the culprit behind cold sores

But although test-tube studies have found promising results, human studies are still lacking.

More studies are needed to look at the effects of witch hazel and its potential impact on viral infections in healthy adults.

So the short answer with the info we have based on 2 papers for unrelated viruses, is a long shot totally unproven & unsupported by any research maybe it might do a bit, in a test tube in perfect conditions. Not enough is known that I'd risk the health of anyone I know or even strangers on the internet on it working as a disinfectant or sanitizer in any way, it is simply an astringent as the tannins in it cause body tissues to contract or "shrink" temporarily.

I hesitated to write even this much about it as I know there are people out there that will take even the little information there is & run with it as "proof" it works. There is no proof it will do any such thing against COVID-19.
posted by wwax at 7:12 AM on March 9 [29 favorites]

It may partially depend on what else is in the wipes. If they're alcohol-based and you're wiping your hands thoroughly with a solution that's over 60% alcohol, they'll work as well as hand sanitizer.
posted by altolinguistic at 9:05 AM on March 9 [3 favorites]

I’m not aware that witch hazel is particularly effective at cleaning fats. It contains tannins, which bind to proteins, not fats.

Are you referring to its use as an astringent for oily skin? That works by the tannins binding to skin proteins, tightening the skin (thus making it feel “dryer”), and closing the pores that exude the oil — not so much by actually removing the oil itself. So there’s no reason to think it would be particularly effective at washing things off of your skin, including viruses.

I definitely don’t know of any studies actually testing its ability to reduce the number of microorganisms on the hands.

Stick with soap and water whenever possible, and 60%-alcohol sanitizer rubs if you can’t wash with soap and water.
posted by snowmentality at 10:19 AM on March 9 [9 favorites]

The only thing left on the shelf in that area of Walgreens yesterday was witch hazel, so I was wondering that myself.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:55 AM on March 10

Witch hazel is just a dilute botanical extract in solution, usually water or water/alcohol and maybe with some other additives. This isn't a disinfecting agent and shouldn't be used as one.

(Epidemiologist here)
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 11:35 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]

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