Wednesday, November 4, 2009

SOAP: LIQUID vs. BAR

Yuck, who would want to use bar soap? They are full of germs. It isn't as clean as using liquid soap! I'm not risking my health, sorry."


A friend actually said this to me once when I tried to give her a bar of soap. She asked "what would I do with it, I can't use it to clean my hands or my body."

After that experience and of course realizing that so many people prefer liquid over bar, I started thinking about why most people turned away from bar soap and instead reach for the commercial liquid soap. Is it the convenience of the pump bottle? Is it seriously because more germs hang around on a bar of soap as oppose to the bottle of liquid soap? Numerous questions abound. But... what are the facts?

Here are the top reasons I've found that make people choose liquid soap over bar soap:

Myth: There isn't any lather in a bar of soap.
Fact: Detergent bars (those bars masquerading as soap) - you know them... ahem - DOVE, cough cough - OIL OF OLAY), can have a limited amount of suds. But they aren't real soap. That is why they don't have the word "SOAP" printed on their packaging. Real soap, those made from handmade soapmakers can have anywhere from very little suds to a massive amount of suds. I create a bar for my kids that I wrap in a muslin bag, hang below the faucet while running a bath, and it fills the entire tub with suds for a great bubble bath.

Myth: You feel cleaner after using liquid soap. Bar soap leaves a residue behind.
Fact: I've never heard anyone complain about feeling dirty after using handmade soap. One of the greatest benefits of using natural handmade soap is having healthy oils like olive, coconut, almond, avocado, etc... on your skin. Sometimes with the added benefit of herbs and essential oils. It is true that detergent bars leave an uncomfortable residue but that is because of the chemical ingredients they use to make the bar hard, to preserve and bind it. A healthy natural bar of soap won't leave a sticky residue on your skin. It will feed your skin.

Myth: The price of liquid soap is much better than that of a bar soap.
Fact: It depends on how one would measure "price." If price is solely determined by your pocket book, than yes, I'm sure it costs less to buy a bottle of liquid soap. Most liquid soaps cost anywhere from $2.50 - $5.00 depending on their size and manufacturer. A bar of soap generally costs between $3 and $7 a bar (depending on weight and the soapmaker). I don't measure price by cost, I measure price by health and environment. Our environment pays a hefty price for all the plastic liquid soap bottles we toss into the landfills. Sure you can buy a giant refill bottle but you will eventually toss that and toss the broken down pump bottle, but a bar of soap will get used and leave nothing behind. Liquid commercial soaps also have quite a bit of chemicals in them that can be absorbed through the skin and potentially harm your health.

Myth: Bar soaps are loaded with germs. You couldn't use the same soap for all family members like you can liquid soaps.
Fact: According to a 1988 study, prewashed and softened commercial soap bars were inoculated with E. coli and P. aeruginosa bacteria at 70 times as high as those reported on used soap bars, 16 people washed their hands with the inoculated bars.

“After washing, none of the 16 panelists had detectable levels of either test bacterium on their hands,” the researchers wrote. “These findings, along with other published reports, show that little hazard exists in routine handwashing with previously used soap bars and support the frequent use of soap and water for handwashing.”


To my friend I say this. Don't be fooled by marketing gimicks. The main reasons liquid soaps became so popular, beginning in the 70's, was because of their appearance. They didn't dissolve the way bar soaps do, but instead came in pretty appealing bottles. Those pretty liquid handsoap bottles soon became liquid body soap bottles. In later years the selling point was "antibacterial" and it worked. Triclosan is the most widely used anti bacterial ingredient in liquid hand soaps, which by the way has a hazard score of 7 on the cosmetic safety database site, with 10 being the worst. We've now heard that the over use of antibacterial products kills healthy germs with bad germs. In short, we've become victims of mass marketing.

Sure, we all need to market what we are selling, but shouldn't our marketing be honest? I believe a bar of soap can sell itself if people take the time to really learn how wonderful it is. Don't be afraid to ask what ingredients are in the handmade soap you'd like to buy, you will be able to read and understand what is on the label, unlike with commercial products. A bar of soap is a luxury for the skin and great for the environment... can a commercial liquid soap honestly state that?

One last thought: if you just can't seem to part with your liquid soap at least go natural. There are great all natural liquid soaps available.

Interesting reading:

ARTICLE 1
ARTICLE 2