Bar Soaps Forever!

I will admit that I did not use bar soap 10 years ago. It’s a bar. It’s messy. It seemed old fashioned. Isn’t squeezing a dollop of goo easier?

Apparently, a lot of people agree with the me of a decade ago. I was reading in a trade magazine that bar soap sales are trending downward. Let’s talk about some of the issues:

  • Some people believe that bar soap is less hygienic than liquid, that germs can stay on the bar.
  • To some, bar soap is “messy.” I agree that if you leave your soap in a puddle of water, it will melt and leave a mess in your soap dish (and maybe create that “less hygienic issue above!).
  • Some people believe that the higher pH of bar soap is more drying, or bar soap is generally more drying.

Let’s tackle these!

Is your bar soap germs and going to make you sick? Highly unlikely, says this peer-reviewed study. They actually innoculated bar soap with extra bacteria, had people wash their hands, and voila. The volunteers’ hands did not have the bacteria.

Bar soap isn’t magical–it isn’t going to kill bacteria on contact. But soap does have pretty cool properties: one part of it is hydrophilic (attracted to water) and the other is lipophilic (attracted to oil). The lipophilic side binds to oils and dirt, which are then washed away when the hydrophilic side binds to water and is rinsed away.

Obviously, if you’re immune compromised or have other needs, talk to your medical professionals about the best products to use. Otherwise, though, bar soap is great!

Is bar soap messy? This is the issue for most people. A squeeze bottle is more convenient than a bar. I can’t argue with that…much. A plastic bottle won’t melt into a gooey mess in your shower, true.

However, bar soap doesn’t have to be messy. It’s mostly, as we say in the tech biz, an end user issue.

Suggestion 1: Buy a soap net. Yes, I sell these. Because I love them. Pop in a bar, and hang the net anywhere in your bath. The soap will drip dry between uses, so it will last longer, stay harder, and not be a goopy mess. The net is also mildly exfoliating, and lasts about a year.    After that, you can recycle it. They’re made in the US by a family-owned company. Win-win-win-win, right?

Suggestion 2: For hand washing at the sink, get any good soap dish. The dish should allow the soap to air dry as much as possible between uses.

Kathi is partial to a European style she introduced me to, which has two parts: a stand that hangs over your wash basin and a magnet that you embed in the soap (you reuse it for every bar). This keeps the soap out of puddles, and handy.

On to the third objection: that bar soap is somehow not as good for your skin as liquid cleansers. Because both vary so wildly, this one is harder to address.

When I make a bar of soap, the chemical reaction produces (among other things) glycerine, which is really lovely for your skin!

Check out this bar of soap. Do you see the “rivers” among the color? Some soapmakers avoid those, but I kind of like the crackle look (though achieving it can be hit-or-miss). Those are glycerine rivers, a natural byproduct of the soapmaking process. Big soap producers actually remove the glycerine from their soaps and sell it, because it is a valuable byproduct of the process. Little makers like me know that it makes our soap more wonderful for your skin.

In addition to the glycerine, I super fat my soap bars: in other words, I add 5-20% extra oil and butter to every soap, so that it will not strip your skin of natural oils.

For me and many people I’ve talked to, the difference between a liquid body wash and my handmade soap is huge. Our skin feels much better, much less dry, and needs much less (or no!) lotion after a shower or bath, even in winter.

I’ve written before about bar soap being better for the environment than liquid body wash (no plastic packaging, much less water in the manufacture, lighter to transport…). Now that you know they are great for your skin and, with a little care, not messy, does that change your mind, and make you want to switch? Hope so!



  1. Buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz… (interpretation: do you sell the magnetic soap holder, or have a recommendation form Kathi?)

    • Lesli says

      I’ll ask her which one she uses and let you know. The big difference seems to be price and decorativeness rather than function!

Bees communicate through dance. You get to type!

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