There’s Nothing to Fear from Bar Soap

As the maker of bar soap, I often get asked by customers if I also make liquid soap. Many folks believe that bar soap is somehow unsanitary. I’ve even read that bacteria can grow on soap bars, and that people shouldn’t share bars because it can spread disease. Ick.

So I went looking for some evidence that bar soap is this vector of contagion. I found several studies that show that bar soap, especially when left to sit in a puddle of water or in a wet soap dish can harbor colonies of bacteria. It makes sense since bacteria love to hang out in wet places.

But one study in 1988 went a step further and asked the question, “Can the bacteria found on soap get transferred to someone else?” That’s really the issue, isn’t it? What happens to the bacteria that is living on a bar of soap?

So the researchers took some bars and spread a whole lot of bacteria on them: 70 times more than anyone had ever found on any soap bars before! Then they asked the volunteers (brave volunteers) to wash their hands with the soap. When they tested their hands for bacterial contamination, there was no detectable bacteria on any of their hands. So they reason that it’s very unlikely that germs that are present on soap bars will be transferred to someone using the soap to wash their hands. It makes sense to me, since that’s one of the great things about soap, that it dislodges bacteria and makes it much easier to just rinse it away.

I don’t make liquid soap, by the way, because I believe that handmade bar soap is better overall for the environment. It doesn’t contain any detergents or petrochemicals that can get into our waterways. And there is much less packaging involved with a bar of soap: some shrink wrap (like mine) or maybe a paper wrapper or box. While plastic pump bottles may be recyclable, I still like the idea of trying to make less of the plastic stuff to begin with.

And you can’t beat handmade soap bars for variety! You could never get bored with all the scents and colors and designs…

So fear not! Use your bar soap, keep it in a draining soap dish to let it dry out between uses, and enjoy!

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9 thoughts on “There’s Nothing to Fear from Bar Soap

  1. So true. Did you know that one study showed significant bacteria growth on the stem of a soap pump where it was exposed to air above the soap line…. sorry I can’t quote the source on this, but it caught my attention in passing

  2. Don’t you just love it when you can find backing to stick it to the smart alecs who think they have put one over on you! As a nurse I’ve always preferred a good bar of real soap to any other alternative. It was good enough for Igantius Semmelweis (look him up), so it’s good enough for me!

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