Are Natural Soap Bars Hygienic?
Some people tell me that they would love to switch to a natural soap to get rid of the chemicals and the plastic bottles.
So what is stopping them? They often believe that bars of soap are less hygienic than liquid soap.
My answer, of course, is that liquid soaps are NOT more hygienic than solid soap bars!
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word hygienic means, "Conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease, especially by being clean; sanitary."
It may seem like an odd question to ask whether something specifically created to help make you clean is hygienic, but actually, it is an excellent question that has actually been studied.
Human skin has a natural microbiome that contains thousands of different bacteria, fungi, and viruses that do not cause negative health consequences for those with an intact immune system because they are part of our bodies. As a matter of fact, this microbiome helps keeps our skin healthy.
It makes sense that the microbes of your natural microbiome plus the oils and dead skin cells on your hands will get passed on to everything you touch. Numerous studies have shown that we transfer this bacteria to our cell phones, keyboards, remote controls, doorknobs, faucets, liquid soap dispensers, light switches, showerheads, washcloths, towels and yes even our soap bars.
The bacteria on your soap bar are less of a problem than the bacteria you pick up from other places on your hands.
The germs on the bar of soap that you use in your home have no negative health effects because they are coming from you. Your body has adapted to live with its natural microbial environment.
Even if you are sharing a soap bar with a family member that lives in your home, your bodies have most likely adapted because you share many of the same microorganisms.
Numerous studies have shown that although bacteria levels on a used bar of soap are slightly higher than on unused soaps, there are no detectable levels of bacteria left on the skin's surface after using a bar of soap.
Bacteria do not like to live in the actual soap bar, they are attracted to water that sits on top of the soap after use. When using a bar of natural soap properly, creating a lather with a 30-second scrub and very warm water, the top layer, dirt, and germs are washed down the drain.
So if you are still concerned, doing a couple of simple things will help your bar soap harbor fewer germs.
- Allow Your Soap to Dry: Store soap out of the water and allow it to dry between uses to get rid of the moist environment that germs enjoy. If you take lots of showers consider using a couple of soap bars and alternating them to allow enough drying time between each use.
- Rinse Your Soap: If your soap is not dry, rinse it under running water before lathering up to get rid of the wet outer surface.
So it seems that when considering "soap" the choice is between a bar and a liquid in a bottle. So my question is . . . how hygienic is liquid soap? And how often do you clean the top of your liquid soap dispenser?
For a more detailed discussion (especially about liquid soap) please read our blog, "Are Bar Soaps Hygienic?"