Is bar soap vs liquid soap better? This will depend on your motivation for weighing up these two options. If you’re looking for a plastic-free soap then bar soap is definitely the way to go.
Asking people if they prefer bar soap can cause a bit of marmite ‘esque’ debate, some love it and some hate it. Over the last two decades or so, liquid soap has become very popular, to be honest, it’s hard to remember the days when most bathrooms featured good old fashioned bar soap for washing. The main reason for this is that it’s a common perception that bar soap is less hygienic than liquid. But that’s not 100% accurate as you’ll see further down.
Does liquid soap really clean better? Which one is the most sustainable? And which option is kindest to your skin?
Let’s work through these questions:
Which soap cleans better bar vs liquid?
We’re all concerned about germs, in the current climate a virus in particular, and have been encouraged to increase handwashing to reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses as it gives our families the best chance of avoiding infection. You might think that bar soaps carry bacteria more easily because of the direct contact and moist environment. But what does the science say?
Studies have shown that both bar and liquid soap wash equally well. Even though germs might stay on bar soap between washes, the germs won’t impact the ability of the soap to wash germs from your hands. As long as you lather the soap and wash properly for 20 seconds or more of course. So in essence both are equal when it comes to cleaning power.
Is bar soap vs liquid soap better for the environment?
A Swiss study conducted in 2009 concluded that the carbon footprint of liquid soaps was 25 per cent higher than that of bar soap. Liquid soap requires 5 times more energy to make and 20 times more energy to package in a plastic bottle when compared to the wrapping/packaging of bar soap.
We also have a tendency to use more liquid soap per wash than bar soap, which means there is a lot more waste when it comes to liquid soap.
Even though bar soap is more eco-friendly overall, it’s important to buy a good quality soap that uses sustainable oils and organic ingredients wherever possible, as some of the harsher bar soaps can contribute to environmental damage. So even though bar soaps have a clear advantage, the devil is in the detail. Make sure you choose a good quality soap without harsh chemicals and nasty ingredients.
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Is bar soap or liquid soap better for skin?
Many liquid soaps are packed with chemicals, surfactants and preservatives that can be damaging to your body and skin. Not all liquid soaps are evil, but liquid soap requires water, to which you have to add preservatives, and that is where potential trouble steps in.
Until recently parabens, an ingredient suspected of interrupting hormone function amongst other things, was widely used as a preservative in liquid soap. Luckily parabens are not that widely used anymore, but liquid soap still needs a preservative to stay “fresh”.
On the other hand bar soap is usually made with sodium hydroxide, and when the formulation is right this chemical completely disappears due to a reaction with the oils.
The process is called saponification and once the reaction has been completed you’re left with free fatty acids and glycerol, no preservatives needed. Formulated bar soap allows you to add more, good-for-skin-and-body ingredients, without the nasty preservatives.
Please note, when buying bar soap look for versions that contain natural oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, Avocado oil, Vitamin oils, glycerin and even sustainable palm oil (make sure it states sustainable palm oil so that you don’t contribute to deforestation!).
Great brands to try are: