Eco-Friendly

Why You Should Switch to Bar Soap for… Everything

Small swap, big difference.

December  6, 2021
Photo by Fer A Cheval Olive Oil Stain Remover Soap

Have you ever considered using a bar of soap to wash your hair? Treat laundry stains? Scrub your dishes or give your dog a bath? No? You should.

With the rise in concern over plastic consumption, bar soaps are becoming an excellent—and accessible—alternative to liquid bath and body products. But substituting your daily face wash or hand soap is just the beginning. A simple concentrated bar soap can replace everything from shaving cream to an exfoliator and even—if you dare—toothpaste.

“Castile bar soaps such as Aleppo and Savon de Marseille have been around for centuries and were to wash dishes, laundry, skin, hair and more,” says Lily Cameron, owner of the package-free shop Wild Minimalist and author of the book, Simply Sustainable: Moving Toward Plastic-Free, Low-Waste Living. “Back then, soap wasn't marketed as a specialized cleanser for different parts of the body or home—soap was soap.”

Reaching for that bar over a bottle may feel like an uncomfortable change, but consider the environmental benefits. “Starting with the packaging, bar soap can be purchased in a cardboard box or package-free whereas liquid soap typically comes with a plastic bottle and pump,” says Cameron. “Liquid soap also is heavier than bar soap because the main ingredient is water and creates more carbon emissions during transport.”

Okay, but can a bar of soap really wash your hair? While plenty of all-in-one soaps are still on the market, more brands are beginning to formulate soaps for specific uses, from washing dishes to pets, shampoos and yes, even conditioner. “We've been conditioned to use liquid soap which seems more convenient than bar soap,” she says. “With bar soap you have to take that extra step to create a lather whereas liquid soap produces instant suds. Most often, those suds are a by-product of synthetic ingredients but in our minds, more suds equates to more cleanliness.”

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“A simple cheese grater is all you need to turn any bar soap into laundry soap or for dishes or to help it dissolve quickly in water. In the old days, families made their own soft soap from animal fat mixed with wood ash (wood ash, from the fireplace, is a good source of natural lye). It made a brown soft soap they they poured into tubs to use throughout the year. They used this for everything, bathing, laundry, dishes, cleaning, etc. (Read any Laura Ingals Wilder books and you can find mentions of bathers scooping brown soft soap from a container during a bath on bath night). Before the Nazis gave us chemical agriculture, everything was organic, food was made by chefs/cooks and not by chemists in labs, and soap was real and not made by chemists in a lab…. I think we need to place some restrictions on those chemists in the labs. ”
Comment

Seeing as shampooing is likely the major bar soap hurdle, we asked Judith Jones, founder of Good JuJu Herbal, for tips on hair washing. “The best way to apply bar soap to hair is to lather lightly in hands and then apply the bar straight onto the hair,” she says. “Evenly apply, place the soap in a well-draining spot, lather throughout the hair, and rinse." She adds:

Jones’ favorite soaps for washing hair are made with ingredients like lemongrass, rosemary and tea tree oil, and eucalyptus and bergamot, saying: "The benefit to our bar soap as shampoo is that it is free from sulfates which can dry out the scalp and flare up conditions like scalp eczema.” “From my own personal experience and according to feedback from customers, a bar of our soap at minimum matches the number of washes they get from a bottle of shampoo and most times provide more washes because you need less product," Jones adds.

Lisa Bronner, granddaughter of Dr. Bronner’s founder Emanuel Heilbronner, says the company is seeing a surge of interest in bar soap due to rising concern for packaging. To address the growing popularity, she wrote a bar soap dilution cheat sheet for the brand’s blog Going Green.

Photo by Amazon

It includes a multi-step process for storage-friendly soap cream, which can be applied as a shaving cream or diluted into several types of bath and body products, as well as cleaner. She also recommends rubbing a toothbrush directly in a hunk of soap and using as toothpaste.

She points out that not only do the bars rival the versatility of their liquid, but customers have also come to recognize the cost savings and convenience. “They are so excited to tell us about how they’ve returned from a month-long backpacking trip using just one bar of soap for washing themselves and all their gear, or that they’ve washed their chicken or sheep or hair or floor mats or how one square of soap tucked in a drawer kept the moths at bay.”

And if you, like me, have always wondered what to do with those small, seemingly useless (and annoying) last bits of soap, Jones suggests piggybacking the old bar onto a new bar, so nothing goes to waste. Here are a few other ideas for putting those remnant pieces of soap to good use:

  • Stash them in the laundry room and use as a concentrated stain stick.
  • Shred hunks and use as laundry detergent in non-HE or high efficiency washing machines.
  • Collect and save pieces in a soap case to use while traveling.
  • Dissolve into water and use as an all-purpose cleaner.

A few of our favorites

Ready to make the switch to bar soap? We rounded-up a handful to address everyone in the family.

Amazon

Dr. Squatch Pine Tar Face and Beard Soap, $9.95
There was a time when shaving a thick layer of cream away felt super satisfying but the waste cancels that out now. Try this small-batch, handmade bar instead, with a natural woodsy scent.

Dog Soap, $7
Not just for dogs, this bar of critter soap works well on other animals like backyard chickens. It’s crafted from a blend of essential oils such as rosemary, lavender, and eucalyptus for a fresh, clean coat (or feathers!) which can also help keep pests away like fleas, ticks, and mosquitos.

Photo by Humankind

Conditioning Bar, $15
For people with short hair, skipping the conditioner may not be an issue. But we’re relieved that By Human Kind came out with a companion conditioning bar designed to moisturize and help comb out those tangles.

Kid’s Detangling Shampoo Bar, $18.50
Switching from a bottle to a bar may seem like a challenge but kids may be swayed by this blue, bubblegum-scented bar. Make a challenge out of it and see how many suds they can lather up with the bar.

Photo by Elsie Green

All-purpose French soap, $24
As beautiful as it is practical, these squares of French milled soap are mild of sensitive skin but effective on everything from laundry to a pile of dishes. Don’t ditch the slivers. Repurpose as a stain remover.

Have you switched to bar soap recently? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Chantal Lamers

Written by: Chantal Lamers

Chantal Lamers is a home and lifestyle writer.

62 Comments

maplexnaturals December 30, 2021
Interesting (yet debatable) read on the usage of bar soaps as compared to liquid body washes.
 
Caronl December 26, 2021
I have been using shampoo and conditioner bars from the Earthling Company for about 9 months now. I love the way my hair feels and I get really good lather from the shampoo bar. My hairdresser even said, "whatever you're doing with your hair, keep doing it!" They also do not use palm oil.
 
Laura P. December 26, 2021
I recently switched to bar shampoo and conditioner. I have gray curly hair so I use the conditioner bar every day. I do still use a bottled heavy conditioner on days I wash my hair but I absolutely love the bar shampoo, it’s amazing. I have also switched to a body bar and a dish soap bar. I’m trying to get my husband and son to use a shaving bar, but they aren’t too happy with it. I will have to try other brands.
I enjoyed seeing how many brands make conditioner bars.
 
Rachel December 26, 2021
I have gray curly hair too! Please post your preferred brands for hair bars.
 
Laura P. December 26, 2021
I’m currently using the earthling brand shampoo and conditioner bars, they are coconut oil based. For my heavy conditioner I use Lus brand.
 
Drdoolittle December 16, 2021
I would love the recipe to Norwegian pudding that has cinnamon and sugar that you sprinkle on top after it has been cooked. I know that the recipe calls for flower lots of butter a small amount of sugar and then like I said sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. To guess the spelling wouldn't help. But you for sure have to pronounce the r the Norwegian r. Thanks for your help
 
AimeesFrenchMarket December 15, 2021
We have many of these products available now, including the Savon de Marseille cube soap! Www.AimeesFrenchMarket
Use code BONJOUR10 for 10% off your first order!
 
Frederick P. December 14, 2021
Great article. Love the tips and experiences shared. Research all your soaps to be sure you are getting a all natural product. And above all let’s not fight over soap. Your mom may stick in your mouth LOL.
 
Aeron R. December 14, 2021
I have been using bar soap for years [way before liquid hand soap was a thing]. I have always chosen small batch homemade style soaps , they feel so luxurious in my hands as I rub them under the tap!
*My big tip is to cut larger bars in half when you get them , no gloopy mess in the dish and they fit better in the hand.
*Also I add flattened glass [marbles?] to the dish so that the soap never sits in water.
 
Paula December 13, 2021
Most commercial bar soaps contain palmitate, which is a palm product that contributes to the destruction of the rainforests. So while it's great to move away from plastic packaging, we don't want to move towards rainforest deforestation.
 
Heeyunkim December 13, 2021
The easiest way to not let those little scraps go to waste is to collect them all in a cotton mesh soap saver bag, which you can purchase on Etsy for a few dollars. The mesh makes it easy to lather the soap and also acts as an exfoliator. You will get a lot more mileage out of your soap scraps than you thought possible!
 
Girl E. December 15, 2021
Absolutely great idea
 
E8bSDQn.W#LUySH December 12, 2021
There are bamboo baskets available at many stores that are the ideal size for storing any kind of bar. Simply hang them up and let air dry, preferably in the sun, and germs and goop are gone.
I also use a small muslin bag to store my odd ends of soap, using them exactly as suggested, for camping, laundry stains, etc. The small bags can also be hung up and the soap dries out easily.
II have been using alternative soaps since 1972, including as toothpaste. Still have all of my teeth and have had no problems with dental issues at all. If you floss and keep a healthy diet, you should be fine. Re: shampoo bars, if the conditioner leaves a film after washing, just do a vinegar rinse and your locks will shine.
 
Julie B. December 11, 2021
The problem with almost all bar soaps is that they contain palm oil—a crop that is devastating habitat in Indonesia and elsewhere, where orangutans and other wildlife are critically endangered. It's hard to know whether to trust organic or humanely harvested palm oil, since so much is produced on slash-and-burn plantations. Shop for palm-oil free soap -- it's a little harder to find, but worth it.
 
Meredith December 11, 2021
By using a bar soap does it have a greater chance of any bacteria of germs on it ?
 
lizmckee1 December 13, 2021
Maybe. But the bacteria is yours if you are the only person using the soap and it can be easily cleaned off by running the soap under water. If a household is using the soap then again, run the soap under water
 
Paula December 13, 2021
No. There have been tests done and they did not find that bar soap transmitted germs or bacteria.
 
cazilo December 11, 2021
I switched to Lush shampoo & conditioner bars in March. It took a while to get used to using the conditioner, but I love them. I think my hair seems healthier too.
 
alabamasawyer December 10, 2021
I use Shampoo and Conditioner. It's a game changer!
 
Janet December 10, 2021
What about in the dishwasher?
 
Aeron R. December 14, 2021
there are lots of natural and homemade dishwasher soap recipes out there !
I've tried them and they work well!
 
Frederick P. December 10, 2021
I have been using bar soap by Sally Ander for some time now and love their products. All Natural and environmentally friendly. They have bars for all types of hair and skin. Even my son uses the hair bars for his shampoo.
 
Debicaissie December 10, 2021
Bar soap accumulates a lot of bacteria and is therefore unsanitary. I went to cosmetology school and studied about bacteria and its not pretty. So when you wash your hands or body with bar soap that's been sitting in the soap dish collecting bacteria, you are just spreading germs everywhere. Your hands and body are not clean.
 
lizmckee1 December 13, 2021
Running the soap under water effectively removes any bacteria that might have accumulated on the bar. Bar soap is not unsanitary.
 
Paula December 13, 2021
From what I've read, bar soap does NOT harbor these germs and bacteria, etc. Regardless, it's not a good idea to leave bar soap sitting in a pool of water -- get a dish that drains properly.
 
easrosi December 9, 2021
I’ve been happily using Dr. Bronners peppermint Castile soap (bar) as a shampoo for years. (Trader Joe’s 🤷🏻‍♀️) and i use the baby soap bar (no scent) often (but not for really greasy pans)instead of dish soap. And for hand washing laundry or stain removal- Fels Naptha soap bar is the best!!
 
Carla L. December 9, 2021
Thanks for this article! I never thought to use bar soap for mair! That's a great idea. I do re use all my soap slivers,but putting them in a kind of basket with a long handle and you can save your soap slivers and use it to make sudsy water for dishes or for washing woollens . My mum used it all the time,so I simply kept using it in my house. I will look for a soap bar for my hair now,I live in Australia and I have not seen any yet.
 
pcball December 9, 2021
Bar soap is great for some things, but not everything, mainly because of it's high pH and especially if it is super-fatted. Most handmade soapers agree that it's not great for hair and that laundry soaps need to have zero superfat to work best; soap with a zero superfat isn't what you want for your skin. Not all bar soaps are the same :-)
 
carole G. December 9, 2021
I just finished a batch of cold process bar soap. I have to agree with pcball. I know we can use bars instead of liquid, but it is necessary to identify which type (ph/superfat %) to use for what things. It’s a great introduction to me to the benefits and variety of uses for
bar soap.