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Whats so special about a bar soap!

Posted by Adai M on

I remember as a child my whole family used the same bar of soap. Every Friday was 'bath night' in our home and we were visited at eight o'clock on the dot by an aunt who did not have hot water in her property in order to have a bath. It was common in our neighbourhood not to have hot water. My parents would burn the coal fire for a few hours before her arrival be it summer or winter to ensure generating sufficient hot water using our greatly loved 'back burner'. When my aunt had finished bathing and appeared in the kitchen for tea and Jacobs Cream Crackers I would then climb in the still warm cloudy water where Lavender and Rose fragrance emerged from the solid blocks of bath salts she used to use. How novel it was to experience anything exotic in the toiletries range. I can still remember the gold foil and floral paper wrapper. I'm sure I was stinking of the stuff for days and it's no wonder that almost every Saturday morning I would find myself in a fight with some bully from the neighbourhood because I 'smelled funny'.

However as said before this was the only opportunity to wash with anything other than the bar soap which was forever in our sink. Over time however the bar of soap disappeared from my parents house and was replaced by liquid hand and body wash. This was a sign of my family's new affluence and sophistication and my parents place in the modern world. Bar soap had become old fashioned and was even said to be unhygienic and a likely source of germs.

A marketing machine had worked its influence and these days pretty much every house in my old Dublin town will boast liquid soap.

But is their really a hygiene problem with bar soap or were we sold a lot of marketing 'hot water'.

Several studies have shown this is the case. They almost all conclude washing even with deliberately contaminated bar soap is unlikely to transfer bacteria, especially if the bar gets rinsed off between uses. According to an article in the NY Times by C Claiborne Ray July 10, 2007:

"soap bars were inoculated with E. coli and P. aeruginosa bacteria at levels 70 times as high as those reported on used soap bars. Then, 16 people were told to wash their hands as usual with the inoculated bars. After washing, none of the 16 panelists had detectable levels of either test bacterium on their hands,” the researchers wrote. “These findings, along with other published reports, show that little hazard exists in routine hand washing with previously used soap bars and support the frequent use of soap and water for hand washing.”

Their is a scientific explanation to this germ free state of soap which simply put is that when you 'lather up' the soap molecule gathers grease, oils and impurities on your skin. Then when you 'rinse off' the water takes the soap — and their attached impurities — away.

All very well you might say but 'my liquid soap is more moisturising than bar soap'. Is it really? A good natural bar soap will be almost entirely moisturising butters and oils. A liquid soap is generally part soap, part chemical such as Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLS) and larger part water. SLS is a known skin irritant but as it makes bubbles bigger it is put in the mix to create what the professionals call 'flash' bubbles or foaming. But do you really want it on your skin – just to have big bubbles? This is the primary ingredient which is not permitted in baby soaps but it is allowed in other products.

Most liquid body washes are made of petroleum, while many traditional bar soaps are made of saponified animal fat and plant oils (we only use plant oils). Liquid soaps often need the addition of emulsifying agents and stabilizers to maintain their consistency. Although these chemicals may have been approved by the relevant authorities for use on humans, the testing procedures do not include the consequence of long term use or interactions between these and the myriad of other chemicals in our environment. For example, diethnanolarmin (DEA) is commonly added to confer a creamy texture and foaming action. It inhibits in baby mice the absorption of choline (not to be confused with chlorine), which is an essential nutrient necessary for brain development and maintenance. High concentrations of DEA were also found to induce body and organ weight changes, and mild blood, liver, kidney and testicular systemic toxicity in mice. A 2009 study also found that DEA is potentially toxic for aquatic species.

Using liquid soap also involves guesswork about the right amount to use. Many people end up using more than twice the recommended amount. This causes residue requiring extra time to rinse off or it remaining on your skin. Every extra minute in the shower results in another 19 litres of water going down the drain so this is bad for you or bad for the environment. When you later with a bar soap you rub it on the skin until you have enough lather then you put it down – no guesswork involved! You always get the correct amount! With bar soap, it’s pretty easy to tell when you’ve got enough suds, so not only is bar soap more convenient but it saves water.

Containing lots of water, body washes are also much heavier than bar soap, resulting in a significantly higher carbon footprint for transportation. Packaging for body washes are made of plastic that often ends up in the landfill or our oceans. Bar soap has the clear edge in transportation, packaging and disposal.

We do make liquid soap but it is a variety of Castile Soap which is made from plant oils such as Olive Oil. However at this time it is not available on the website as I have not found a viable packaging system which is sufficiently environment friendly. However I can only conclude that the majority of liquid body washes really provide little or benefits to the consumer, create significant profits for manufacturers, and are tremendously harmful to the environment. So are you ready to switch back and try some of our wonderful bar soap? 

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