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Is Bar Soap Better for the Environment?

July 11, 2023 3 min read

Is Bar Soap Better for the Environment?

Since ancient times, people have used countless tons of soap to keep their skin clean, fresh and healthy. Today, there are soaps to suit everyone, from foaming and liquid soaps in hygienic pump dispensers to bar soaps that can clean, purify, soften and help heal your skin. All soaps are created from Earth’s resources, so how does the soap you choose affect the environment? Is a body wash bar a greener choice? Let’s find out.

Find the Best Natural, Sustainable Body Wash Bar at The Earthling Co.

Packaging

When it comes to packaging, less is more. Liquid soap is packaged in irregularly shaped plastic dispensers that can be difficult to store and transport. Creating and throwing away these containers pollutes the environment; they generally end up in a landfill or an incinerator, and recycling them also uses energy. Bar soaps are typically wrapped in uniform cardboard or paper packaging that breaks down when it is thrown away. Since bar soap boxes and wrappers are made from less material than liquid soap bottles, they use less energy, use fewer resources, and create less waste overall.

Consumption

Have you ever thought about how much soap you need to get clean? Scientists found that when people replace liquid soap with bar soap, they use about six times less product every time they wash their hands. If liquid soap takes up more space and runs out more quickly than bar soap, it will also use more energy to create, transport and store over its lifetime.

soap bar under shower water

Ingredients

All soaps have two basic ingredients: oil (or fat) and lye. Combining these materials causes a chemical reaction that creates soap.

Liquid soaps are usually made with potassium hydroxide, which makes a soft soap that becomes liquid when makers add water. However, most liquid soaps you can buy may actually be petroleum-based synthetic detergents.

Liquid soaps typically contain emulsifying agents, stabilizers, preservatives, fragrances and dyes. Most liquid soap contains sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) to help create lather and parabens such as propyl-, methyl-, ethyl-, and butylparaben that act as preservatives.

Bar soap is usually made from plant oil, such as sunflower seed oil, coconut oil, or olive oil. 

Most bar soaps have extra ingredients that make them effective and pleasant to use. Glycerine, shea butter, lavender, tea tree, peppermint, orange, lemon, cedar and rose essential oils are examples of natural enhancements.

Effects on Skin

It’s important to understand how the ingredients in your soap can affect your skin and well-being. All soaps can wash away dirt and bacteria, but bar soaps like the ones you can find at The Earthling Co. typically do the job with fewer ingredients and no synthetic chemicals.

Many bar soaps, shampoo bars, and conditioner bars include ingredients like glycerine, goat’s milk, and sunflower oil that lower pH levels as well as herbs and minerals that can help treat problem skin. These soaps can be moisturizing and calming, gently scented or fragrance-free.

While liquid soaps are known for being moisturizing, they also tend to contain more synthetic chemicals than bar soap. These chemicals have been tested for safety, but in some cases, the effects of long-term, repeated exposure are not well known. In the short term, some additives like fragrances, perfumes and dyes can cause allergic reactions and irritation. SLS can irritate your skin and eyes, while parabens can disrupt your hormones.

Environmental Effects

As soap washes away, it flows down your drain and enters the water supply, where it can potentially affect the environment. The natural oils in bar soap are known to degrade quickly into nontoxic material compounds, while the synthetic surfactants, dyes, fragrances and preservatives in liquid soap may take much longer to biodegrade and cause harm as they return to the earth.

Shop Natural and Sustainable Bathroom Products at The Earthling Co.

holding soap bars

Bar Soap Benefits You and the Planet

When you consider the environmental impact of producing, packaging and using soap, it’s easy to see that bar soap is better for you and your environment. As you decide which kind of soap and sustainable bathroom products to buy, it’s up to you to weigh the benefits. Bar soap tends to use natural materials that can be sustainably farmed. At The Earthling Co., we use packaging and ingredients in our bar soaps that minimize harm to plants, animals, water and the air. Most of all, the natural ingredients in our soap will nourish your skin and delight your senses.