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Is Bar Soap Sanitary?

October 04, 2021 4 min read

Is Bar Soap Sanitary?

Bar soaps are experiencing a renaissance of sorts. Once formulated with harsh ingredients that stripped the skin’s natural oils, the latest generation of beauty bars prioritize skin-friendly ingredients (not to mention minimal packaging) that are kinder to your body and the planet. This much-needed makeover has led to an explosion of solid bar products, from travel-friendly shampoo bars and conditioner bars you can take on a plane to grease-fighting dish soap bars that promise to get your dishes squeaky clean without plastic.

Unfortunately, many people are still under the impression that soap bars are unhygienic. Unlike bottled liquid soap products that dispense with a single squirt, bar soaps are left out in the open where they’re touched again and again until they become a tiny sliver. This naturally makes a person wonder, “Is bar soap sanitary?” Read on to find out the truth.

Yes, Bar Soap Is Sanitary

We’ll cut right to the chase — bar soap is definitely sanitary! In fact, studies going back to 1965 have shown that the level of bacteria that occurs on bar soap is nothing to lose sleep over. In that particular study, scientists concluded that “bacteria are not transferred by this means from person to person, nor does the soap support bacterial growth.”

Since then, additional studies have come to the same conclusion. In an often-cited study published by researchers in 1988, sixteen volunteers washed their hands with intentionally contaminated soaps. After washing, none of the volunteers showed detectable levels of the bacteria.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes no distinction between handwashing with liquid soap or bar soap to prevent sickness and endorses both types of soap equally. 

In short, both bar soaps and liquid soaps are equally good at cleansing. One just happens to be less expensive, longer-lasting and better for the environment (yes, we’re talking about bar soap!).

A Few Important Caveats

While bar soap is sanitary in general, that doesn’t mean it’s completely germ-free. Truth be told, there are probably a few germs lurking on your humble bar of soap. But experts say that these germs are less problematic because they most likely come from you. 

Your skin is colonized by millions of microbes — including bacteria, fungi and viruses — that make up your skin microbiota. Most of these microbes are harmless to you, their host, because they have adapted to work with your immune system and protect you against illnesses. Therefore, picking up your own germs from a bar of soap doesn't pose as much of a threat because your body has already adapted to fight those germs.

There are some caveats, however. If you’re living with a weakened immune system, you may have a higher risk of infection, even from your own microbes.

Also, be aware that an open wound can make it easier for disease-causing pathogens to enter your body and cause an infection. But if you think that the solution is to squirt some body wash on a loofah, think again. Loofahs stay in a warm, wet environment, making them a breeding ground for germs. So, unless you apply the body wash directly on your body, you’re still better off sudsing up with a body soap bar.

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How to Keep Your Bar Soap (Relatively) Germ-Free

The chances of a healthy individual getting sick from a bar of soap is basically nil. But if you want to take some precautions, here are a few tips for keeping the germs of our bar soaps to a minimum.  

  • Don’t share your bar soap. The less people who share your bar soap, the less germ-y it will be. You can reduce the spread of bacteria by getting a bar of soap for each member of your family. To avoid potential mix-ups, try to choose bar soaps in different colors or designs for each family member.
  • Allow your soap bar to dry. Bacteria grow better in moist areas, so consider storing your bar in a soap saver that allows it to dry completely in between washes. If you share a shower with a family member or a roommate, we also recommend taking your bar soaps out of the shower to keep them drier. (Hint: This also helps extend the lifespan of your bars.)
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  • Use the right technique. Proper scrubbing is key to getting bacteria off the skin, regardless of whether you're using bar soap or liquid soap. To use your bar soap correctly, you'll want to give it a quick rinse under the faucet before applying it directly to your body. If you’re washing your hands, make sure that you scrub for at least 20 seconds.


Keep Your Body (and Your Conscience) Clean with Plastic-Free Bars 

To sum things up, both liquid soap and bar soap are perfectly sanitary options that will help you get squeaky clean. But from an environmental standpoint, there’s no denying that bar soap wins. Not only does bar soap come without the wasteful plastic bottle, but it also takes less energy to produce and lasts longer than the liquid stuff. 

Thinking about trying bar soap? Check out the entire collection of solid bar products at The Earthling Co. and make the switch today!