Sometimes we get questions asking whether "bar soaps" are hygienic?
When we meet people and tell them that we have a soap company, the discussion often leads to questions about "bar" soaps. So many people tell us that they would love to switch to a natural soap to get rid of the chemicals and the plastic bottles.
So what is stopping them? Some people believe that bars of soap are less hygienic than liquid soap.
So, are bar soaps hygienic? Of course, for us, the answer is YES!
The strange thing is that when we were younger (a long time ago) we had one bathroom and one bar of soap that was shared by the entire family. We never thought anything of it and we seldom got sick.
Human skin has a natural microbiome that contains thousands of different bacteria, fungi, and viruses that do not cause negative health consequences for those with an intact immune system because they are part of our bodies. As a matter of fact, this microbiome helps keeps our skin healthy.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word hygienic means, "Conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease, especially by being clean; sanitary." It may seem like an odd question to ask whether something specifically created to help make you clean is hygienic, but actually, it is a very good question.
It makes sense that the microbes of your natural microbiome plus the oils and dead skin cells on your hands will get passed on to everything you touch. Numerous studies have shown that we transfer this bacteria to our mobiles, keyboards, remote controls, doorknobs, taps, liquid soap dispensers, light switches, showerheads, washcloths, towels and yes even our soap bars.
The bacteria on your soap bar are less of a problem than the bacteria you pick up from other places on your hands.
The germs on the bar of soap that you use in your home have no negative health effects because they are coming from you. Your body has adapted to live with its natural microbial environment.
Even if you are sharing a soap bar with a family member that lives in your home, your bodies have most likely adapted because you share many of the same microorganisms.
Numerous studies have shown that although bacteria levels on a used bar of soap are slightly higher than on unused soaps, there are no detectable levels of bacteria left on the skin's surface after using a bar of soap.
E. Heinze and F. Yackovich published a study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Infectionin which they inoculated the surface of soap bars with extra bacteria so that the bacterial count was 70 times that of a typical used soap bar.
After a group of people washed their hands with the high bacteria soap, there were no detectable levels of the bacteria on the surface of their skin. The study concluded there was no evidence of bacteria transfer from the soap to your hands.
The idea that the bacteria on a bar of soap are not transferred to your skin may seem odd, but consider that washing with a bar of soap is not like drying off with a towel or touching a tap.
First of all, as you place your soap bar under the tap to create lather--you are actually washing off the surface of the soap. Then when you lather up with soap the oil-attracting end picks up greasy dirt and oils on your skin and when you rinse, the water-attracting end allows you to rinse away the soap and impurities. When you towel dry or touch a light switch or tap, any bacteria you transfer remains there.
Just a side note, research carried out at the University of Arizona in 2014 by Charles Gerba demonstrated that towels may be the most contaminated item in your home because they are used often and they retain moisture for a long period of time, which helps bacteria breed.
Bacteria do not like to live in the actual soap bar, they are attracted to water that sits on top of the soap. So if you are still concerned, doing a couple of simple things will help your bar soap harbour fewer germs.
- Allow Your Soap to Dry: Store soap out of the water and allow it to dry between uses to get rid of the moist environment that germs enjoy. If you take lots of showers consider using a couple of soap bars and alternating them to allow enough drying time between each use. Slatted soap dishes or soap dishes designed to let the bar drain and dry are ideal for this.
- Rinse Your Soap: If your soap is not dry, rinse it under running water before lathering up to get rid of the wet outer surface.