Is bar soap better than shower gel

bar soap is better than shower gel

Supermarket shelves groan under the weight of liquids and gels designed to cleanse the body and hands. Body wash, body polish, liquid soap, shower cream, shower gel and shower jelly all seek to upstage the old-fashioned soap bar.

Is bar soap better than shower gel?

Bar soap is better than shower gel primarily as it’s vastly cheaper but also it’s minimal packaging, shower gels come in plastic bottles, soap in paper.  Environmentally speaking bar soap is a no-brainer, surely?

I buy bars of soap, which apparently shows I’m neither young nor trendy. Millennials (18 to 34 year olds) favour liquid soap over a bar, which they believe to harbour germs, but does it?

A study in 1988 looked at whether detrimental bacteria were transferred from a bar of soap onto the hands when washing, and concluded: “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 to prevent the spread of disease.” [1]

is bar soap less effective than liquid soap?

Is bar soap safe?

The fear that a bar of soap is unhygienic appears to be unfounded. [1] Washing your hands with an antibacterial soap is no more effective than washing thoroughly with a regular bar of soap for 20 seconds. [2] Thoroughly drying your hands with paper towel or a rapid air dryer is another step in preventing the spread of bacteria.


Triclosan woes

Last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned triclosan, triclocarban and 17 other chemicals commonly used in antibacterial soaps and washes. Triclosan is found in antibacterial soaps and gels, and also Colgate Total toothpaste. It’s also an endocrine (hormone) disruptor.

Canada has not made such a decision as yet, but I hope they follow suit. For now, Canadians have to read labels in order to avoid triclosan.

The FDA said:


“Companies will no longer be able to market antibacterial washes with these ingredients because manufacturers did not demonstrate that the ingredients are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections.”


Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) said:


“Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water.” [3]


Are we too clean?

We can be too clean, and in a household setting regular use of antibacterial products is unnecessary.

Woodcock also said: “some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long term.”

The environment was better off when we used bar soap with simple paper packaging. Today liquid soap is housed in plastic bottles, a retrograde step.

It’s time to return to the humble bar of soap; it’s eco-friendly, effective and a money saver.

Soap is sold everywhere, it’s cheap too, I bought a bar of excellent soap for $1.90 the other day.  Far cheaper than a $7 shower jelly!

I think bar soap is better than shower gel for many reasons and it’s cheaper too.


Wash your hands with a regular bar of soap for 20 seconds with water, then thoroughly dry your hands with paper towel or using a rapid air dryer.


Further reading:

Triclosan concerns

Recycling isn’t a get out of jail card

Simple skin care solutions


[1]  Washing with contaminated bar soap is unlikely to transfer bacteria:
[2] Show me the science: Handwashing:
[3]  FDA issues final rule on safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps.

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