Soap – back to the bar

During this Corona Virus outbreak the main advice has been to wash your hands with soap and water to two verses of Happy Birthday. Not just a quick rinse under the tap but a good wash including between your fingers and under your nails. Basic hygiene.

As a soap maker I just wanted to give you some further information about why bar soap is best for washing hands to kill germs and why pumpy bottles of liquid hand wash don’t offer you quite the same protection that a good old traditional bar of solid soap does.

Pumpy bottles hold germs

When you touch a pumpy hand wash dispenser you transfer your germs onto that pump. These germs stay on the pump and when the next person touches that pump they add their germs and, in turn, pick up other germs that are already on the pump.

Numerous studies have shown that pump dispensers, particularly ones that are refilled many times, like the ones you find in public toilets, supermarkets, restaurants, etc. are a breeding ground for bacteria, which doesn’t necessarily get killed by the pumpy hand wash because, although it foams, it doesn’t kill germs quite as effectively as a traditional bar of solid soap.

I don’t want to go into too much detail, but just think – most of the people who touch a liquid hand wash dispenser have usually just used the toilet…. I’ll just leave that thought with you!

A quick google about how effective these liquid hand washes are will give you more information.

How does soap work?

Bars of soap, good old traditional solid soap, clean your skin effectively without stripping its natural acid mantle which, in turn, helps skin to protect itself from bacteria. Bar soap also preserves the natural flora and beneficial bacteria of your skin which not only cares for your skin but also creates a natural barrier to germs. When using a bar of solid soap the action of rubbing the bar over your skin to create foam also helps to remove germs.

But what about sharing a bar of soap with someone? Won’t you transfer germs to them?

NO!

Soap is an alkali. The bar of traditional soap you use, whatever condition it’s in, from its first use to when it’s a tiny sliver, is an alkali and no germs can live on it. So you can pass it from person to person and not transfer any germs.

Those of you over about 40 will doubtless remember the little off white bar of soap in the school toilets, which had no fragrance or frills. It looked a bit shrivelled from multiple use and had black lines of dirt along its ridges once it was getting a bit old.

That bar of soap was germ free! It may have looked a bit horrible but essentially it was fine to use, it couldn’t spread any bacteria and killed germs. And yet bar soap was swapped for liquid soap in plastic bottles as it was deemed to be better for us!

I won’t even begin to go into plastic use in this blog!

Are all bars of soap created equal?

Sadly not. A lot of ‘soaps’ are made from a base of sodium laureth/lauryl sulfate which is the main ingredient in pumpy hand wash and shower gels. Sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate (SLS) is an industrial strength surfactant (a de-greaser) but it doesn’t kill germs as effectively as a bar of traditional soap will. Essentially these ‘soaps’ are just solid versions of liquid hand wash or shower gel which doesn’t contain as many of the alkali based saponified oils and butters/fats to kill bacteria.

So, using SLS based or antibacterial products on your hands and body will clean your skin and will kill some germ,s but they will also strip all bacteria from your skin, including the necessary natural bacteria that skin has and needs in order to protect itself. This leaves your skin vulnerable to other germs and infections, as well as drying it out and making skin sore and cracked – which in turn leads to more germs being retained on the skin!

Which soap is best?

Traditional, old fashioned solid soap is best. Even the stuff you’d get from poundland or a supermarket would be fine to use to kill germs.

It’s worth bearing in mind tho, that a lot of cheaper soaps are made from tallow (animal fat) or palm oil so, although they will do the job and kill germs, they wouldn’t be very caring to your skin, tallow ones aren’t vegan and palm based ones won’t be very good for wildlife. But they are an alkali and therefore no germs can live on the bar so they will help to stop the spread of infection from touch.

So choose your soap wisely!

In conclusion

I’m not writing this blog to sell soap, I just want to give you some information about the different types of soap out there.

Just to reassure you tho, all the bars of soap that I make are alkali based so therefore it’s the right sort of soap to use. My soaps will also care for your skin and not dry it out which is an important factor to consider for many people with dry skin conditions when washing your hands a lot more. All my soaps are also vegan and environmentally sound.

If skincare isn’t an issue and you just want to keep your hands clean and germ free you can get solid soap from any supermarket (when the awful pumpy stuff has been panic bought the solid stuff is still there so it’s readily available). Other handmade soap makers sell it too.

Solid bars of soap used on your hands and body can help you to protect yourself from catching this awful virus via touch. Obviously there are other ways of catching it but this will give you the best chance of limiting the spread through touch. Never has Happy Birthday been sung so much!

So stay safe and keep up the hand washing.

Lots of love
Sue xxx

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