No, soap isn’t dirty. And yes, you read that right! It seems weird to think that something that is supposed to get you clean can be dirty, but some people worry that bar soap is a surface filled with germs. Since we are in the business of making hand, body, and tooth soaps, we want to dive into this subject to bring you some ease.
Are bar soaps sanitary?
We know the microbes of your natural microbiome plus the oils and dead skin cells on your hands will be passed onto everything you touch. Studies have shown that we undoubtedly transfer these bacteria to our cell phones, keyboards, remote controls, doorknobs, faucets, liquid soap dispensers, light switches, and even our bars of soap.
However, 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.
So how can a bar of soap have bacteria on it and yet not spread germs?
Part of it is that bacteria are attracted to the water on top of the bar, not the bar itself.
Washing is a two-step process:
- When you grab that bar of soap and start lathering it up, the oil attracting end of the soap molecule picks up the grease and oils on your skin.
- When you rinse, the water-attracting end of the soap molecule follows the water, rinsing the soap and any impurities down the drain.
After washing, any bacterium that was present on either the soap or your hands is washed down the drain.
What does hygienic mean?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word hygienic means: “Conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease, especially by being clean; sanitary.”
This definition is why some people find the question about bar soap being hygienic strange.
Bar soap is sanitary and hygienic. It’s science.
Remember when the entire family used one bar of soap until it gradually disappeared? And, then one day, it was replaced by liquid hand and body wash because using the bar soap had somehow become an “unhygienic” source of bacteria. The strange thing is that we seldom got sick, even though we all shared the same soap; we had no diseases spread from the soap.
So, were we just incredibly lucky or have the makers of personal care products been masterfully manipulating our fear of germs?
According to an article in the New York Times, a bar of soap does not transmit disease.
The amount of bacteria found on a bar of soap used by multiple people is not a breeding ground for bacteria that would be hazardous, even with frequent use. This has been proven again and again by various scientists dating back to 1965.
The article discusses a 1988 study in which they inoculated soap bars with E.coli and P. aeruginosa bacteria at levels 70 times higher than those reported on used soap bars. Then 16 people were told to wash their hands with it as usual. After washing, none of the 16 panelists had detectable levels of either test bacterium on their hands.
Are Tooth Suds Sanitary too?
The answer is yes. Since Tooth Suds is chemically a soap, it is completely safe to use for cleaning your mouth. Although, it won’t stop you from using swear words =)
Tooth Suds is a soap for teeth that helps remineralize tooth enamel by promoting an alkaline PH in your mouth. It foams like traditional toothpaste, but without synthetic foaming agents.
To use, wet the bar (washing away any bacterium on the bar), then rub your toothbrush on the bar to get the suds on it, and then you brush your teeth.
Here are a few tips to ease your mind if you are concerned about bacteria on Tooth Suds:
- Let your tooth suds bar dry completely between uses (the germs you are worrying about need water to thrive).
- Wash the tooth bar under running water before applying your toothbrush to wash off anything that might be on the surface of the bar.
- Wash your toothbrush, and Tooth Suds bar, after brushing too.
Bar soap is sanitary, but let’s talk about what is dirty.
Any possible bacteria on your soap bar really isn’t that big of a deal when you consider other sources in your home:
- The pump that you touch (with dirty hands) to get liquid soap out of the bottle. Have you ever washed the top of that pump? You should, because it’s awfully dirty! Better yet, ditch the plastic pump and use bar soap. If you want some geeky info on contaminated dispensers, here’s a research paper on the topic.
- The tip of the tube of toothpaste that everyone shares and then the kids didn’t replace the cap… yuck! It’s got the same issues as soap pumps, and we much prefer Tooth Suds.
- 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 long periods of time, which helps bacteria breed.
- And the kitchen sponge? Well, it really is a breeding ground for bacteria as it retains all that water. (check out the MythBusters link below!)
If you want to learn more about germs and how things may not be as “dirty” as we think they are, watch this fact-filled episode of the Mythbusters (we love those guys!)
You can also check out this great article on the importance of washing your hands with soap and water. It was a very effective science experiment that shows how well soap and water perform vs. hand sanitizer.
So, now you know that bar soap ISN’T dirty!
Keep in mind that things may not be as dirty as we have been led to believe, we have been conditioned by marketing to be scared of germs that may not exist at all. And, now you know soap is not dirty and our Tooth Suds and Bar Soaps are completely safe to use.
Addendum: Is bar soap really sanitary? What about poop?
Some might think it’s a silly question (or that we just wanted an excuse to use the poop emoji), but it’s one we field quite regularly. Often enough, that we wrote this little addendum here!
People want to know if there’s poop on soap after it’s been used to wash their hands, or if poop particles land on the soap (or toothbrush, or Tooth Suds) when the toilet is flushed.
Rest assured, there’s no poop to worry about on your soap, toothbrush, or Tooth Suds… unless you’re scrubbing the toilet bowl with them.
- The bacteria in urine and poop are not airborne. They’re not flying around the bathroom looking to contaminate your soap, toothbrush, or Tooth Suds.
- If you have poop on your hands when you pick up the bar of soap, it all washes away down the drain when you wash! If you’re still worried, simply wash the bar of soap along with your hands.
Some people say that poop is everywhere.
Here’s a 4-minute clip from Myth Busters prooving that while trace amounts of fecal coliform can be found in, around, and outside of the bathroom, it’s not harmful to humans. It’s always been there (even before the invention of the toothbrush). Even better news…. soap washes it all away (because bar soap is hygienic, remember?)
Here are a few simple things to prevent your soaps, toothbrush, and Tooth Suds from being exposed to poop particles:
- Close the toilet lid when flushing. If nothing else, this will help put your mind at rest that there’s no toilet plume (when the water escapes the toilet from a powerful flush) landing on your countertops.
- Keep your soap, toothbrush, and Tooth Suds away from the toilet. The medicine cabinet is a good place to store them.
- Wash your toothbrush daily. Regardless of poop particle worry, you should always wash your toothbrush daily. Just like you wash your cups and plates. It’s a simple as lathering up some Tooth Suds on to the brush (after you brush) and then rinsing it off before you put it away to dry.