Keeping Clean — Bar Soap vs. Liquid Soap

Bar Soap and Liquid Soap“When did we stop using a simple bar of soap to clean our hands and bodies?” That thought struck me recently while refilling the plastic kitchen soap dispenser with liquid soap from a bigger plastic container. I decided to investigate and write about the topic.

Bar soap has been around for centuries. Liquid soap was first patented in the 1860’s but didn’t become a mass market item until around the 1970’s. Is one better than the other?

Bar Soap vs. Liquid Soap

Cleansing / Additives

Both bar and liquid soap are effective for washing hands and bodies and are available with moisturizers, antibacterial agents, scents, etc.

Size and Shape

Bar soap is usually oval or rectangular shaped and sized to fit in one’s hand. Liquid soap is sold in a variety of bottle sizes and shapes from travel size to giant economy size.


Plain bar soap is likely a more cost-effective choice than liquid soap. However, use for use, a luxury handmade bar of soap may cost more than a store brand bottle of liquid soap.


Bar soap is usually packaged in a paper or plastic wrapper and often a cardboard box too. Liquid soap typically comes in a plastic bottle and may have a pump to make dispensing easier. Multi-packs of bar soap or liquid soap are usually wrapped in plastic or packaged in a box.


This is where bar soap and liquid soap part ways. Bar soap is small, compact, and lightweight. The first ingredient in liquid soap is water and water is heavy and uses a lot more energy for transportation from the manufacturer to the store.

Waste / Recycling

At the end of the life of a bar of soap, there is nothing left or maybe a small sliver to throw away or attach to the next bar of soap. At the end of the life of a bottle of liquid soap, there is an empty plastic bottle. The bottle can be refilled and reused or recycled.

How Many Liquid Soap Containers and Dispensers Does One Household Need?

I decided to survey my own household to see what was in use.

  • Kitchen – plastic bottle of liquid soap
  • Laundry Room – nothing (whew)
  • Bathrooms – plastic dispensers with liquid soap and non-refillable bottles of various body washes. We also had a collection of plastic bottles/tubes containing facial cleansers, shampoos, and conditioners (but that’s a topic for another post).

When did I buy the first plastic liquid soap bottle or dispenser? I don’t remember but perhaps it all started years ago when I purchased our first bathroom accessory set with matching toothbrush holder, cup, liquid soap dispenser, facial tissue holder, and wastebasket. Who decreed we needed these decorative items in our bathrooms I do not know but I succumbed. Once we started using liquid soap for hand washing it was only a matter of time before it found its way into our showers.

So What

When you think about it, transporting water around in the form of liquid soap doesn’t make economic or environmental sense. Both bar and liquid soap often come with unnecessary packaging. And then there are all the plastic dispensers and bottles.

Stack of Bar SoapWe refill the dispensers and recycle the plastic bottles but that’s still a lot of water being transported and plastic uses energy during recycling. So what could/should we do next? We decided to try bar soap in the shower again and move on from there.

Think about what you use in your household and could / should you make a change?

Bottled Water Alternatives

Bottled water uses resources and impacts the environment during production, transportation, storage, refrigeration, disposal, and even recycling. We need to think about our personal choices for drinking water and then take action.

Reusable Water Bottle

Author's Reusable Water BottleSeveral years ago when I started thinking about the environment and things I could stop doing, buying bottled water at all seemed to be a good one (I didn’t buy much to start with). I went on a search for a reusable water bottle. I wanted one that would fit in my purse and had a removable top that was attached somehow. It took a few tries but I finally found one that met my criteria and it was purple, my favorite color. Now I take it everywhere.

Alternatives to Bottled Water

There are many different types of devices and systems for filtering and storing tap water, in a wide variety of price ranges, that will fulfill different lifestyles and personal preferences.  A few are listed below:

Water Faucet (the anti-filter)
  • Glass Being Filled with Tap WaterThe easiest and most cost-effective solution is to just fill a reusable glass or bottle directly from the faucet (don’t blow it by using a throwaway paper or plastic cup).
Filtering Pitchers / Dispensers

Brita Pacific Water Filtration Pitcher

  • Pour tap water into the top, the water is filtered as it moves through into the body of the pitcher or dispenser.
  • Fill reusable water bottles before leaving the house or office.
Reusable Bottle Water Filtering unit
  • Filtrete Water StationSimilar to a filtering pitcher, tap water is poured in the top, filtered, and fills several reusable water bottles at the same time.
  • Easy to grab and go.
Point of Use Water Filtering
  • Whirlpool Reverse Osmosis Water SystemFaucet Water Filter: a device attached to a water tap that provides filtered water from the faucet.
  • Reverse Osmosis System: equipment is installed under the sink and filtered water is accessed via an additional spigot next to the kitchen faucet.
  • Whirlpool Refrigerator with In Door Water DispenserWant your water cold, then put your filtering pitcher or dispenser in the refrigerator, or store filtered water in reusable containers or bottles. Refrigerators with small access doors on the outside use less energy because you do not need to open the whole door to take out the items stored in the door (like a pitcher of water).
  • Many refrigerator manufacturers offer filtered water and ice via external door dispensers. 
  • If you’re in the market for a new refrigerator consider the above options.
Emergency Storage

What about storing water in bulk for emergency purposes? Pallets of water bottles or large jugs may seem to be just the thing, but there are alternatives.

  • 5-Gallon Reconditioned KegFor instance, a soda/beer keg makes a great water storage container. The 5-gallon size is easy to handle and store.
  • These kegs were originally made by the IMI Cornelius Company for dispensing soft drinks under pressure. Nowadays soda is mixed and dispensed at the machine, but the kegs are popular with home beer brewers.
  • Since they were designed to hold liquids under pressure they are very strong and durable. Kegs can be purchased new or used on the Internet.

Think About It and then Take Action

We have a reverse osmosis water filtering system, a refrigerator with a door water dispenser, and a collection of drinking glasses and reusable water bottles. I have to admit that I have purchased a bottle of water on rare occasions, but I really, really, really try to avoid it. 

I realize that my choices won’t work for everyone but everyone can take a positive step towards reducing bottled water use and waste. This is something we can all do for the benefit of ourselves and future generations.

Author’s Soap Box (opinion)

Author's Soap BoxWater is essential to life and is a precious natural resource. There seems to be something wrong with bottling it for some people who can afford to pay for it. Using our planet’s limited resources for bottled water and damaging the environment in the process doesn’t make sense to me. Shouldn’t we focus our efforts, resources, and money on ensuring everyone has access to a consistent and safe water supply?

Just say NO to bottled water!

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