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05 May Bar soap vs liquid soap – which is better?


There’s a lot that’s changed thanks to the pandemic. However, almost certainly, we’re all washing our hands a great deal more than ever before. For those of us who are conscious about our impact on the environment, we’re all facing the question of which is best – hand soap bar or liquid? We want to know which is best for the planet, which is best for our skin, and which is best for actually cleaning away grime and germs.

It’s actually not an easy and straightforward answer. There are many variables to consider when comparing a bar of soap or liquid soap. Instead, you need to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of soap, as well as whether you’re considering it for your hands, body or face.

Is bar soap or liquid soap better for the environment?

Let’s start by considering the biggest question: which is best for the environment. There are multiple elements to consider, from packaging to manufacturing process, as well as run-off into waterways.

Generally speaking, bar soaps have been found to have a lower environmental impact when compared with liquid soap. Much of this comes down to packaging, with bar soap usually being packaged in minimal paper-based packaging compared with plastic disposable bottles for liquid options. The packaging of liquid soaps isn’t just a problem at the end of its life either. The plastic packaging requires around 20 times more energy to produce. 

There’s also the simple fact that when we use liquid soap, we inevitably use more. The convenience of a pump dispenser ensures we can be quite mindless about the amount we use. 

However, it’s not an absolutely clear cut case that bar soaps are always environmentally friendly. A lot of bar soaps use ingredients from vegetable oils which use agricultural land to produce, or use animal fats. Depending on how sustainably the farming is undertaken, and how much care is taken for the environment, the impact on the environment can vary. 

There’s also the issue that we tend to use more water when using bar soap. It’s easy to think that our water consumption is unimportant, but in terms of environmental impact, it’s something we need to consider.

So, it’s complex, and in reality, you can’t compare a generic bar soap with a generic liquid soap. For example, there are some liquid soaps which are undoubtedly greener thanks to clever thoughtful packaging and manufacturing processes, than mass produced bar soap in plastic packaging which has notable environmental impact.

You need to look at the individual product. So, what factors should you consider?

Packaging

Packaging is the big one. Liquid soap became popular in the convenience-age of the 1980s. It was plastic packaging with the pump dispenser that made it boom in popularity. Solid soap bars don’t need plastic packaging. However, some retailers and manufacturers do wrap their bar soaps in plastic wrap. Liquid soap may, alternatively, come in a glass bottle. There’s also the issue of whether the plastic liquid soap bottle is suitable for recycling and whether the individual consumer will ensure it is recycled properly.

Manufacturing process

This is where it gets very complex for the consumer. Comparing manufacturing processes can be very difficult. We have found that it’s therefore easier to choose eco-friendly products, whether they are liquid soaps or solid bars. This way you can see the transparency in the process. 

Which is better for cleaning your skin, bar or liquid soap?

Whether it’s your face or your hands, there’s actually no real difference between bar soap and liquid soap when it comes to washing away germs (and that includes Covid). What matters in terms of washing your skin is washing and scrubbing using a detergent of some sort. It’s the process, not the actual product, that makes the difference.

Beyond bugs and grime, you’ll then have your own individual skin concerns to consider. Many sellers of liquid soaps market them by pointing out that bar soap can be drying. However, they are usually talking about mass-produced hand soaps with a higher pH level. There are so many different types of bar soap available and it’s definitely possible to choose one which doesn’t have a drying effect if that’s what you want!

Many bar soaps were traditionally made from animal fat. Obviously, that’s not great in environmental terms, and many won’t want to use this on their skin. Nowadays, eco-friendly bar soaps usually use vegetable fat bases. What many mainstream manufacturers of liquid soap are quiet about is their use of petroleum bases. There aren’t really any studies to show the long term effects of using such products repeatedly on our skin.

What is certain is that it is definitely easier to find natural ingredient soap bars more easily than it is to find natural ingredient or eco-friendly liquid soap.

Which soap should I choose?

At Wearth, we’ve done the research for you so that you can choose our soaps knowing that they are as kind as possible to your skin and the environment. We’ve got lots of choice. Why don’t you try:

Babaru & Blake Natural Bar Soap

These Babaru & Blake cold-pressed handmade soap bars are vegan and free of plastic packaging, scented only with essential oils. There is a whole range of choice when it comes to scents from Rose Geranium, Cananga and Litsea Cubeba to Sweet Orange, Cedarwood and Patchouli. We can’t decide on our favourite, but we do love to sneak a bar of Nettle with Rosemary and Lavender into our basket!


Soap Daze Handmade Soap Bar

These Soap Daze soap bars are made by hand in Devon and again are free from plastic packaging, and use only natural ingredients. You can be even kinder to the planet (and save yourself £1 a pop) by opting for no packaging at all. The base of these soaps is coconut oil, shea butter and olive oil. Again, there are lots of delightful scents. Why not try the very different Coffee and Raw Cacao or the Ginger and Mandarin.




Fill Hand Soap

Fill liquid hand soap shows that it is possible to opt for an eco-friendly liquid soap. It comes in a recyclable glass bottle and its manufacturing process is also eco-friendly, as well as being both vegan and biodegradable. It’s available unscented or in Fig Leaf. Once you’ve finished your first bottle of Fill liquid soap, hold onto the bottle and then buy the bulk refill box, so that you can reduce waste.


Choose your soap from Wearth and be sure that you’re making the best choice.