The importance of hand washing has been emphasized in recent years, we don’t have to tell you that. But perhaps you don’t think about which hand soap you use, do you opt for liquid soap from a bottle or rather a bar of soap in a soap dish? Many think that a soap dispenser is more hygienic, but is that really the case? Moreover, nowadays we can no longer ignore the question: what is better for the environment?
The idea is that soap without packaging is not hygienic, but according to Dr. Francis P.K. Wu of the Utrecht Dermatological Center is not correct: ‘Physical examinination shows that a ‘contaminated’ bar of soap does not transfer bacteria to your hands.’ So you don’t take over the bacteria from the people who washed their hands before you with the same bar of soap.
A bar of soap deserves a good container
To prevent a bar of soap from becoming a hotbed of bacteria and mold, it is important to let it dry. A soap dish with recesses where the water can run out is a good solution for this. According to Dr. Wu, a humid environment can have negative consequences for people with hand eczema, wounds or a disrupted skin barrier. People with cystic fibrosis or taking medications that suppress the immune system should also be careful with a bar of soap kept in a humid environment.
For most people who use a bar of soap at home, the risk of bacterial contamination is almost negligible. However, a solid bar of soap is not used in public places for the same reason: a soap bar is often touched there every few minutes and cannot dry in between. That is why soap dispensers are mainly found in airports, restaurants and cafes.
Extra foaming effect should convince you
So a (dried up) bar of soap is hygienic, but is pumping soap an even cleaner choice? ‘You would think so,’ says Dr. Wu, ‘but there are different types of liquid hand soap, with different compositions. One contains moisturizing ingredients, so that the skin feels less tight and dry after washing, the other contains degreasing or antibacterial ingredients.’
Hand soap can also make you believe in its hygienic effect, and not without risk: ‘Some pumps contain cocamidopropyl betaine, an optical foam maker that gives you the feeling that you are cleaning your skin extra. It has no added hygienic effect. However, it is an allergen that we see as the cause of eczema,’ explains the dermatologist.
Not all soap dispensers are clean
Speaking of foam: the cloud of soap that mainly comes from dispensers in public places is also less reliable. In fact, another study found that foam soaps (aerosolized liquid types) “are less effective in eliminating hand microbial flora” than liquid soaps.
Let’s not forget to mention that you often touch a soap dispenser, and that the material of the pump is not antibacterial, at least less than a bar of hand soap. The advice is therefore to clean your soap bottle daily. But additional advice also applies to a bar of soap, says Dr. Wu: ‘It is better to wash your hands for 20 seconds or longer with solid soap.’
Block soap is much more sustainable
The environmental aspect has not even been mentioned, that more and more consumers and companies are opting for bar soap. According to the Dutch environmental organization Plastic Soup Foundation, the world’s population uses one million non-degradable plastic bottles every minute. Most of it ends up in landfills, in nature and in the oceans. The refill packaging made of plastic is also polluting.
Dr. Wu also states that block soap is the sustainable choice: ‘A 2009 Swiss study showed that the ecological footprint of liquid soaps was 25 percent higher than that of block soap. It takes five times more energy to make liquid soap and twenty times more energy to package it in a plastic bottle, compared to solid soap.’
Conclusion: both are hygienic, but there is only one environmentally conscious choice
You can wash your hands effectively with both a bar of soap and liquid hand soap, as long as you do not leave the bar of soap in a puddle of water and clean the pump of the liquid soap. But when it comes to the environment, the choice between liquid and solid soap does make a difference.
About Francis Wu
“In my dermatology practice, people often ask me about skin-enhancing products. Because I want you as a user to be able to rely on the product you are applying, I have developed my own skincare line: Iconic-Elements. A complete skin care line that stands out because it works (evidence-based)!
While you are here
Some cosmetic skin care products contain plastic microparticles. These cannot be seen with the naked eye, but end up in our rivers, seas and oceans via our sewage system after washing/showering. This has an impact on our ecological system, as the marine animals consider the microplastic for food, it often ends up on our own plate as part of the food chain.
It is therefore the responsibility of the cosmetic manufacturers to produce products that are free of micro-plastics. The plasticfoodfoundation.org is a foundation dedicated to identifying harmful ingredients for our environment. The Beat the Microbead app makes it easy to find out whether a product contains microplastic.
We are therefore very proud of our new international recognition ZERO PLASTIC INSIDE. All our ingredients that we use in our skin care line are microplastic free. To qualify, all ingredients must be screened and only then will you receive this certificate.