Making the switch from liquid to bar soap

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can’t say you haven’t heard of zero waste movements and any other number of environmental advocacies drawing our attention to the way that plastic impacts on our environment.

We all know that improperly disposed and dense non-recyclable plastic is ending up in our oceans, landfills and waterways, and is having a negative impact on our lives and the world ecosystem.

The easiest and quickest swap you can make in your life if you want to change your personal impact on this, is to switch to bar soap. Using bar soap is a much more environmental conscious option and you’d be a savage if you didn’t at least consider it.

  1. One soap bar can do a lot, not all, but a lot.

Swapping to a bar soap for your hands, body and counter tops can automatically remove the commercial detergents used in the bathroom and kitchen. Soaps that are safe for hands, body and counter tops can be any regular handmade, artisan soap. Because laundry soap, baby soaps and fur baby soaps need slight tweaks to a recipe, you’d want to use a bar specifically made for those purposes. The most important ingredient that will alter the impact and use of these is the oils that are used and any additives. For example, soaps made for fur babies often has neem oil, which is specific to the prevention of bugs and ticks on dogs.

Using a bar of soap in the kitchen is also just as easy. Whether you are just wiping the counters down or washing a few stray dishes, bar soap can be used interchangeably to achieve these cleaning requirements.

  1. Be mindful of plastics and packaging – skip the bottle

Using bar soap does not leave germs on your bar of soap. Using a pump soap is no cleaner. This is a myth. Switching to bar soap is quite possibly one of the easiest ways you can immediately impact your plastic footprint by reducing unnecessary chemicals, additives and plastics.

At Homestead we are very mindful of using plastics in our soap. Currently, we do use heat pack plastic to protect our soaps as we live in a sub tropical climate, and want to limit the amount our artisan soaps sweat. We are always looking for ways to improve our footprint and are happy to change our processes to reduce waste.

Replacing plastic from liquid hand soaps, facial cleansers, shampoos, and body washes for an entire year adds up fast. Switching to bar soaps is an easy way to get started, and set a habit of being more conscious day-to-day.

  1. Our soaps last

Our bar soaps at Homestead are made using the traditional, cold process method, where no heat is applied to the oil base, or during the curing process which helps maintain nutritional and nourishing power for your skin.

Once the soap has cured, it doesn’t really go bad. We have to give each product a shelf life because we use real oils in them, however due to any lack of chemical compounds that break down and erode over time, each bar will remain fresh and dense for a long period of time. The only thing you may notice if you leave your bar for a while is that the scent may fade, but that doesn’t detract from the use or purpose of the soap and functionally, it will perform as stated.

As the bar loses moisture content, the lather it produces becomes thicker. We cure each bar 4-6 weeks prior to it hitting shelves or arriving at your doorstep (unless it’s a castile blend). This helps speed up the curing process and you receive a bar that will last, create a luxurious lather, and leaves little footprint on the planet.

  1. Bar soaps are friendlier for the earth and the drain pipes!

Bar soaps, on average, require about one-fifth the energy to manufacture liquid soaps and detergents. Commercial liquid body washes are made with synthetic detergents, fragrances, and preservatives that provide no benefits to our bodies and are harmful to the environment. Many of these compounds add to the shelf life of the product as preservatives, artificial scents & colours, as well as lathering agents.

In 2015, the Zurich Institute of Environmental Engineering conducted a study on three categories of cleaners, laundry detergent, body soap and surface cleaners. They looked across the spectrum of the life cycle impact on these types of products, which considered the environmental cost across the products lifetime in each part of the process: manufacturing, transport and storage, use, disposal. Using industry data, customer behavior studies and information from the ecoinvent database on product lifecycle information, they found that based on consumer studies, in a one-time, 30-second hand wash, consumers used .35g of bar soap, and 2.3g of liquid soap. This ends up being more than six times the amount of liquid soap to achieve the same task.

If you need six-times more liquid soap to achieve the same task, then that also translates to six-times more in raw materials to manufacture, transport, store and present it to potential consumers.

That’s additional costs in transport to and from the supplier, distributor and end user, heat, electricity and power in the store front presenting the product, the warehouse developing the product, and the warehouses that hold the product until it hits the shelves.

Additionally, the scientists determined that liquid soap has 10-times the carbon footprint of bar soap and that two major culprits contribute to this finding: the chemical used to manufacture the liquid soap and the mere fact that the soap is packaged in non-recyclable plastic all leads to an increase in the carbon footprint.

If you think about it, how much more space do you need to store and stack liquid soap, compared to bar soaps which are stackable onto one another?

And finally, they were able to determine that the chemicals used in liquid soaps needed far more wastewater treatment than those used in bar soaps. The plastic containers liquid soap comes in are often incinerated, because the plastic compound of the container isn’t easily recycled.

  1. Bar soaps cleanse and moisturize at the same time!

Like liquid body wash, bar soaps made from nourishing natural oils are moisturising for your skin, repairing, and strengthening, while at the same time cleansing and removing dirt. Commercial liquid body washes are manufactured to run from your skin after cleansing (a science thing where the chemical compounds attach to dirt and run away, but also stripping your skin of the natural sebum it already has), while bar soaps allow the natural oils to replenish the skin’s moisture levels while you’re cleaning.

If you consistently need to moisturise your skin after a shower, then the problem may actually be in the soap you are using. And personally, I can’t help but think it’s a little bit of a ploy to get you, the consumer, to buy more and more and more, instead of using things that are good for you, and buying less.

So if you fear switching to a bar soap, is it because of the following questions?

  • how do you keep the bar soap from staying wet and getting slimy?
  • How do you store a bar in your shower without it disintegrating under the water stream?

To answer the first question – easy. Use a slatted soap dish. There are so many non-plastic choices in the form of bamboo or hand crafted wood dishes. Find one that suits you. These are the best as they allow water to drain, therefore permitting the soap to fully dry before next use. This helps with keeping your bar hard and lasts longer than a soap held in a soap dish where water pools at the base, often turning the soap into a nasty, slimy, mess.

To answer question two: Use a soap saver bag the slivers and end bits. When a bar gets so thin that even a gentle rub breaks it into ever-smaller pieces, transfer the pieces to a soap bag. The rough texture acts as a plastic-free loofah in the shower, and since it’s made out of natural sisal fibres, it too can be composted at the end of its life.

And lastly, keep it out of the shower stream. When you keep bar soap in the shower, try to store it in a place where it won’t be hit by the spray.

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