The humble bar of soap.
Sometimes it seems like everyone has forgotten how to use bar soap. Since most people I know use liquid soap in tidy pump dispensers now. Yet bar soap is gentler, more economical, and does a better job of cleaning. Bar soap is truly a multi-purpose cleaner.
In order to make myself clear, when I speak of bar soap, I am speaking of handmade soap. Rather like the kind I make, with all natural ingredients you can actually recognize. Like coconut, palm, and olive oils, milk, water, and essential oils, herbs, etc.
Sodium hydroxide (lye) causes a chemical change in the liquids and oils that soap is made with. This saponification neutralizes the lye and, as a result produces the familiar, sudsy soap that washes away grease and grime. Grease that washes away grease.
First of all, let me debunk the antibacterial myth:
Friction kills bacteria.
That’s right. Not soap, not hot water. Friction. Rubbing your hands together when you wash them creates the friction that kills the bacteria. Soap loosens foreign particles and oils from your skin, and water washes them away. But friction kills bacteria.
Now let’s move on to the truth about bar soap:
lasts a long time as long as you keep it dry in between uses. (use a handy soap saver)
does not harbor bacteria and grunge as long as you keep it dry between uses. (don’t let it sit in a puddle of water)
can be made with ingredients you recognize and with none you don’t.
Finally, what are the advantages of bar soap?
lasts a long time as long as you keep it dry in between uses.
can also be used to wash your hair.
makes a great pet shampoo.
is an all purpose cleaner. What removes soap scum best? Soap.
makes a great laundry soap. In this case, it needs to be grated very fine and mixed with some other ingredients, but that is a whole nuther post.
is a gentle soap for hand washables.
How do you use bar soap?
Same as liquid soap, use bar soap for washing your hands. Keep a bar of soap next to your sink in a soap dish or saucer. It is best to elevate it a little to keep it dry. Many soap savers are available for this purpose.
First, wet hands and soap with water. Then rub soap between hands and replace on soap saver. Finally, rub hands together, spreading soap as desired. Continue rubbing hands together as you rinse the soap off with water.
That’s easy, don’t let it get sick! Aaarrgh! Bad soapmaker joke. Seriously, though, it’s one thing to pull out the folding table and make a batch of soap, but once the soap sets up and gets cut, it needs to sit around for about 5 weeks to completely neutralize the action of the lye and oils and evaporate some of the water so that the bars get nice and hard.
So maybe I’m giving away trade secrets, here. But really, anybody can look this up in about 5 seconds, anyway. My aim is to figure out how I’m going to store several batches of soap (I’m on a soapmaking spree), with adequate air flow, to properly cure into nice, hard, suds-making, creamy, soothing, gentle, cleansing cakes of goodness.
Keeping in mind that I am now living in a 14-foot trailer with an 11-year-old boy and our dog, matters get even more complicated. Last winter, we stayed in the RV and let the soap cure on the kitchen counters in the trailer. Now it needs to be out of the way, yet protected from dirt and damage, with plenty of air circulation. Hmm. We have a nice, big space on top of the fridge, which works for the first week or so until I get the next batch made. Then I have to get creative.
Under the beds, we have plenty of storage room. We keep working at getting rid of stuff we’re not using, so the area is becoming fairly organized and clutter free. At least on my end. On top of my tool box is just enough room for some flattish shoe box size containers of soap. Bars go in boxes, lids off, sit in storage as long as necessary to cure. Protected from elements, dirt, damage and in a climate controlled environment.
I love using my gentle, handmade, whole milk soaps. I would love to have you give them a try, too, and tell me what you think.
Towards a Simple, Sustainable Life