Are liquid soaps cleaner and safer to use than bar soaps? A number of people seem to think so. It’s a prevailing belief that has gained traction among Americans between the ages of 18 to 24, and one that has lead to the slow yet steady demise of bar soaps. According to TreeHugger.com, 60 percent of consumers within that age group believe that bar soaps are less sanitary than liquid soaps. Even members from older generations have held this idea to be true, with the numbers falling into 35 percent of consumers aged 65 and above.
Is this true, though? The short answer: yes and no.
The long answer: Unless you work for a dental clinic, you need not fret about sticking exclusively to liquid soaps. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended hands-free liquid soap dispensers for members of the dentistry profession due to the nature of their work. All other healthcare workers are free to use “liquid, bar, leaflet or powdered forms of plain soap”; the agency has even used both liquid and bar soaps in the illustrations of their hand washing guidelines. As for the rest of us, bar soaps might still be the better option.
Although germs can be found on bar soaps, the chances of these germs doing us any harm is close to none. The reason for this is simple: Soap molecules are composed of one end that attracts water and another end that repels water. Grease, oils, and other impurities picked up by the water-repelling end become suspended in the water—water that goes down the drain when we rinse.
Liquid soaps work in the same way, with the additional benefit of being more convenient to use. That’s what 55 percent of consumers believe, as stated in the 2016 report by Mintel.com. These same liquid soaps, however, also require more energy for production and more packaging for selling. Liquid soaps are usually sold in bulky plastic containers which are then often bundled in sleeves or cardboard boxes. In addition to leaving behind a greater carbon footprint, liquid soaps can also be filled with dubious chemicals additions. These can range from parabens to phthalates, which are suspected hormone disruptors. The researchers of a 2011 study even found that liquid soap—bulk liquid soap, especially—actually spreads more bacteria than it kills. They concluded their study by stating that refillable liquid soap dispensers “can increase the number of opportunistic pathogens on the hands.” (Related: Avoid petroleum in beauty products)
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Despite all this, bar soaps are on the decline and liquid soaps are on the rise. In the same report by Mintel.com, the market intelligence agency’s research team found that $2.7 billion was spent on liquid body wash in 2015. Margie Nanninga, a Beauty Analyst for Mintel.com, stated that: “The market for bar soap is being impacted by preferences for alternate formats, including liquid body washes and liquid hand soaps…in order to turn sluggish sales around, new bar soap product launches could incorporate a wider variety of claims, especially for more luxury and premium bar soap offerings.”
Find out what makes your personal care products safe or unsafe by visiting Ingredients.news.