When you’re in the store about to buy hand soap (or bathing soap), you are met with two options: liquid soap or bar soap. Our minds always fly to that common question. We have seen it in movies, TV shows and online series. The soap jokes. “Think of the last thing I wash and the first thing you wash!” So the doubts about bar of soaps are understandable. When speaking about bars of soap and hand soaps we always get the same question from everyone: are bars of soap actually hygienic? The answer is always very simple: yes, yes they are. But since we want you guys to know why, let’s speak about it!
People with large families in houses with one bathroom always share one common story: their family members take too long in the bathroom and, of course, they have experienced the sharing of soap. But like us, we’re pretty sure you never stopped to think: hey, is this safe/clean/hygienic? Mostly people just concluded that since it’s family, it’s somehow cleaner and safer.
In reality, human skin has a natural microbiome that contains thousands of different bacteria, fungi, and viruses that do not cause negative health consequences for those with an intact immune system because they are part of our bodies. As a matter of fact, this microbiome helps keeps our skin healthy. When you hear news about how overusing hand sanitizer is actually bad for your hands’ health it’s because people think that hand sanitizer gets rid of all of these positive microbiomes, (which we already stated is a myth and shouldn’t be a worry at all).
But let’s take a few step backs. What does hygienic even mean? According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word hygienic means, "Conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease, especially by being clean; sanitary." Pretty straightforward, to be honest. This definition is why some people feel that the question of whether soap is hygienic is a bit awkward. How could a product that is supposed to make you clean not be sanitary?
As such, it makes perfect sense that the microbes of your natural microbiome plus the oils and dead skin cells on your hands will get passed on to everything you touch (including bars of soap). In fact, studies have shown that we undoubtedly transfer this bacteria to our cell phones, keyboards, remote controls, doorknobs, faucets, liquid soap dispensers, light switches, washers, clothes, dryer, detergents and, yes, even our bars of soap!
However, the bacteria on your soap bar are definitely less of a problem than the bacteria you pick up from other places where you place your hands. Why? Well, the germs on the bar of soap that you use in your home have no negative health effects because they are coming from you. And even if you are sharing a bar of soap with family members, your bodies have most likely adapted because you share many of the same microorganisms. And EVEN you’re not sharing with family, numerous studies have shown that although bacteria levels on a used bar of soap are slightly higher than on unused soaps, there are no detectable levels of bacteria left on the skin's surface after using a bar of soap. After many studies, there is absolutely no evidence of bacteria transfer from the soap to your hands.
So don’t worry. Be happy. You can choose the bar of soap.