When it comes to the bar soap vs. liquid soap debate, there’s a clear winner. The TL;DR here is, bar soap always comes out on top. Not only does it feel manlier, but it’s better for your skin and health. And that’s not even the half of it!
Table of Contents
Bar Soap vs Liquid Soap
Effectiveness in the Shower
If you’re just looking for the bare minimum from your soap (getting rid of dirt), then bar and liquid soaps are about equally effective.
But you deserve to expect more from your hygiene products! And, really, you shouldn’t waste money on store-bought liquid and bar soaps that have weird scents and leave your skin feeling tight afterwards.
When it comes to effectiveness in the shower, the clear winner is always bar soaps, especially when you compare handmade, natural soap vs commercial soap. They have subtle, pleasant fragrances, and they’re fabulous moisturizers. You won’t need to use lotion afterwards. Can you say that about the liquid body wash you pulled from the bargain bin?
Thinking about liquid soap as watered-down bar soap is not quite correct…but it’s not that far off, either. In fact, if you have a bar soap that you really, really want to turn into a liquid soap, you can pretty much melt it down and stick it in a bottle. (Sadly, this process doesn’t work the other way around.)
But more important than knowing the soapmaking process, you should understand what kind of chemicals are added to the output. Both commercial liquid and bar soaps contain detergents, “fragrances,” (a fancy word for mystery scents), artificial colors, sulfates, and other skin-irritants. Liquid soaps tend to be bigger offenders when it comes to artificial additives.
Chemicals like these can cause long-term health problems. They’ve been linked to hormonal imbalances and uncomfortable skin conditions. The only way to avoid those consequences is by switching to a natural bar of soap.
This answer is easy: liquid soap is always more expensive, hands down.
The upfront cost is often higher, and you’re guaranteed to waste a bottle of liquid soap faster than any bar soap. That means it’s more expensive in the short-term and long-term sense. Might as well just pour your body wash down the drain.
Bar soap is significantly more affordable, but you should budget for something that’s going to last. The real value of bar soap is in its longevity; you can get a triple milled or natural bar that will be well-worth the upfront cost. They’ll hang out in your shower for a month or more with no problems.
If you’re worried about soap waste, then you can also consider investing in a soap saver or a soap sock. They help expand the usable life of your bar. Or you can pick up some new shower habits to keep your soap fresher for longer.
This is another easy answer. Bar soap leaves a significantly smaller ecological footprint than liquid soap. If you want something that’s completely ethically sourced (and comes in vegan options), then add a natural bar soap to your online shopping list.
But even if you’re not sold on the natural bar soaps, buying commercially-produced bars is still better than picking up a bottle of liquid soap. Studies have shown that liquid soaps have up to 10 times the carbon footprint of bar soaps. That’s not only because of their excess plastic packaging, but also their chemical composition.
Bar Soap vs Liquid Soap for Face: Which is Best for Men?
If you’re sprinting down the grocery store aisle as we speak, hurling things into your cart, you’ll probably get luckier with a liquid facial soap than a bar soap.
Your average, commercially-produced liquid soap has more glycerin than your average, commercially-produced bar soap. That means it’s going to do a better job of moisturizing your skin. But both soaps also host a variety of synthetic agents, detergents, and preservatives that have long-term negative health consequences, such as hormonal imbalances, eczema, and allergic reactions.
None of the manufactured, mass-produced facial soap options at the grocery store (bar or liquid) will stack up against a natural, handmade bar soap.
In fact, you probably shouldn’t trust any supermarket soap enough to apply it to your face. You’ll do so much better buying from a soapmaker who leaves the glycerin in their bar soap, and adds a host of natural ingredients to suit your skincare needs.
Think about it this way: your skin probably has its own unique problems. I know mine does! Somehow I wake up every morning with a simultaneously oily and dry face, usually sporting a new blemish of some sort.
In that case, how is a mass-produced liquid or bar soap supposed to address your personal skincare needs? Natural soaps are much more fit for the job.
Soapmakers tailor their formulas to address specific problems. They can use heavier oils, fats, and butters for sensitive, dry skin. They might toss in poppy seeds or tea leaves for flaky skin that needs a gentle exfoliation.
And the list goes on! Having problems with B.O.? Try a natural soap with essential oils. Is your skin constantly breaking out due to allergies? Pick up a natural bar with oatmeal added to sooth.
Using natural, handmade bar soaps for your face is always a winning move.
Is Liquid Soap More Hygienic than Bar Soap?
Looking strictly at the soaps themselves, bar soap vs liquid soap are equally hygienic.
However, the name of the game here is cross-contamination. Think about what you use to dispense and lather your soap—those objects might not be hygienic.
The plastic loofah or pouf hanging up in your shower is terrifyingly good at growing bacteria. Did you know you’re supposed to be cleaning that thing on a daily basis to avoid E. Coli? At this point, your best bet is to just swap it out for a fresh washcloth.
And the pump on your plastic bottle of liquid soap is probably hosting a little microbe party as we speak. Think about it: every time you touch your liquid soap pump, your hands are contaminated with a cocktail of bathroom germs. So now your soap pump is contaminated with those same germs.
So, bar soap might have a slight edge over liquid soap in the hygiene department, simply because liquid soap pumps and liquid soap loofahs aren’t always that clean.
Is Bar Soap Or Liquid Soap Better For Killing Germs?
Reality check here: neither liquid nor bar soap kill germs, even if they’re labeled “antibacterial.”
What all soaps actually do is break the bonds between the germs and your skin, letting you wash those microorganisms down the drain.
If you’ve gotten your hands dusty, then washed with soap, you’ve probably seen that dark stream of water washing away the dirt that the soap cleared from your hands. With germs, it’s exactly the same process. The soap doesn’t kill anything, it just clears it from your skin.
In that sense, liquid and bar soaps are almost equally effective. The one exception is foaming liquid soap. Some studies suggest that foaming soaps do a poorer job of clearing away germs because of human error. People forget that they still have to scrub and lather, even with foaming soap, so it’s actually the hand-washer’s fault, not the soap’s fault.
And, on top of that, people forget that germs can congregate on the liquid soap’s plastic pump. Think about that public restroom soap pump you just used…now think about everyone who touched it before you…
On the other hand, contrary to popular belief, bar soap does not grow bacteria. Even if you’re sharing a bar of soap with someone (or multiple someones), the chances of bacterial cross-contamination are almost nonexistent.
So, I know you’re eyeing that gas station bar soap on the sink with distrust, but it’s probably more sanitary than the gas station liquid soap pump. Just rinse it off first.
I will say here, as a rule of thumb, soap is always better than no soap. Liquid and bar soap both do an equally good job of washing germs off your hands. What you should be more worried about are the germs you might pick up from the soap pump or the sink faucet.
Is A Bar of Soap Antibacterial?
All soap is antibacterial! In fact, liquid soaps that try to label themselves as antibacterial are essentially a marketing ploy.
As we just discussed, bar soap and liquid soap are equally effective at getting rid of germs, and no soap out there on the market actually kills germs. “Antibacterial” soaps just throw in additional chemical agents to stop bacteria from reproducing.
But hopefully you’re not seeing too many soaps labeled “antibacterial” at the store, because the FDA effectively banned them in 2016. They’re terrible for the environment, and no soap manufacturers were sure of the long-term effects of antibacterial soap on human health.
So, yes, bar soap is antibacterial. You just won’t see it labeled that way—and even if you do see soap labeled “antibacterial” at the store, you should stay far away.