If you’re huddled in your basement right now with years worth of bulk soap, I have bad news for you: it’s not going to keep. Bar soap is picky about how you store it, and good bar soaps are perishable, so they shouldn’t last more than a year.
So how can you store your bar soap correctly to make the most out of that year?
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How to Store Bar Soap
Hopefully this isn’t news to you, but you should really let your soap dry off between use. Letting it sit in a puddle of water, or keeping it anywhere damp will shorten its lifespan drastically. And that’s money straight out of your pocket, especially if you buy all-natural!
If you really don’t want to invest in a soap saver or a shower rack, just swap it over to the dry side of the sink or leave it out of the shower every once in a while. You don’t have to go overboard and pat it dry every time you use it, just don’t drown it 24/7.
Somewhere with Airflow
A big part of letting your soap dry is also letting it breathe. This helps keep its scents fresh. Dry soap in a plastic bag is bound to turn rancid much quicker than dry soap sitting out on the counter.
Somewhere it can Drain
So maybe your soap isn’t sitting in a puddle anymore, but is it dripping scum along the bottom? That’s going to dissolve it just as quickly as a puddle of water would.
I know it feels like “lost soap,” but you have to let the scum go. My go-to move is a soap dish with a paper towel underneath it: the soap dish lets the drippings through, and the paper towel keeps the scum off the counter. Letting your soap drain is part of keeping it hardened for cleaning effectiveness and longevity.
How to Store Bar Soap in the Shower
Rule of thumb: keep your soap dry between use. That’s how you’re going to make it last as long as possible.
There are a ton of different ways to achieve that. Adding a soap dish or rack to your shower, taking the soap out of the shower entirely when you’re not using it, or dangling it in a soap bag—all are perfectly acceptable methods, as long as the soap gets dry. You can even get creative and turn your hair dryer on its coolest setting to blow it off.
The point of storing your soap nicely is to maximize its life expectancy and avoid that gross shower scum. Beyond just storing it, you can even alter your shower routine to make the bar last longer and feel nicer against your skin.
How to Store Bar Soap for Travel
Please, please don’t put your soap in a ziplock bag. If you’re rushing out the door right now, just wrap it in a clean washcloth or put a dry bar directly in your suitcase.
Bar soap is excellent for traveling because it’s more compact than liquid soap, and it’s less likely to cause a mess…but only if you pack it correctly. Storing your soap in an airtight container will ruin it, as you might have learned the hard way.
Soap needs to breathe. When you let it sit around in its own scum, it dissolves quickly. Ziplock bags, tupperware, and other plastic containers that cut off the airflow will turn your soap to mush. So, if you specifically skipped out on the liquid soap because you didn’t want the mess, you might have pwned yourself.
If you’d really like to, you can buy a specialty carrying case to travel with soap. Or just let it dry and put it in your bag directly. Maybe wrap a paper towel around that bad boy. You’re good to go.
How to Store Bar Soap Without Plastic
Really, you shouldn’t store bar soap with plastic. Only as a last resort, and if you do, I’m warning you now: you’d better cut some ventilation holes in that ziplock bag.
Soap does best when you set it somewhere with a bit of airflow and a drainage system. This is why soap dishes are more of a necessity than people realize: they provide both of those soap needs. A good soap dish has an uneven surface to catch the drippings and let the soap breathe.
In the shower, you can use a mesh bag, or a soap rack to achieve the same effect. Lots of people enjoy the mesh bag method because it wastes less soap. Rather than throwing out the scrappy leftover bits, you can just add a new bar to the bag and use it all up.
How Long Can You Store Bar Soap?
If you’re actively using the soap, it will keep anywhere from one to three months. If you’re leaving the soap in its packaging and stowing it somewhere for future use, your bars will hold their benefits for about a year. This is subject to change based on the soap ingredients.
Commercial soaps last longer in storage than natural soaps, but that’s because they contain lots of unfriendly preservatives. So it’s a scale of benefits and drawbacks: natural soaps are better for you, but they’re perishable. Manufactured soaps aren’t great for your skin, but they can sit on a shelf for a year or two without turning.
I always recommend going with a natural bar, simply because of this factor: does anyone really keep soap in storage? Really? I don’t think I’ve ever kept a bar for longer than a few months, if that.
And even if you do store soap…ask yourself, do you really want to wash yourself with a bar of soap that’s been sitting around in a cabinet for years? Soap really isn’t meant to last that long.
How do You Store Bar Soap Long Term?
Before I say anything else: try not keep your bar soap in storage for more than a year. It starts to lose its scents and cleaning power over longer periods of time.
Aside from that, try to find a cool, dry place with a little bit of airflow for your soap. You’ll want to take it out of its packaging (if the handler wrapped it in plastic) so that it can breathe. Try to keep it away from sunlight. Shoeboxes work well for all of this.
If you’re keeping it under your sink, be sure to check for pipe leaks every once in a while. This is something you should do regularly regardless, but especially if you want to keep your soap from getting wet and dissolving in storage.
One final life hack here: store soaps with similar scents together. Because your soap will experience scent leakage over time, packing wildly different soaps together has a decent chance of backfiring and creating a weird cocktail of soap smells.
How Do You Know When Soap is Cured?
A “cured” bar of soap is fully hardened. That means it won’t break down quickly when you introduce it to water for the first time. Curing a bar of soap is key to helping it last, and it’s also an easy process. All you have to do is let it sit in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area so that it can harden up.
Most soapmakers should have already cured their soaps for you, but if you want to be absolutely positive that your soap is hard, you can just let it sit on your shelf for a few weeks.
If you’re feeling extra, you can weigh it when you first buy it, wait a week, then weigh it again. If the soap is the same weight, that means it’s cured. If the weight has changed, then it’s still in the process of hardening, so it might be a good idea to give it some more time before you use it.
It takes 4-6 weeks to cure a bar of soap. But, again, a good soap maker shouldn’t be selling you a bar that isn’t already hardened. As long as you’re buying from a trusty brand, you shouldn’t have to worry about letting the soap cure at home.
Is it OK to Use Expired Soap?
Expired soap isn’t always bad per se, just read the ingredient list first.
If you find any perishable ingredients, especially if it’s a natural bar of soap, then it’s probably best to toss the bar. Expired ingredients might do your skin more harm than good.
This is the one and only upside to commercial soap that I’m willing to admit: it lasts longer and you can still use it once it’s “expired.” I’m willing to concede this point because it demonstrates just how many artificial preservatives companies add to mass-produced soaps.
A good soap isn’t meant to last longer than a year because that means its fragrances and additives are all-natural. Perishable ingredients are exactly what make a soap worth the investment!