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How To Use Bar Soap In The Shower

I already know what question you’re asking—“I’ve been using bar soap wrong?!” Sorry to be the one to break the news to you, but lots of people don’t actually know how to use bar soap in the shower.

Using your soap correctly, you can maximize its lifespan and efficiency, which in turn will save you money, and help you become one clean, fresh, nice-smelling bada** motherf***er.

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What Do You Use Bar Soap For?

There’s a bar soap out there for almost everything! But you probably use it most often for scrubbing down your hands at the sink, or your body in the shower.

Soap, especially natural, handmade soaps, are fabulous at not only cleaning off dirt and germs, but they also come packaged with powerful moisturizers, mini aromatherapy sessions, and health benefits.

Here’s the thing: if you’re looking for the TL;DR of this article, the real take-away is that you shouldn’t apply bar soap directly to your skin. This ends up being a big waste. It shortens the bar’s lifespan significantly, sends more soap scum down your drain, and stops you from reaping all the benefits of the soap.

How Do You Use Bar Soap In The Shower?

The real trick to bar soap is in the lather. You’ve probably watched a little kid do it wildly wrong at some point: they wet their hands, hold the soap for 0.2 seconds to get their palms scummy, then rinse and pretend that nothing is wrong.

The irony is that you might be making the same mistake once you hit the shower. Intuitively, lots of us are tempted to rub the bar of soap directly on our skin. But it’s really the soap’s lather that gives it its great cleaning properties.

So, rather than putting the bar directly on yourself, lather it between your hands, set aside the bar, and apply that to your skin. If you use a loofah, washcloth, or soap bag to hold the lather, even better! They’ll make your bar last longer, and gently exfoliate while your soap cleanses.

As for the question that nobody wants to answer…you can use bar soap in the downstairs area, just be careful what type of soap you’re using there, and don’t use it on a daily basis. Once every few days is more than enough; just rinse with water in between. And be sure to get yourself a handmade soap with natural ingredients to avoid any unpleasant sensations. 

How To Use Bar Soap On Your Face

Even if you buy a natural or artisan soap, one thing holds true: don’t use a bar of soap on your face unless it’s marketed as a facial soap.

Other than that, the same rules apply: lather it up, set aside the soap, and use your hands to apply the lather.

Though you can probably find commercial facial bar soaps, I do recommend going with a handmade facial soap. Their natural ingredients are great for your skin, and you’re less likely to break out or have an allergic reaction the next day. (Same logic as to why you should use a handmade, natural soap near your privates: sensitive areas require a sensitive soap.)

You can even find bar soaps that work as shampoo and conditioner. And you use them just the same: lather it up, and rub in the lather. Just be sure not to mix up your body soap, face soap, and hair soap, if you decide to go all in with bar soap.

How To Use Bar Soap On Hands

There’s one edge that bar soap has over liquid soap that we haven’t mentioned yet: extra friction.

That’s why bar soap is so great for your hands. Along with all the usual germ-cleaning properties of soap, bar soap forces you to get a bit of friction going, not only between your hands, but between your hands and the bar, which means it does a better job of removing dirt and bacteria.

As for how to use it…I really hope you already know how. Rinse the bar, lather it up with your hands, rub in that lather while you sing your ABC’s, and rinse off.

I’ll throw in a little easter egg here too: bar soap does a great job of cleaning makeup brushes. No need to invest in any of those weird brush scrubbers or extra cleaners that beauty companies try to push. Your wallet, and your girlfriend, will thank you for that tidbit later (double tip: you might want to use one of these lavender soaps for that!)

How To Use Bar Soap With A Loofah

Bar soap and a loofah make a great team! Together, they can help make your bar last longer.

Get a soapy lather going between your hands, apply that lather to the loofah, set aside the soap, and start scrubbing. When you bring in the loofah as a middle man, your soap is able to stay a bit drier between use, and one lather goes further.

If you’d rather not get a loofah, you can also use a washcloth or a soap sock. Just stick to the same rules: apply the lather to the fabric and use that to wash. Don’t apply the soap directly to your skin.

Some people like using a loofah or a washcloth because they feel like it minimizes soap residue on their skin and in their shower. This is probably because the loofah helps exfoliate while the soap does it’s job cleaning.

So, if you do decide to invest in a loofah, washcloth, or a soap sock, you’re getting more than just something to make your soap last longer: you’re also getting a gentle exfoliant that’ll feel great against your skin.

I do need to throw in one cautionary tip here: just like your soap, your loofah needs to dry between use. As for your washcloth, you should try to use a fresh one every time. This minimizes bacterial buildup.

Where Do You Put The Bar Soap?

Whether you’re keeping your soap in the shower or near the sink, you’re going to want to store it in a dry place. At a bare minimum, keep it away from the water stream.

Letting your soap dry in between use will expand its lifespan, so you should find a place for it where it has some airflow to re-harden. Lots of people like to buy soap dishes, also known as “soap savers.” If you’re thinking about going this route, try to find one that allows the liquid buildup to drain off the soap.

A soap saver isn’t an absolute necessity, but you should still find some way to keep your soap dry when you’re not using it.

Do Germs Stay On Bar Soap?

Yes, but don’t freak out here. Bacteria do enjoy that slimy buildup on your soap, but there’s a really easy way to get rid of them: just rinse the soap before you use it.

And even if you end up washing with that soapy slime, research has shown that the kind of bacteria attracted to your soap are rarely harmful. Your soap should still be rinsing the germs from your hands, but even if a few stubborn microorganisms remain, they’re usually the type that your immune system has no trouble fending off.

So, unless you have a highly compromised immune system, you really have nothing to worry about with the germs on your soap. Just rinse the bar and use it like normal. You don’t have to switch from bar soap to liquid soap over this.

And, as a side note that some of you probably already know: not all germs are harmful. In fact, many of them are vital for our existence. We need our little bacterial friends to help balance our pH, digest food, and keep our immune systems in tip-top shape. That’s another reason the bacteria you find on your soap isn’t all that bad.

Can You Get An STD From Bar Soap?

In short, no.

Multiple studies since the 60s have shown that, even after contaminating soap or a soap user’s hands with bacteria, the bar itself just doesn’t transmit diseases. The first hand-washer could come along with some heavy disease-ridden bacteria on their hands, like E. Coli or Staph, and the second hand-washer is still fine to use the same bar directly after them.

In fact, studies consistently show that your risk of infection is higher if you choose not to wash your hands. Whether or not the soap itself has bacteria on it, it will still rinse the bacteria from your hands, and more often than not you should be more worried about your hand-bacteria than your soap-bacteria.

But I still wouldn’t recommend going halfsies on a bar of soap with your roommate, because that’s just gross on a weird psychological level. Get your own shower soap.

Does Bar Soap Kill Bacteria?

Bar soap doesn’t kill bacteria, but that’s because no soap out there kills bacteria.

In fact, the “kills germs” sales pitch is a bit of a misnomer. What all soaps actually do is break the bonds between your skin and bacteria, helping you rinse off those microorganisms.

It makes sense on a functional level why your parents and teachers probably told you to rinse with soap to kill the germs. The end result is essentially the same—bar soap does get rid of the bacteria on your skin, just not by killing it.

Even if you’re thinking about investing in a heavier antibacterial soap…it does the same thing. All soap is technically antibacterial, so don’t spend extra money on something that includes “antibacterial” as a sales pitch.

Can Bar Soap Ever Make You Sick?

As long as you don’t eat more than one bar per night, you should be okay.

Jokes aside, it’s highly unlikely that your soap is going to make you sick (unless you really are eating your soap…please don’t). Like we discussed earlier, germs do stay on your soap bar, but they’re rarely harmful and easy to rinse off. 

Even if you share a bar of soap with someone, it’s likely that the two (or three or more) of you are interacting with similar bacteria on a daily basis, assuming you’re living together. And, remember, not all bacteria is harmful. Lots of those little guys are vital for our survival! So any bacteria that decides to hang out on your bar of soap is probably something your body is familiar with.

If you’re still not so sure about bar soap, just give it a rinse before you use it, and apply it to a washcloth or loofah rather than rubbing it directly on your skin. That’s the great thing about soap! Just add water, and it cleans you and itself.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.