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5 Myths about bar soap busted

Posted by Sophie Cooper on

5 Myths about bar soaps busted

Who'd ever have thought that hand washing would hit the headlines and become a topic of conversation? Not us (but just quietly, we’re chuffed; hand washing is life 🙌🔥💯). 

What’s the deal with germs anyway?

First, let’s talk germs. These microscopic living organisms have come under the, umm, microscope lately. But what exactly are germs and how does washing our hands and bodies eliminate them?

Germs fall into four main categories: bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa. These pathogens are impossible to see with the naked eye, and live in and outside the body. 

  • Bacteria can be helpful - like the more than 100 trillion bacteria that live in our gut enabling us to digest food and convert it to nutrition - or harmful - like the invading bacteria that cause food poisoning or strep throat. 
  • Viruses are parasites that reproduce in our cells and need human or animal hosts to thrive. Viruses can also survive on surfaces like phones, handrails, lift buttons, door knobs, benches and light switches, depending on variables like temperature and airflow - anywhere from 3 hours to several days. They are spread in droplets from coughing and sneezing, travelling up to 2m to land on surfaces. People can breathe in the droplets or touch the surfaces that have living viruses on them that can then enter the body through the eyes, nose or mouth when touched. And we touch our face a lot - as much as once every two minutes.
  • Fungi thrive in warm, damp conditions and are only moderately harmful to healthy people causing fungal infections like ringworm and athlete’s foot.
  • Protozoa are one-cell organisms that love moisture and cause diseases like malaria and giardia infection. 

How hand washing eliminates viruses

Regular washing of hands with soap kills harmful viral pathogens. This is because viruses are not strong nanoparticles. So soap ingredients bond with the fatty lipid membrane layer, wrapping around a virus, dissolving it and destroying the virus. Soap is faster and more effective than alcohol-based hand sanitiser thanks to its frothy liquid that lathers the whole hands and wrists quickly and easily. 

We’ve made soap simple just like the old days!

At Ahhh, we remember a childhood when plastic pump bottles didn’t exist and soap came in simple paper or cardboard packaging. And we reckon everyone is ready to return to those simpler times. 

Liquid soap was first patented in 1865 and produced for industrial use, and pump bottles were mass-produced for domestic use in the 1980s enticing consumers with their convenience. But prior to that, for thousands of years as far back as 2800 BC, humans only used bar soap - and we survived and thrived as a species for a very, very long time!

So here are 5 myths about soaps that we’ve busted so you can have confidence in your choice to shop with the environment and your family’s health in mind!

1. Bar soaps are less hygienic than liquid soaps

False. Let’s address the biggest elephant in the room first: bar soaps do not spread germs from one user to the next. A key 1988 study found that even when 70 times the usual contaminants that could be found on a bar soap are deposited onto a soap in a laboratory environment - including E. coli - there were no detectable germs transferred to the skin. 

Germs however can transfer from user to user from the pump mechanism used on liquid soaps. If hands aren’t washed thoroughly after pumping, and remain on the skin, they could even be transferred to the eyes, nose or mouth and spread bacterial or viral infection. 

2. Liquid soaps are more gentle on skin than bar soaps

False. Liquid soaps are usually formulated using skin irritating synthetic detergents, chemical ingredients and undisclosed, patent-protected combinations of up to 500 synthetic fragrances associated with respiratory issues. Those marketed as killing “up to 99.9% bacteria” have even raised alarm bells among the scientific community regarding their potential connection to the rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria. 

Liquid soaps also use chemicals to create their foaming properties, many of which are widely known skin and eye irritants that strip skin of its natural oils leading to eczema, redness and itching and psoriasis while exacerbating acne and breakouts. These foaming agents include surfactant chemicals sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and ammonium laurel sulfate (ALS). Many liquid soaps also contain petroleum-based ingredients that are linked to some cancers, neurotoxicity, kidney disease and respiratory illness, as well as emulsifiers and stabilisers to keep the liquid consistency required for a pump bottle dispenser.

In contrast, our Ahhh soap bars are allergy friendly and safe to use on sensitive skin thanks to hydrating, antibacterial, vitamin rich coconut oil and cane sugar. Some of our soap bars contain extra sugar or loofah to provide a gentle, safe exfoliation to remove dead skin cells and debris from deep within the pores. Like our Raspberry and Vanilla Sugar Scrub packed with skin-healing vitamin C and antioxidants to fight premature skin damage from sun and pollution, and our delicious Peach Smoothie Loofah Soap.

3. Bar soaps are just damaging to the environment as liquid soaps when you buy refills

Definitely false. Our oceans are filling with single-use plastic and it’s estimated that in 30 years there will be more plastic in the sea by weight than fish. Most plastics are also made from unrenewable petroleum sources, and while recycling is an option in New Zealand, more than 250,000 tonnes of plastic still ends up in Kiwi landfills every year, and only 28% of us recycle - that’s less than a third of us. Plus plastic bottles are costly to recycle so some councils just don’t do it. Non-recycled plastic packaging is also expected to grow by 40% as more products are made from new plastics rather than recycled plastics.

The carbon footprint of liquid soaps is much higher too, requiring five to seven times more energy to make, more chemicals to create, and more than 20 times the energy to package in plastic bottles. When you buy your favourite products, it pays to remember that you’re also buying their packaging. When shipping liquid soaps too, because they contain much more water content, are bulkier and weigh more, they use even more energy to transport. 

The great news about cardboard packaging is that it is recyclable - meaning we need to grow and cut down fewer trees - and it is compostable - injecting vital carbon into our compost. Because you get more washes from bar soaps than liquid soaps, and we tend to use seven times more liquid soap than our bars which last longer, bar soaps are better value for money, with liquid soap costing nearly ten times more per wash. We also use less water with bar soaps than liquid, which is vital during our water shortage era.

4. Bar soaps get messy

Also false. Because bar soaps lather less (although still very well), and contain very little liquid in their composition, they don’t actually release a lot of water to create “mess”. All that is needed is a soap dock, like our sturdy powder-coated aluminum Block Dock that can be used in your shower or attached to your basin or kitchen sink or wall behind it with a drip tray placed beneath. Or a free draining double soap tray beside basins that can be emptied and rinsed from time to time, like this Kiwi eco-friendly double tray system. Or you can store it between uses in our Storage Tin, ideal for travel too. Plus, our soaps are so pretty, you’ll want to see them proudly on display to add a happy boost to your day!

5. Natural soap doesn't lather well

Surprise surprise, also false. Our natural soaps are made from deep-cleansing, antibacterial coconut oil, which is packed full of antioxidants and skin nourishing vitamin E, cane sugar rich in moisturising glycolic acid, which in combination creates a gentle natural frothy lather that is safe for skin without drying or irritating skin. They also contain antibacterial ethyl alcohol, vegetable based steric acid and soda lye for firmness, monopropylene glycol to retain moisture and reduce bacteria, and vegetable, non-GMO humectant glycerin, which attracts moisture to skin. 

Many liquid soaps by contrast contain petrochemical-derived diethanolamine (DEA) to help the soap feel creamy and to foam. In large quantities, DEA has been connected to harming the liver, blood, kidney and male reproductive systems. They also include chemical lather agents SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) to create the foam, which can also strip skin of its protective natural skin barrier causing moisture loss.

Whatever your preference in soap, we hope our myth busting helps you make an informed decision. 

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