When it comes to reducing plastic, I still have a lot of work to do. But I am working on it. The coronavirus epidemic, however, gave me pause for thought of one of my improvements: my bar soap.
I used to be all about bottled soap. Pump with foam? Oo, I loved those people. But I recently dumped them and converted them to package-free soap to reduce my household’s plastic consumption. That even my bathroom contains hand soap. With Coronavirus, though, I’m thinking that my boyfriend and I are doing better by sticking liquid hand soap from our sink.
You see, my boyfriend is still going out into the world every day because he is for work. When he comes home (or when I make my occasional trips outside), we wash our hands. And at least mentally, that bar soap does not feel like Coronavirus is killing it. This is because we are dirty instead of grabbing it and touching it with, say, a liquid soap pump in our hands to use an elbow. Soap sitting inside a container feels so safe at the time of just trying these, sealing away from whatever germs may be hiding between our fingers.
Well, as it turns out, I’ve gone crazy for nothing.
“I do not believe that there should be a concern regarding using bar vs liquid soap for handwashing,” Marlene Wolfe, a postdoctoral researcher of civil and environmental engineering and soap expert at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment, told Earther in an email. “They should both be very effective for handwashing when the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes covid-19 is a concern.”
Wolfe would know: She has studied handwashing efficacy using a virus that’s similar in size to the novel Coronavirus that’s killed more than 100,000 people globally. She also told Earther that a lot of studies have looked at handwashing’s impact on bacteria compared to viruses, suggesting we need more research on the topic, especially now.
Still, she believes that soap—regardless of the type—is effective at fighting the virus. What soap does is break down the fat membrane of the virus and deactivate it. Even knowing this, I feared that somehow grabbing my bar soap with my dirty hands would contaminate it. Wolfe shut that down quick.
“While bar soap is icky to a lot of people because it can become wet and cracked and look dirty if you are touching it and then using it to wash your hands, whatever negligible amount might transfer to your hands should also be washed off during washing,” she said. “And there’s some work to suggest that bacteria are unlikely to transfer off of bar soap, and I would suspect this would hold for viruses.”
And for those who want to reduce their carbon footprint, but can’t just deal with dealing with bar soap, Wolfe recommends reusable containers for liquid soap stash as an alternative. These can be refilled at a wholesale supplier, which is his personal choice. Of course, what is most important at this time is our health and safety. If your best option is a plastic bottle of soap, don’t worry. While I waited on my succulent bar soap to arrive in the mail last month, I bought some bottled soap that I now keep in my kitchen next to my dish soap.
Since I am a succulent aficionado, I decided to ask the company about my bar soap. Erica Vega, brand and product trainer at Lush, told Earther in an email that bar soap, liquid gel, or even shower gel is valid as long as users wash their hands carefully for at least 20 seconds. What I love even more about succulent is that its bar soaps carry ingredients such as honey, herbs, coconut oil, argan oil, and soy milk to help keep hands soft. Everyone keeps complaining about dry hands with all this handwashing. Not in this house
Vega said bar soap is a great way to stay clean with minimal environmental impact. “Right now, we know it’s important to be so clean, but people can still be made aware of their impact when it comes to their everyday beauty regimes at home.”
So what do you think works to keep your hands clean? To me, that means indulging in cruelty-free bar soap that goes towards supporting immigrant rights groups and leaves my hands spicy smelling. This may not be the case for you. And if you want to purchase bottled soap (or any other plastic item for that matter), don’t kill yourself. Just whatever you do, wash those hands!
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