Can a bar soap transfer germs??

Can a bar soap transfer germs??

Bar soap wasn't always my thing. I itched my way through my late teens and early twenties with body wash, racking up solid numbers on plastic containers and post shower lotions just to stop what I thought was a never-ending itchy season...what is an itchy season anyway?? 

I made the switch to natural bars about 6 years ago. One of the obstacles for me was getting over my belief that bar soaps were somehow 'dirtier' than liquids. I thought, 'bacteria can live on bar soap, and different people use the same bar of soap, so, it makes sense that these germs get transferred...right?'

I was wrong...and this is how I made sense of the no transfer thing.

My Founding Partner helped by explaining that true soap is a surfactant (surface active agent) with a hydrophilic (water-loving end) and a lipophilic (oil/fat-loving end). When we get our lather going and massage it between our fingers and over our hands, the soap molecules are binding with natural skin oils that contain germs and other dirt. We add water and rubbing to this equation, and the soap, complete with skin oils and germs washes away. We dry vigorously and head on our way as clean as can be!

This made sense in theory, but I was curious if anyone had tested it?? And it turns out, people had!

There wasn't much, but there was a 1965 study that showed no bar soap transfer and a 1988 publication of study results confirming the same. In 1988, two US scientists took regular bar soap and applied 70x the amount of germs that were being found on used bars of soap in other 70 times the amount that you would find on your bar soap at home! 

The researchers used a strain of E Coli and the bacterium that causes urinary tract infections. They applied the bacteria to 16 bars of soap, and had 16 panelists wash their hands with one of the bars. Immediately after, ''NONE of the 16 panelists had detectable levels of either test bacterium on their hands."

This means that yes, bacteria is on used soap, and EVERYWHERE else according to this infographic, but they're not getting transferred form person to person. 

In the end, a question from my partner hammered it home for me;

'You use the bar of soap each time you wash?'


'And it's under the water and being actively cleaned as it's used?'

'I suppose so?'

'So, when was the last time you washed off that plastic bottle of shampoo that everyone keeps touching and sharing??'


In our home, we raise the bar for a clean clean, for planet AND people. 

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