Sometimes the zero waste swaps that look the simplest have layers of questions underneath. When I wrote about switching from liquid hand soap to bar soap last summer, I touted it as the easiest zero waste swap I’d made. And yet, that glossed over some of the aspects of bar soap that don’t come into play when you have pump soap. Readers asked, how do you keep the bar soap from staying wet and getting slimy? How do you store a bar in your shower without it disintegrating under the water stream? In other words: sure, this switch might be easy for you, but it hasn’t been so easy for me.
Except for a few bottles of refillable body wash still kicking around in our shower, these days we use bar soap exclusively. Bar soap is less likely to come in plastic packaging than pump soap, and it takes about one-fifth of the energy to manufacture, as well. So in our house, there’s a bar by the kitchen sink, one by the bathroom sink, and a bag of soap ends in the shower for sudsing up, for those who prefer bars to liquid body wash (me). The day when one bar runs out and we get to choose the next from a small under-sink stash is always a banner day.
Lately, we’ve been using bar soap from Bestowed Essentials. The creator Callee makes zero waste bath and beauty products in her solar-powered studio on wheels as she travels the United States. Her small-batch, certified vegan and cruelty-free soap bars, face masks, and other products are inspired by her travels and her experiences as a zero waster herself. This means that her products are packaged in recyclable or compostable packaging (typically, recycled cardboard or glass), and are shipped using boxes and packing material made from recycled fibers.
In case it’s helpful, here’s a peek into the bar soap set-up we use these days. It keeps soap dishes from sliming, soap bars from disintegrating, and has overall made the jump to bar soap a pure pleasure.
-Choose a slatted soap dish. In my experience, water pools in soap dishes that don’t offer it a place to drain. This prevents the soap from drying out fully between each use, meaning that it gets a bit slimy or worse, disintegrates into an unusable mush. A soap dish with slats – or simply a draining soap dish set on top of your usual one – ensures that the bar stays firm and intact. Ours pictured is this one from Bestowed Essentials, which is made from recycled tulip poplar wood gathered from a scrap pile and can be composted at the end of its life.
-Use a soap saver bag to corral slivers. When a bar gets so thin that even a gentle rub breaks it into ever-smaller pieces, we transfer the pieces to a soap bag. This corrals smaller pieces so that you can use them without worrying they’ll slip through your finger and down the drain. Plus, the rough texture acts as a plastic-free loofah in the shower, and since it’s made out of natural sisal fibers, it too can be composted at the end of its life.
-Keep it out of the shower stream. When you keep bar soap in the shower, try to store it in a place where it won’t be hit by the spray. We keep our metal shampoo bottles on the shelf closest to the spray and our bar soap and bag of soap ends on the shelf farthest from it. This helps the bar soap stay dry, an essential to its long and happy life.
In particular, I love the calming scent of the cucumber + spearmint soap shown here. Each soap is a blend of natural ingredients for maximum gentleness and healing, oftentimes a mix of powerhouse ingredients that are kitchen staples of the home cook and herbalist, like turmeric + calendula or Florida orange. (Or, ahem, a pumpkin spice bar for all you autumn lovers).
Once you find a scent you like, you can even purchase a bulk loaf of soap in lieu of individual bars, cutting down on packaging waste even further. (Each loaf is equivalent to just over eight bars, making it a more economical option, too).
You can find Bestowed Essentials’ full line of bar soaps here. Or, peek at their plastic-free toothpowders, face masks, and more. And, if you’d like, you can save 15% off your order using the code LITTERLESS.
Other questions / bar soap dilemmas I can answer? Any other concerns holding you back from making this zero waste switch?
(This post is sponsored by Bestowed Essentials, a collection of ethical and eco-friendly personal care products).