Protecting yourself against flu and norovirus: Bar or liquid soap?

Which do you use: bar or liquid soaps? Bar soaps offer a more anti-bacterial option wrapped in heady scents and skin softening emolliants. Photo: LUSH Karma citrus enfused soap

WASHINGTON, DC, February 2, 2013 ― The 2012/2013 winter cold and flu season has been rough, with record numbers of people falling ill from flu.

Getting less attention but spreading like wildfire is norovirus, a family of gastroenteritis-causing viruses (“stomach bugs” causing nausea, vomiting and diarrhea) that is very easily transmitted from person to person by aerosols (sneezing) and unwashed hands. Droplets from sneezing contaminate surfaces, allowing you to pick up the virus from almost anything you touch.

According to the CDC, a norovirus infection means suffering “2-3 days worth of vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, low-grade fever and muscle aches.” 

And there is no cure for the norovirus, only prevention ‒ and that means keeping your hands clean.

Which will do that better: bar soap, or pump soaps? My preference is a lavender or citrus infused bar of soap. It feels wonderful on the hands, and there’s often the visual enjoyment of jewel-toned and decorative soaps that can be an ephemeral, beautiful piece of bathroom art. But the best thing about bar soaps are the clean scents that provide a moment of relaxation while lathering up the rich, warm suds or while taking an awakening shower in the  morning. 

One of few companies who keeps its focus on the solid bar, LUSH, manufactures 294 tons of solid soap every year. LUSH says it is time to lose the liquid and raise the bar.  

Erica Vega, Lush, strips down the packaging to promote Lush environmentally friendly policies.

Erica Vega, Lush, strips down the packaging to promote Lush environmentally friendly policies.

Erica Vega, Trainer for LUSH North America, answers our questions as to why they think bar soap is the better choice.

Communities Digital News: Why is bar soap superior to liquid soap?  

Erica Vega: Simply put, no water content means no bacteria growth and no need for preservatives or packaging. We use preservatives only when we absolutely must, so we naturally love solid products that don’t need them. Solid soaps also open up possibilities for different textures and added ingredients like seaweed, citrus rinds, oats or figs. Soap is sexy!

CDN: Do herbs/citrus used in bar soap act as an anti-bacterial?   

EV: Absolutely! Essential oils are naturally antibacterial, in addition to being soothing or stimulating or detoxifying. We pack our soaps with essential oil blends to provide not only fragrance but the antibacterial benefits. In addition, we will also add ingredients like honey, salt, or aloe to boost the benefits in your soap.

CDN: If someone has the flu and uses the bar soap at the sink, how can we make sure we don’t pick up those germs they left behind?   

EV: Soap is naturally anti[microbial], so I wouldn’t place too much worry on catching a virus from a soap. It’s constantly self-cleansing.

CDN: How can bar soap on the counter be presented as healthier than liquid soap? 

EV: I always cringe when I see that gunky pump, and then you get that crust that comes out. Liquid hand pumps are constantly replacing the soap with air, and that air is usually in the bathroom or near the kitchen sink, which is full of bacteria. In order to keep these liquids from growing bacteria, they have to load them with preservatives.

CDN: What about the health benefits of bar soap versus liquid bath/shower gels? 

EV: People are usually “bar people” or “gel people”, meaning that they have a format that they prefer in the shower. That’s why we provide both. But we still feel that solids are superior. Again, it comes back to the non-preserved, non-packaged product that still gets you clean and smelling good; we just like to be naked!

CDN: Artisan soaps are often smaller. How long should we keep a bar of soap on the counter dish? Is there a time limit?  

Lush soaps on display

Lush soaps on display

EV: If you’ve been into a LUSH shop, you have probably seen our gigantic wheels and bricks of soap, it’s very much like a cheese shop or a deli. We take these soaps, sometimes weighing 30 pounds or more, and cut them to any size that suits you. Some just want a quarter pound to try it out, while others will buy several pounds at a time and cut it to size at home.  

We are meticulous about product freshness at LUSH, and our soaps have a “best before” date recommendation of 14 months from the day they are created. This is very short in relation to the other brands, but for us, Fresh is Best! 

CDN: Is there any type of soap dish that is better than another? 

EV: I would recommend one that has some sort of ventilation or drainage at the bottom, so your soap isn’t sitting in a puddle. Something with slats or holes is best. We don’t sell soap dishes, but I have heard that some people will buy one of our tins (we have a couple for massage bars, body butters) and will use that as a soap dish. I’ve even seen one person nail holes into the bottom for a drain!

CDN: How should we use bar soap in the shower or bath? Washcloth? By hand?  

EV: My, that’s a personal question! We recommend using them however you feel comfortable. I’m a hand washer myself, but people will do what they are inclined to do.  

I would definitely recommend using the bar with the scrubby exfoliating soaps to get the full experience, though!

CDN: What about bar soap being more drying than liquid? LUSH soaps definitely banish that thought!   

EV: Our soaps are packed with honey, aloe, vanilla, and make way for all of this by using less soap than most other brands. The result is deliciously smooth soft skin. The same goes for our shower gels, they are made with olive oil, honey, fresh fruit juices and sea salt to soften the skin.

CDN: Your picture is from a recent LUSH ethical campaign against wasteful packaging, an important message from LUSH. Is bar soap more environmentally friendly than liquid soap?   

EV: In every way imaginable. Buying solid means no packaging, no preservatives, less wasted product, fewer trips to the store, and no harmful chemicals going into the waste water.


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Jacquie Kubin

Jacquie Kubin is an award winning journalist that began writing in 1993 following a successful career in marketing and advertising in Chicago.  She started Communities Digital News in 2009 as a way to adapt to the changing online journalism marketing place.  Jacquie is President and Managing Editor of Communities Digital News, LLC and a frequent contributor to The Washington Times Communities as well as a member of the National Association of Professional Woman, New American Foundation and the Society of Professional Journalist.  Email Jacquie here

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