Is Bar Soap Safe To Use During The Coronavirus Pandemic?

Experts weigh in on whether you should wash your hands, face and body with bar soap to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

We all want to protect ourselves from the coronavirus, and we’re proving it by wearing handmade masks, washing our clothes properly and washing our hands with soap and water as often as humanly possible, which effectively removes the virus.

Most of us are most comfortable using liquid soap during the coronavirus pandemic, because it allows each user to pump out their own ration. But what about bar soap?

It’s been having a moment in the past year, as it’s more sustainable, easier to find and usually cheaper than liquid soap. Not to mention it’s the only plastic-free soap option and can be used to clean hands, body and face.

But when bar soap is shared among several people, is it hygienic and safe to use during the pandemic? Or is it just a dangerous breeding ground for the virus? We spoke to doctors to find out.

Good news: A virus can't live on a bar of soap.
RLT_Images via Getty Images
Good news: A virus can't live on a bar of soap.

Bar Soap Is Not A Hospitable Environment For A Virus

Soap works against the coronavirus because it destroys the lipid membrane that surrounds the virus, leading it to fall apart.

Simply put, science has shown that a virus cannot live on any soap, including bar soap. That’s why you’re encouraged to wash your hands with soap and water as often as possible.

(Note: Don’t confuse soap with hand sanitiser, which isn’t as effective as soap in removing germs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

But Can Bacteria Live On A Bar Of Soap?

Keep in mind that bacteria and viruses are two different things.

Bacteria (such as Staphylococcus aureus) cannot be transmitted from one person to another via a bar of soap, an extensive study concluded in 1965.

A follow-up study in 1988 looked at whether bacteria such as E. coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa would transfer from infected bars of soap to a test group. The results confirmed the results of the initial study: Bacteria on a bar of soap can’t be transmitted via hand-washing.

If you’re still not convinced, you can always take extra precautions. You can use liquid soap instead of bar soap, but be mindful not to touch the pump, as you may risk contamination from the container. Liquid “soap is normally in a plastic container, and it’s very hard to use it without touching the outside,” said Darien Sutton, an emergency physician in New York.

When To Avoid Bars Of Soap

Bars of soap are safe and hygienic to use, but Sutton recommended that you use your own bar and keep it separate from bars used by people you live with, especially if you or they are symptomatic or infected.

“I don’t think there is serious harm if one person is sharing a bar of soap with another, but if you are trying to decrease the risk of contamination as much as possible, especially if someone has active symptoms, you should use your own personal bar of soap,” Sutton told HuffPost.

It’s best to have your own personal soap — especially if you use it on your body or face — to decrease any risk of contamination, added Janette Nesheiwat, a family and emergency physician in New York.

How To Properly Store Bar Soap

if bar soap is your only option, rinse it properly before and after every use, Nesheiwat said.

“Once you’re done with the soap, rinse it off and place it in a dry, open container. If you close it, it’s an opportunity for humidity to build up on the surfaces to allow for bacteria to prosper,” Sutton told HuffPost.

The Verdict On Bar Soap

The bathroom is a particularly active breeding ground for bacteria. If you share a bathroom with people who go in and out of the house, you and the others should have separate soaps, and you should clean the bathroom after every use with bleach or a product with a minimum of 60% isopropyl alcohol, Sutton recommended.

But don’t obsess over the kind of soap you use, Sutton added. When you share a bathroom with someone, you will probably contaminate surfaces one way or another, whether you share bar soap or not.

In the end, just remember to keep washing your hands with soap, whether it’s from a bar or a bottle.

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