Fighting Words is Tonic's opinion column. Send pitches to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week, a coworker remarked how a patch of dry skin had cropped up on her face and it reminded me how much I hate bar soap. You know, that moisture-sucking, shower-sludging surfactant that people willingly use to clean their bodies, even in winter, the Season of Near-Constant Dry Skin? Yeah, that stuff. It’s trash.
It is the 21st century, and there are much better ways to bathe than by attempting to hold a slippery, mostly flat object as you rub it all over your not-flat body. Yes, a washcloth is another bar-soap application method, but those, for me, will always be associated with octogenarians who say “worsh.”
A bar can get stuck to whatever shower surface you store it on, and then you risk getting a disgusting glob of wax under your nails as you try to coax it free. This is especially true as the bar shrinks down to a sad, practically unusable sliver that breaks into even smaller slivers. I do not care if the soap comes from a luxury brand that smells like rich people, or has a neutral pH that promises not to dry out my skin: I don’t want that shit in my shower, period.
Body wash is obviously superior: It creates a much better lather that makes you feel like a kid playing with bubbles. It does not dry out your skin or leave any waxy trace behind in your shower. I use a mesh sponge with my body wash like a pampered show dog, and I’ll have you know I replace it whenever it starts to unravel or smell even a little funny. When the bottle starts to run low, I store it on its cap until, finally, one forceful squeeze gets out the remains and I recycle the bottle and move on.
Watch More From VICELAND:
There are only two reasons a person could have for using bar soap that make sense to me: one, that it’s cheaper than liquid and a few dollars makes a big difference in your budget (no judgement there) and, two, there’s no plastic involved and that’s important to you as someone who cares about the environment. I get it, but still.
Consider, for instance, the houseguests question. Without a doubt, they are squicked out at the prospect of bathing with the bar that has a lone curly hair stuck on it, either of the pube, chest, or back variety. They’ll be happy to suds up with body wash, and if they don’t pack a travel loofah, well, that’s on them. (Yes, you can put out a fresh bar of soap for guests, but are you really going to bathe with said bar after they leave?? Are you???) (Yes, you can buy travel-size bars for guests, but tiny versions of things are always more expensive per ounce and I highly doubt your guest is going to use the whole bar during their stay AND since we established that it’s weird to put the guest’s soap on the host’s body, you’d throw it out, and that’s awfully hypocritical for someone concerned about waste and the environment.)
Okay, but say you never have houseguests. It might be because they’re avoiding your pube soap, but no matter, now it’s time to talk about hotels. The sign of a decent hotel is that it has body wash in the shower, not bar soap. That hotel chain wants you to luxuriate in the exquisite lather only body wash can provide, presuming, of course, you are a refined person who packs a travel loofah. (I also pack a travel-size bottle of body wash as a back-up.) If a hotel has two piddly bars of soap in the bathroom—one meant for your hands and one meant for your body—you should check the mattress for bed bugs is all I’m saying.
And don’t get me started on washing your HANDS with bar soap, which is truly vile. Just think about about all the bacteria that transfer from your palms and fingertips to that soap, only for the bar to sit in its own filth and need to be rinsed before using. If said filth has congealed such that the bar is now stuck to the soap dish, you’re assuming that the next person at the sink will make the effort to pry it out of there rather than leaving the bathroom without washing their hands, and wow, that’s assuming a lot.
A highly scientific poll of VICE’s editorial staff suggests that a shockingly large number of young people are pro bar soap. “I love bar soap,” one editor admitted. “Bar soap lends itself best to obsessive and violent scrubbing,” said another. A third made the economic case above: “I use generic bar soap because it's cheap. Liquid soap is a rip[off].”
But even these bar soap-ers had their limits, some only welcoming it under certain conditions: “Very anti-bar soap in public locations for my hands,” one agreed. “Bar soap is only okay if it 1) smells like roses and 2) is only used by one person in the shower,” another conceded. “Agree on single-user restrictions,” chimed in a third. Added a fourth: “Bar is okay for the bathroom sink only at my home (and if it's kept in a soap dish that's regularly cleaned). Never cool with bar soap in public, and I never use it in the shower (only shower gel).”
See? A preference for bar soap often comes with conditions. I, meanwhile, have unconditional love for my body wash.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of Tonic delivered to your inbox.