Scour Power Bars

I like to calculate trivial quantities for my own entertainment. For instance, in the timeframe of my years in grade school, my mother made me over 2,000 sack lunches (thanks, Mom!)  Or how about, in the sixteen years my wife & I have lived at our current address, I’ve driven up and down our street over 12,000 times. Trivial or not, these numbers lend perspective to things we don’t think a lot about.  Like soap.  And my soap number is +650.  That is, the number of bars I’ve consumed over the years in a daily effort to keep clean.

Seriously, when was the last time you gave a bar of soap more than a passing glance?  The poor little 3″ x 2″ x 1″ pastel-colored brick spends its month-long life sitting somewhere in your shower or bath, 23.75 out of 24 hours a day.  In those remaining fifteen minutes (probably less) he gets his one moment of adventure, traveling all over your body while he works to return you to fresh ‘n’ clean.  But with each passing day, Mr. Soap gets smaller and smaller until the dreaded moment of deliberation.  Is his remaining sliver too little for effective scour power?  You’d never know it with all the water, but maybe Mr. Soap sweats as he shrinks, anticipating the moment he gets demoted from the shower to the trash bin.

In the spirit of don’t try this at home (because it’s already been determined), a bar of soap really does last about a month, assuming a daily shower.  And that’s me.  I take a morning shower every day whether I need it or not.  Even if there’s nothing to “get ready” for I still want to face my day like there is.  So, Mr. Soap matters to me. You can understand why I’m getting into a bit of a lather on this topic.

In the chemistry lab, soap equals a surfactant derived from the chemical compound of a fatty acid.  In the supermarket, soap is simply a waxy, floral-smelling substance you purchase in solid or liquid form.  Behold some of the more common brands in America (as advertised online by Wal*Mart):

  • Caress
  • Coast
  • Degree
  • Dial
  • Dove
  • Irish Spring
  • Ivory
  • Jergens
  • Lever
  • Olay
  • Safeguard
  • Yardley
  • Zest

Admit it, as unimportant as soap may be to you, there’s a favorite brand out there, probably from the list above.  Mine is a little more exotic.  I go with Dr. Bronner’s All-One Hemp Lavender Pure-Castile (and how’s that for a mouthful of soap?)  Dr. Bronner’s is harder to find and more expensive than the commoners above, but I sure like it.  Maybe it’s the hemp; you know, maybe I’m getting a little “high ‘n’ clean”?  You could claim I’m “soap-stoned” when I shower.

My wife & I stream most of our entertainment these days so we miss a lot of commercials.  But ads for soap – at least those of several decades ago – took scrubbing bubbles to ridiculous claims.  Coast convinced you its product would “awaken your senses” and “bring you back to life” in the mere minutes of a shower.   Irish Spring advertised itself as “springtime in a bar” as a towel-clad Irishman cut into the soap with a knife he just happened to be carrying, uh… where, exactly?  And Zest had you thinking “you’re not fully clean until you’re Zest-fully clean”.  As if Zest was somehow noticeably better than other options.

Even though my Dr. Bronner’s might label me a soap snob, I want to give a shoutout to Ivory.  The simple white bars claim to be 99.44% pure soap.  The other 0.56% includes the sharp tang of fresh ginger root, a smell I will always associate with my grandparent’s house.  I can’t come up with another smell so “cleanly” connected to my distant past, so Ivory gets my nod of gratitude.

Some of you reading this far dismiss the entire topic since your preference is liquid soap.  I say, good on you!  Liquid soap has all of the cleansing benefits of bar soap and is typically a better moisturizer for the skin.  Liquid soap is also less likely to gather germs than Mr. Soap since he sits fully exposed in the shower all day every day.  But bar soap contains fewer ingredients and more natural ingredients than liquid – better for you and for the environment.  As they say, tom-ay-to, tom-ah-to. 

This opera of soap is just about done, but not before I leave you with one final trivial number: 4,800.  That’s how many years soap’s been a thing, invented by those brilliant but ancient Egyptians.  Think about it the next time you unearth a mummy.  You’ll never know who’s under the wrappings, but at least you can be pretty sure he or she was left fresh ‘n’ clean.

Some content sourced from the RompaGroup article, “17 facts about soap, the most popular hygiene product in the world”, the Healthy Group article, “Is Liquid Soap Better than Bar Soap?”, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

18 thoughts on “Scour Power Bars

  1. I’ve been using safeguard for forever and never really have thought much about soap. You certainly bring a new perspective on soap. I might even consider Dr. Bronner’s soap — if I could get past the reflex of buying safeguard at the grocery store.

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  2. Dr. Bronner’s is a great product as long as you’re willing to pay a little more for soap. I think my wife got me hooked on it and I’ve never looked back to Safeguard and the others.

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  3. I’ve never heard of Bronner’s but if it’s lavender scented I would like it. I usually buy Yardley English Lavender bar soap which has been around forever. The dollar store sells it for $1.25 whereas it’s $4 on the pharmacy shelf, so last time I was there I was greedy and stocked up and bought 20 bars, a bargain at that price, but they don’t always have it in stock. We made liquid soap once in pharmacy lab, but it’s been so long I can’t remember how. I didn’t know that Egyptians had invented soap, but can picture the pioneers making their own lye soap.

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  4. Yardley may be the first brand I remember a cut above the rest. I think you’d find Dr. Bronner’s to be a similar product, Joni. Can’t speak to whether one or the other has healthier ingredients.

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  5. Good to know that a bar of soap lasts about a month. I prefer liquid soaps. Not sure when I switched over. LOL – don’t make fun of Coast and Irish Spring, I did feel like they gave me an EXTRA spring in my step, they had a strong pick me up smell!! I also tried Yardley for a while. Have not heard of Dr. Bronner’s but the packaging looks organic, must be good.

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    1. Oh, Coast and Irish Spring deserve all the fun-making, just watching those cheesy commercials from the 1980’s. But credit to both products, they’re still popular choices today.

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    1. I don’t remember the lack of lather in Dove, Neil, just the commercials where they claim “1/4 moisturizing cream” or something like that. Sounds more like a skin conditioner than a soap.

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  6. Your soap-opera included interesting tidbits, Dave, like who invented soap, and how long a bar generally lasts. Perhaps you know this tip already, but my dad taught me to smash the sliver of the old soap on the new bar, then place it old-soap-on-the-bottom in the dish. By the next day the old will adhere to the new, and you can use every little bit–never throwing any away. ‘Probably save a bar per year, and over a lifetime, that’s a lot of free soap!! : )

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  7. I used Lever 2000 soap for decades and then the manufacturer tinkered with it a few years back – it’s got a different smell and doesn’t lather up the same way. So, I’ve tried other soaps and settled on Tone for the time being, but maybe I’ll try Dr. Bronner’s All-One Hemp Lavender Pure-Castile based on your ringing endorsement. My mom had curly, long hair for many years and she used a bar of castile soap for keeping those long locks shiny and clean. She/we washed all the wood furniture down with pure castile soap too.

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  8. Lever also had some good commercials back in the day, Linda. Can’t recall ever trying it, though. I was skeptical about castile soap because it’s so hard, but it really does have great scour power.

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    1. I am sorry I missed your reply Dave. I have to try the Dr. Bronner’s soap. They have it in my grocery store – many of the scents/formulas. They have changed the formula in Cetaphil, (my face soap); now suddenly my hands look like sandpaper. I came here to share a story with a guy who likes numbers:
      https://www.audacy.com/wwjnewsradio/news/national/the-list-of-most-dangerous-christmas-songs-of-all-time?utm_campaign=www.audacy.com%252Fwwjnewsradio&utm_content=1637195098&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_term=WWJ-AM

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  9. Okay, that was the most random bit of numbers trivia I’ve read in a long time, Linda (not that the insurance company would agree). Thanks! Not gonna stop me from listening to Frosty while I’m driving tho’ 🙂

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