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”.