Does Handmade Soap Clean as Well as Commercial Soap?

During this time of concern over Covid 19, your customers may ask, or perhaps you want to assure yourself, is handmade soap as good for cleansing as commercial soap? Is antibacterial soap better than handmade? Is handmade soap antibacterial? Is hand sanitizer better than soap?

To determine the answers, we must look deeper into what soap is and how it compares to commercial bars. We speak of handwashing here, but it applies to the entire body, of course.

Real soap is the result of the combination of alkaline (lye) and oils. Any plant or animal oil will saponify, or make soap, when combined with lye and the water required to dissolve the lye. Micelle molecules form in the soap. These micelles have a hydrophilic end, which is attracted to water and a hydrophobic end, which repels water. The hydrophilic end loves to get into the dirt and grime and the hydrophobic end wants to get out of there as soon as possible so it lifts the dirt and washes it down the sink. This molecular structure is a micelle and means that soap is a surfactant. Soap is the original surfactant.

Make no mistake: washing the hands for at least 20 – 30 seconds is the single best way to prevent the spread of germs, other than avoiding them in the first place! Washing the hands with soap and water is better than hand sanitizer.

Now, let’s look at commercial bars. They are sometimes all syndet, besides color, scent and preservative, of course. Others are a combination of soap and syndets. A few commercial bars are soap.

If you are asking, “What is a syndet, anyway?” The term, syndet, stands for synthetic detergent. Synthetic means that the ingredient is lab-created, and a detergent is a surfactant. It has a hydrophilic end and a hydrophobic end that lifts off dirt and washes it down the sink. A bathing bar is a surfactant product.

What? Soap is a surfactant and so is a syndet?

Yes, exactly. Both are surfactants. Disappointed? Don’t be. 

Both surfactants perform the same function to lift and wash dirt and germs down the drain. Although that grocery store bar will clean well, it also means that your lovely, handmade soap is as effective as a commercial bar and will function just as well at washing thoroughly.

Aren’t antibacterial bars better for killing germs? The answer is no. In fact, in the USA, the FDA has ordered companies who make antibacterial cleanser to stop because in the years these cleansers have been on the market, they have not demonstrated that they do a better job than non-antibacterial cleansers.

That raises the question, are handmade soaps antibacterial? Maybe, maybe not; but it does not matter for the same reason antibacterial soaps are not more effective than non-antibacterial.

Some will ask, if they both wash well, why would anyone pay for a handmade bar of soap? The answer is that people pay because you offer features that store bars do not.

  • You offer something handmade. You will find customers who value that and will pay for it.
  • You make soap with natural oils and perhaps with herbs or clays and other natural ingredients. Many consumers seek natural ingredients in this synthetic age we live in and love ingredient labels that include them.
  • Also, you probably offer more than one variety or color. You might even offer specialty soaps such as unscented, castile-type or salt bars that store soaps do not.
  • Your soap is more expensive than commercial bars. Yes, that is a selling point. People perceive a more expensive product as superior and prestigious—and they are right.
  • Some studies suggest that synthetic detergents dry out the skin more, so customers often find that handmade bars are less drying than their commercial counterparts.
  • You offer prestige and luxury. Handmade soap used to be primitive and utilitarian, but now it signals luxury.
  • Customers love personal service and supporting small business. They like that they can call you or walk into the store and speak with the owner/creator. They can even suggest bars they would like. They love your creative and personal website.

Not every customer appreciates every aspect of handmade soap, but your customers appreciate at least one of them!

You make a great product, now go out and sell it with confidence. It it will do the essential, live saving job of cleansing!

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