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Liquid soap makes me mad

liquid shower gels
Ralph Gardner Jr.

I’m doing my best to be a climate smart citizen. I compost. I reuse plastic bags. I’m sealing the holes in my house to ready it for a heat pump. But I draw the line at liquid soap. I’m not referring to dish soap. That’s indispensible. I’m talking about the liquid soap you use in the shower.

I first encountered it at European hotels and Airbnbs; Europeans are way ahead of us in creating climate friendly solutions to household problems that you didn’t realize were problems until they solved them.

Allow me to offer an example: action motivated lights. You exit the elevator on your floor and the corridor instantly bursts into illumination. Except when it doesn’t. I can feel my way around in the dark at home because I know where everything is. But doing so in a strange hotel is a different matter. I appreciate the energy saving impulse behind the idea. I just don’t think the savings are worth the risk of falling down a flight of stairs.

I also don’t need to be instructed to drop my used towels on the floor or in the bathtub to signal that I want them changed. I typically don’t want them changed. If I can use the same towel at home for a full week or more I don’t think I need to turn into a princess on the road.

But it’s liquid soap that really gets my goat. I don’t know whether any studies have been done on the subject, though the Internet seems to be unanimous: bar soap is cheaper and you use less of it than liquid soap.

I can understand why hotels might prefer liquid soap and why it might even be more cost effective in a hotel setting. If you use a bar of soap once and then discard it – or the housekeeping staff does after your departure – maybe that adds up and creates sudsy waste. I can also understand why the next guest might be reluctant to use your soggy piece of soap if it weren’t removed.

But again, why should we be observing different hygienic standards at home and abroad? How many family members team up on the same bar of soap without complaint?

I’m not sure how I’d address the issue were I in hotel management. There’s a limit to how far most of us are willing to go to save the planet from catastrophic climate change. For some of us that limit may be exceeded when we’re asked to share soap with strangers.

But my issues with liquid soap as a solvent aren’t limited to questioning its efficacy combating global warming. I just don’t think it works as well. Don’t worry. I’m not going into my personal showering strategies, except to say that the first hurdle, it would seem to me, is building a lather.

I don’t know anything about the chemistry or physics of bubble formation. But once you’re on a roll the soap and bubbles build upon themselves. It’s really a miracle to behold. That doesn’t happen with similar ease, in my experience, employing liquid soap.

But that’s hardly the only issue. The problems start when you try to squirt soap onto your hands. But your hands are already so wet and slippery that the nozzle often shies away as if doesn’t like you.

And once you’ve managed to corral it and squeeze a sufficient amount into your cupped hand you loose half of if on the way to whatever body part you’re trying to wash. First the overhead shower takes aim at it causing much of it to trickle away between your fingers no matter how tightly cupped. And then the rest of it disappears on that fraught journey from hand to body part. It’s hardly worth trying to wash your feet.

By the way, and this isn’t exactly on topic, but if I stay someplace nice with high end soap I like to save a bar or two as a souvenir to be used at home in the months ahead. I know you’d never stoop to such lows, dear listener, but I’ve even been known to raid the housekeeping cart when nobody’s looking.

I think of it as a small, very small, way to amortize the cost of my trip. Needless to say, you can’t steal liquid soap without dismantling the entire dispenser, which often includes shampoo and conditioner. Not that I haven’t occasionally entertained the idea.

Buy I’m not going to steal something for the sake of stealing it especially since I hate liquid soap in the first place. But when I spotted the maid recently at a hotel where I’ve stayed before and that tries to restrict guests to liquid soap I politely requested bar soap knowing she kept some secreted in her cart for curmudgeons like me.

The beige no-brand, scent-free lozenges she produced were so tiny and boring that I couldn’t help but feel they were meant to reprimand me. I remained unchastized. I used the bars with pride and pleasure, producing an exaltation of suds and leaving me way cleaner than I would have been otherwise.

Ralph Gardner, Jr. is a journalist who divides his time between New York City and Columbia County. More of his work can be found be found on Substack.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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