Wednesday, January 05, 2011


No soap, radio?

There are a lot of back to basics movements out there, involving all aspects of one’s life. I know a family of nine in my area that’s chosen to make their own clothes, heat their water on the stove, and such. There are lots of diet alternatives, including veganism, raw-food diets, and various attempts to eat only what cavemen did (and never mind that the lifespan of the caveman wasn’t so long).

I’d never heard, before, though, about folks who don’t use soap. But BoingBoing can always be relied on to find the interesting and the strange. The comments are very mixed, with many strongly supporting the idea, some saying I haven’t touched soap in [however long].

I get the concept, but I don’t really see how it works with the way we currently live. Probably no one cared whether the cave man was clean, but we do, and a good rinse and a wipe with a wet cloth doesn’t always do it. Surfactants may remove body oils, important or not, as sort of collateral damage... but they also help us get the crap off of us. What does one do when one has sworn off soap and one gets really grimy?

My favourite comment is number 20:

I really would not want to eat dinner at this man’s house.
No, it’s okay, I rinsed the chicken blood off my hands with pure, clean water! My skin is so soft and smooth, why would you worry about food poisoning?



Thomas J. Brown said...

I read that article when it was first published on BB. I told my wife about it and she said, "You'd never be able to do that." She knows I hate going out if I haven't showered.

But I decided to show her that I could, and in a couple of days I will have avoided shampooing my hair and soaping my body for a year.

I don't completely eschew soap, however. That would be, in my opinion, stupid. I still wash my hands with soap frequently, especially when food handling is involved. I also keep my hands very clean whenever I'm around my son.

When I shower, I scrub my hair and scalp much more than I ever did when I used shampoo. I also make it a point to scrub (or at least vigorously rub) as much of my body as I can reach. This is done in a strategic order, and when I'm finished I wash my hands and partway up my forearms with soap.

I had thought about what I would do if I ever got really dirty, and I decided I would use soap. In fact, there were a few times when I used soap on select areas of my body because I felt they needed it.

I can't say that not using soap or shampoo are "worth it." I don't really notice much of a difference overall. The biggest thing I've noticed is that my hair doesn't look quite as greasy as it used to after 24 hours (it still feels greasy, though).

I will say that I was surprised how clean I felt after bathing with just water.

My goal was to go a year, so as long as I don't "fell off the wagon" in the next few days, I'll have made it. I haven't decided if I'll go back to using shampoo and soap or not. From what I know, it doesn't really seem to matter (maybe it does matter and I just don't know). I'd be interested to hear arguments for and against, especially if empirical evidence could be provided.

Barry Leiba said...

I’m not sure how one could set up a properly controlled experimental study around this. What would one measure? But a study would be interesting to do.

Nathaniel Borenstein said...

Unless you're using antibacterial soap -- a real no-no, in my book -- then all that soap does is loosen dirt. For most kinds of dirt, something like a pumice stone will do just as well. It's when you have certain kinds of really sticky substances that soap really adds value. Using an otherwise-harmless kind of soap by default, all the time, is (to my mind) a reasonable way to make sure you get the sticky stuff when it's there, that's all.

Sue VanHattum said...

I went for a few years with no shampoo, just rinsing my hair most days in hot water. I liked it. But now it feels too greasy if I don't shampoo about once a week.

I seldom use soap, except for after bathroom use and before food handling (and after handling meat). I definitely try to avoid 'anti-bacterial' soaps.

I'm somewhat sensitive to lots of chemicals, and the perfumes in many soaps just overwhelm me. I like Dr. Bronners. I still haven't found a satisfying shampoo (ie one with a sensible ingredient list).

HRH said...

Sue VanHattum said << I still haven’t found a satisfying Shampoo (ie one with satisfying ingredient list)

I certainly can relate to you on this, for years my hair suffered from greasiness and dandruff, and I tried different brands of shampoos with the hope of overcoming the problem, but none were amenable to my hair. Couple of years ago, I moved to the Middle East region, and one day (5 months ago to be exact) I was shopping with a friend in the local farmers market, where she purchased 250 grams of this green powder at the herbal stand. I figured she is a math teacher, a health conscience individual and a pro environment activist, so there must be something unique to this green powder (which she ONLY paid almost $0.27 USD), and when I asked her about the powder, she mentioned “this is the best alternative to shampoo and body soap, made out of dry leaves”. To make the long story short, I have been using this powder ever since, and I feel tremendous improvement with my skin and I no longer have those issues with my hair. I am not sure about its ingredients; however I am going to visit the local plant where they make the powder in the near future. The local name for the powder is ‘Sedrr’ which is the native name for the leaf, and it doesn’t translate into English. I just can’t envisage my life without it.