Does sharing bar soap make it unsanitary?

Foreign, used soap naturally makes one think “ew”. You don’t want to touch that, right? It could be contaminated by someone else’s bacteria! Professor of microbiology and plant pathology at University of California Riverside, Juliet Morrison, PhD, says that’s wrong, as her research uses immunological and virological methods.

Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus, also known as MRSA, is a form of staph infection that is resistant to antibiotics, which is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends not sharing personal items (including bar soap). Especially viruses enveloped in envelopes like SARS-CoV-2 (COVID) are much less hardy than bacteria.

It’s one thing to be concerned about MRSA, but Dr. Morrison says it’s another thing with viruses like COVID to worry about. In a shared environment, it’s unlikely that residue would remain on a bar of soap, she says.

“CDC guidelines make sense when discussing MRSA, but I don’t think they’re the best for viruses,” she says. The viral envelope could attach to a bar of soap, but when it is rubbed with water to make a lather, the detergent particles would disrupt the envelope, and the virus would no longer be infectious. It’s important to have a good lather.”

Moreover, in the case of COVID or another virus, Dr. Morrison explains that the infected person would have to cough into their hands, touch a bar of soap, and then not lather the soap to spread bacteria (see what we mean by unlikely?).

It’s very unlikely that soap can carry such high viral loads, but she recommends using liquid soap when possible, so that the pump comes into direct contact with the hands of users.

Dr. Morrison’s advice on liquid soap with a pump may be beneficial for some people due to the stress of even that tiny possibility of infection. When you’re using a shared bathroom, keep your soap with you in a caddy. You should be okay otherwise… after all, it’s soap!

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