I’ve been looking for ways to be more frugal for years! Luckily some of my frugal tips for stretching soap also come in handy to make your soap last longer when store shelves are bare. This is one of our many real food, natural living, budget-friendly resources to help you through COVID-19 here at Kitchen Stewardship.
The kids and I have been ending the day with some science these days. We’ve really been enjoying Mark Rober on YouTube, and the other day he explained how soap works.
It’s a one-two punch. First, soap breaks the cohesive properties of water, allowing the water to be more sticky to other things like dirt and germs, and second, it destroys the lipid structures of fat.
Mark got a little excited grabbing a basketball to stand in as the Coronavirus, saying that this is why soap is so important for hand washing during this pandemic. The soap also destroys the lipid structures that surround the virus, weakening it.
That’s awesome! Even as a total soap geek, it’s something I didn’t know before.
I always thought that soap just helped water be more effective at grabbing the dirt and germs to wash down the drain together. I didn’t know it actually helped to kill the viruses themselves. Score for soap!
Along with toilet paper, however, it seems like soap and any sort of cleaner, especially sanitizing wipes and sprays, are in short supply these days. If you find yourself worrying that you might run out of your hand soap, bar soap or dish soap, here are some simple strategies to extend the life of your soap.
Picking up these habits may be yet another silver lining of being under quarantine because they are certainly budget savers moving forward.
RELATED: Reusable alternatives to toilet paper (yes, really)
1. Homemade Foaming Soap Lasts Longer
Having little boys makes me notice a lot of things about bathroom hygiene. Urine on the wall, dirt on the light switch plate, and the amount of soap used for tiny little hands are just the beginning!
Sometimes I catch my little boys using two pumps of someone else’s gel soap, which is approximately three to four times as much as I think is necessary to get a good lather even on man-sized hands. Oy!
I know that we can stretch the soap by allowing less to come out per pump. Sure, I could train my kids to just use half a pump like I do. But that would take approximately 11 years and 5,736 reminders. I don’t have that kind of time right now.
I’ve been making homemade foaming hand soap, both from soap concentrate and from plain old gel hand soap for at least a decade and a half. I used to buy the big gallon jug of non-antibacterial Soft Soap (why not antibacterial?) and make it last for two years.
It’s super easy!
How to Make Homemade Foaming Hand Soap
- To refill foaming pump with regular liquid soap, fill bottle about 2/3 of the way with water (I always use warm or hot, but I don’t know if it makes or breaks the deal),
- Squeeze the last 1/3 full of soap.
- Use your hand to cover the top and shake gently to combine–be ready for bubbles!
- Then insert the pump, and you’re good to go. Beware of putting the straw-like end of the pump directly into liquid soap; if even a teeny bit gets pulled into the straw, you’re doomed. Your foamy pump will never recover. That’s why you must shake first!
You can also use castille soap which might be easier to find these days, directions for foaming body wash (baby safe) here.
Sometimes my mom chastises me for mixing up the foaming soap with too great a dilution. She says it doesn’t feel like you can get a lather. So just use your own hands as a test. If you don’t feel like one full pump covers your hands with enough soap, simply add more.
Just remember that getting gel soap or concentrate in the bottom of the pump tube is certain death to your bottle. So be sure to mix up any additions fully before screwing the pump back on.
2. Make Your Bar Soap Last Longer
First of all, let’s start by saying that using bar soap is far less expensive than gel soap, ounce per ounce. Bar soap also lasts much longer in general, wash for wash, than the pumps.
However, anyone who uses bar soap regularly will tell you that letting your soap sit in a puddle of water wastes your soap constantly.
So two tips here. First, don’t let the slimy soap puddle deter you from using bar soap. Bar soap is a budget-friendly (and eco-friendly) way to wash hands at the sink and bodies in the shower. Second, keep the soap up and out of a puddle.
There are dedicated soap trays for this purpose, or you could easily create something with dowel rods or popsicle sticks. Anything that will allow the water to drain through and keep the soap lifted up slightly. This will extend the life of your bar, keep your hands clean and save money at every turn.
Once you get down to the little end bits that threaten to slip down the drain, save them up to make into more soap!
3. Let’s Talk about Using Less Dish Soap
I will say that when everyone was rushing the stores for toilet paper, I was much more concerned about soap in general, and particularly dish soap, simply because I wasn’t quite sure what the status of my stash under the sink was.
I did have one full bottle, but I bought a big gallon at Costco just in case. So I’m feeling pretty dish soap secure, but I notice a habit in a lot of people that makes me think that they probably go through about 4 to 10 times as much dish soap as I do, dish for dish.
Granted, because I make everything at home, I bet I go through more dishes and thus soap than your average American. But since we’re all cooking at home now, that dish soap may be going down at an alarming rate.
Whenever I see people use a squirt of dish soap for every dish or even those sponges attached to the end of a wand full of dish soap, I think about how much waste must be happening. So much usable soap is going down the drain if you put a little bit on your cloth or sponge for every dish, and yet people do it all the time.
So saving on dish soap is pretty simple. Use exactly what you need. Make up a pan or sink full of soapy dishwater. And think like a conservationist: only add more if the bubbles are gone and the soap is no longer cutting the grease.
So that I don’t waste water as well, I do tend to start out my load of dishes in a bowl or pot that already needs to be washed. Once that gets filled up, if I still have dishes to do, I can dump it out into the sink and have a substantial amount. Bottom line, there’s no need for a squirt of dish soap for every dish.
If you’re wondering whether it’s sanitary enough to hand wash dishes or if you should use disposables to reduce the spread of coronavirus, we’ve got you covered here.
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4. What the Dishwasher Repairman Told Me about Dish Soap
Back when I was first switching to a more natural lifestyle, dishwasher detergent was my nemesis. We had an older dishwasher in an older home and it seemed like the natural brands just were not getting my dishes clean. (You can read more about finding a natural dishwashing detergent here.)
Everything would be covered in a film of grease or, simply, had food still stuck on it. It wasn’t until we had our dishwasher repaired in a new house that an urban legend I had often heard was confirmed.
The dishwasher repairman said that in almost all circumstances, the little cup in the dishwasher is far too large for the amount of dish detergent actually needed. He recommended filling that cup only halfway.
So if you’re using a powder or a gel in your dishwasher, I highly encourage you to experiment to see how little you can use and still get clean dishes. Start at half and see if going down to even a fourth might work.
If you’re using the little pre-measured packages, obviously this tip won’t work. However (and I say this with much hesitation because I use those as well and hate to lose the convenience), I’ve recently discovered that that is putting microplastics in our environment.
If we’re going to live a natural life, we really shouldn’t be using the pre-measured, plastic-covered dishwasher detergent packs.
There. I’ve said it. Now I have to stop buying them myself!
5. How to Save on Laundry Detergent
Unfortunately, I don’t know of a good way to cut down on laundry detergent, because I wouldn’t expect the clothes to get as clean. However, I have identified the most frugal (and also simple) non-DIY laundry strategy.
Have you heard of soap nuts? They’re actually a berry that grows on a tree and, in dried form, all you have to do for laundry is put five soap nuts into a bag.
Then you can use that same batch of soap nuts for five loads of laundry! That’s where the saving comes in, down about a dime per load. Our savings really add up with all the laundry we do to keep up with dust allergies!
You can read my full review and cost comparison of soap nuts here. This means that your bag of soap nuts will last a long time and not cost you very much.