How good are solid soaps, shampoos and dishwashing bars?

How good are solid soaps, shampoos and dishwashing bars? 1920 768 flustix

The big flustix test

Every person in Germany empties more than 25 bottles of shower gel and shampoo every year. Then there are dozens more tins, tubes and bottles of toothpaste, shaving cream or body lotion. What remains is an unimaginable mountain of plastic waste. That’s why more and more manufacturers are shifting to solid shampoos and soaps without plastic packaging. A trend that could prevent tons of plastic waste. Flustix took a look – and tested 17 products.

The basic idea behind solid soaps is simple:

  • Less water. Conventional shower gels contain around 70 to 90 percent water. In solid shower soaps, the active ingredients are present as a concentrate. This means that much less soap-water mixture must be transported to achieve the same cleaning effect.
  • Other packaging. Since liquid no longer needs to be packaged after water has been removed, soap, solid shampoo and co. Can be sold in a small cardboard box or even loose.Sounds sensible and practical. But is it worth it? Editor Ulrike (49) and her family tested the new products.

The Daily Soap Diary

Day 1

Budget inventory and planning: What all do we need?

Can you really replace all the hygiene, cleaning and washing products at home with solid products? After an initial search, I’m surprised: the stuff is now available not only in organic or unpackaged stores, but also in every drugstore and even in discounters. The selection is also much larger than expected: I can choose between dozens of solid shower gels and shampoos, find other innovations: solid shaving foam, body butter in a piece, toothpaste tablets in a paper bag, hair conditioner, black soap for the face. There are even children’s shampoo and baby creams.

Day 2

The shopping: Good 50 euros for the whole family – and all without plastic

I go on a shopping tour in Dresden and plenty of colorful packages for the bathroom go into my basket. The kitchen gets a dish soap and an all-purpose cleaner starter set with an effervescent tablet.

My receipt:

    Shampoo & Spülung
  • Festes Shampoo Repair Santé 2,95 (Sonderangebot)
  • Festes Shampoo Haarliebe 3,49
  • Feste Spülung Nature Box 3,95
  • Duschseife
  • Duschseife Outdoor Freakz 3,45
  • Feste Dusche share 3,45
  • Feste Dusche Isana 1,99
  • Feste Dusche Men Foamie 4,95
  • Handseife
  • Seife Orange Alterra 0,79
  • Bionatur Seife Speick 1,95
  • Cremes
  • Feste Fußcreme allverde 2,95
  • Feste Körperbutter allverde 2,95
  • Sonstige Kosmetikprodukte
  • Festes Gesichts-Peeling Nivea 5,75
  • Duschseife Peeling Foamie 3,75
  • Fester Rasierschaum Balea 2,45
  • Zahnputz-Tabletten 2,95
  • Festes Spülmittel Seepje 2,95
  • Haushaltreiniger
  • Allzweckreiniger Blaue Helden Starterset 2,95
  • Festes Spülmittel Seepje 2,95
  • Insgesamt
  • Total: 53,67

Price. Funny, it feels like shopping for the children’s department store. The packages are tiny. Some I find quite expensive. Almost six euros for a bar of soap? But the products are supposed to last a long time. The complete set for our family costs just under 54 euros. Most of the items we will probably not have to buy again for months.

Packaging. All products come in cardboard packaging that weighs four to ten grams. The starter set for the all-purpose cleaner contains a plastic spray bottle that is refilled again and again.

Weight. All new bars of soap have to “line up” for weighing on the kitchen scale. The lightest is foot cream (40 grams), the heaviest is dish soap (132 grams), shower soap and shampoos are between 64 and 98 grams.

Day 3

The first day without dishwashing liquid and toothpaste tube

Cleaning glasses. Cleaning glasses. Instead of liquid detergent, I take the solid detergent today, simply transfer with your fingertips a little soap on the glasses. Works wonderfully and just as quickly. I usually drip a blob from the bottle directly onto the glasses. This time I used much less soap.

Washing dishes. Conveniently, our dishwasher broke just before this test… Two “rinsing techniques” are recommended on the package: Transfer soap either directly from the soap bar to the dishes with the dishwashing brush, or add soap to the rinse water. I pick up some soap with the sponge, wash four to five dishes with it, and then rinse them in the sink. It gets clean, but is quite a fiddle.

Washing hands. Today, real soap in a bar is celebrating a renaissance in our household. Soap 2.0 is fancier than before, often round or square, with trendy fragrances and new names. I hide the familiar pump dispensers. In the kitchen, we now use the environmentally conscious “Soap Bar Carpe Diem” in grapefruit/lime, and in the bathroom, a bit more modestly, “Pure Vegetable Oil Soap” with an orange scent. For our son (10), soap is a kind of bathroom phone booth – a relic from ancient times. At least it’s easy to use. He finds it “quite nice”.

Washing hair. The square shampoo from Santé looks pretty. “Care For You And The World” is carved into it. I rub the bar of soap between my hands and transfer the result to my wet hair. It barely foams at all. I need more. Again. Again, nothing. I rub directly with the soap on my hair around. It is so hard that almost nothing comes off. At some point, I finally manage to wash my hair. Unfortunately, when they dry, they seem rather brittle than “repaired”. I nourish them with conditioner from a plastic bottle. Tomorrow new attempt.

Taking a shower. I first try the shower soap from Isana. It is relatively soft, and can be lathered up well. Works very well and takes no longer than liquid shower gel. The hanging strap is handy, actually. I decide to buy a few suction hooks.

Brushing teeth. “Toothbrushing tablets” is written on the paper bag. There are 84 of them. I put one in my mouth and bite it. Reminds me of peppermint pastilles from my GDR childhood. It foams and tastes great. Brushing teeth works! Conclusion: The tablets convinced me immediately. Always dosed correctly, ready to use with one grip. Much more practical than unscrewing toothpaste, squeezing out the rest, searching for blobs in the sink… You can easily take them with you if you need to brush your teeth on the go.

Day 4

Now also hair care works with a solid shampoo

Brushing teeth 2. My husband is foaming. He’s been waiting for a minute for the tablet to melt in his mouth. “You have to chew those up!” I can already talk shop. It works. He finds the toothbrushing experience okay, but does not share my euphoria.

Washing hair 2. Today I try the round shampoo from Haarliebe. It already works better. I get foam twice with my hands and massage it directly into my hairline. My hair gets so clean it squeaks. It feels full and well-groomed after drying.

Shaving. The pink soap makes a nice foam on the legs. Shaving works as always, I am convinced. This could become a real alternative to the metal can with plastic lid foam.

Shower 2. I try the round shower soap from Share. The fresh scent catches my nose. Showering works again without any problems.

Shower 3. Our son tests the blue men’s shower care with the hanging strap. So, how did it work? “Good.” How did it go, how did you get along? “Everything as usual!” The 3-in-1 care is suitable for body, face and hair. My husband is delighted: only one sub-100-gram piece for everything – and it even gets to go in carry-on luggage!

(I read on the packaging: 0% plastic, 0% soap. Huh? I’m confused. Definitely need to clear that up).

Facial care. I take the most expensive cleanser (again, 0% soap): the dark gray exfoliating MagicBar from Nivea. soap my face with it. Because I want to see if the foam is perhaps black (no!), I get a droplet in the eyes. It burns extremely! Later, I read on the packaging that you should avoid the eye area… Surprising: I have not noticed any peeling, the skin still feels softer afterward. The bar of soap weighs 75 grams. I will probably retire with it.

Day 5

Soap, no soap, and a surprising realization about germ slingers

No soap.To make a long story short, and without studying chemistry, the difference between soap and “no soap” lies in the manufacturing process, which determines the pH and thus the effect on the skin. Proper soaps are alkaline, and have a pH of 8 to 11. Our skin has a slightly acidic protective mantle with a pH of about 5. Washing with soap therefore also kills the “good” bacteria on the skin, and the protective mantle becomes permeable to chemicals and allergens. So-called synthetic detergents (syndets) with a lower pH value are therefore more compatible with the skin. They are then labeled as pH-neutral, soap-free or “pH 5.5” and tend to be called “shower care” or “MagicBar”.

No Soap Superstar. While shopping, my eye was caught by Foamie’s products. They have designer shapes and stylish ribbons, and there is a full range of products. The company has sold more than 3.7 million Foamies since 2019. The website says, “Since each product can replace up to two plastic bottles of conventional products, 6.9 million plastic bottles have already been saved. That’s about 2.1 tons of plastic waste.”

Soap Chaos. I wonder how to tell all the different products apart without labels. On my candle tray, which has been converted into a soap tray, there are already seven bars of soap: 3 shower soaps, 2 shampoos, 1 shaving foam, 1 facial care. Handwashing soaps have got their own plates and the dish soap “lives” for now in a terracotta bowl with angels – dishwashing romance.

Soap problem. The soap in the bathroom, which guests also use, looks pretty worn after just two days: it’s soaked and softened at one edge, and also stained. It sticks to the plate. I need to get professional soap trays that present a bar of soap neatly and don’t require much cleaning.

Soap surprise. Visiting the neighbors (almost 80). There is a bar of soap ready for washing hands. They simply never “upgraded” to liquid soap and are now top modern…

Soap science. Are bars of soap true germ slingers? After all, everyone touches them with dirty hands and bacteria feel at home in the warm, moist environment. According to information from the German Advisory Center for Hygiene (BZH) in Freiburg, however, bacteria and viruses cannot survive for long in the alkaline soap environment. Surprisingly, liquid soap even harbors more bacteria, which can accumulate on the pump mechanism of the bottle.

Day 6

The first apartment cleaning with effervescent tablets

Cleaning the apartment. Today I am making cleaning agents. The starter kit contains a plastic bottle with a pump sprayer and a mini effervescent tablet for the all-purpose cleaner. It’s simple: fill the bottle with tap water, drop in the green tablet and wait. It takes much longer than fizzy vitamin tablets, after 15 minutes my tap water has turned into a whole bottle of green all-purpose cleaner. I spray the sink with the foam nozzle – it works.

In the drugstore there were several systems, you can make glass cleaner or dishwasher detergent from fizzy tablets as well. Unfortunately, I haven’t discovered a product that makes liquid handwashing soap. I would prefer it in the guest bathroom to the “rugged” soap.

Body scrub. The exfoliating no-soap from Foamie contains zero plastic, but massage nubs on the bottom instead. Works perfectly again.

Hair care. I wash my hair again with the Repair Shampoo and then use the Solid Conditioner from Nature Box. After a few days of practice, I’m already a solid soap pro. Another round bar of soap joins my “shower memory” on the candle tray.

Lotion. I first test the firm body butter. In my warm hands, the cream becomes a little softer. I run it over my arms and décolleté. Then I treat the feet with solid foot care. The dosage is difficult, overall relatively little cream ends up on the skin, which is of course intended. The body butter feels very sticky on the skin even hours later.

Day 7

The first conclusion: plastic bottles have had their day for us

Showers 4. The Outdoor Freakz shower soap comes with a soap bag. My grandmother used to have one. Showering with peeling effect is fun. Later I can collect soap leftovers in the bag and shower them away completely.

Consumption. I weigh all products again. Shampoo and shower care are consistently missing exactly 1 gram after one use. The foot cream egg and shaving foam weigh 2 grams less each. Super productive: Even the two bars of soap in the bathroom and kitchen and the dish soap have lost only 2-3 grams each despite frequent use.

Sustainability. It is (as so often) complicated. The tensides for solid no-soap can at worst be derived from petroleum or palm oil, and even coconut oil is not always considered sustainable.

Health. Some synthetic ingredients can also become a problem for the skin. Rule of thumb: According to Utopia, tensides that are most problematic for the environment and skin end with -sulfate, for example.

Soap turnaround. I will definitely not repurchase liquid products for showering, facial care and peeling. The household cleaner, shaving foam and foot cream have also convinced me. For dishwashing, hand washing and tooth brushing, we will continue to use both systems for now.

Balance. According to a statistical survey, each person in Germany uses eleven bottles of shower gel, ten shampoos and four bottles of liquid soap per year. If you project these figures, 40 million empty plastic bottles accumulate in the bathroom throughout Germany – week after week! If our family (three people) switched to solid products, we could save at least 75 plastic bottles every year – and have less than one kilo of paper packaging waste in return. Please do it – for our children.

Image Credits: Ulrike Seidel