Most of us use soap for something or the other, and we choose biodegradable soap if possible. Bio soaps! How eco-friendly is the so-called biodegradable soap? Is biodegradable soap actually biodegradable? Are there more environmentally-friendly bio soap options out there? Let’s find out.
- What Does ‘Biodegradable’ Mean?
- Are Detergents and Soaps Biodegradable?
- What is Biodegradable Soap Made Of?
- How is Biodegradable Soap Bad for the Environment?
- The Best Biodegradable Soap Brands
- Switch to Biodegradable Soap!
What Does ‘Biodegradable’ Mean?
When you say something is biodegradable, you usually mean that the material breaks down naturally into smaller, simpler components in the presence of bacteria and fungi. This is an important factor in determining how eco-friendly the material is.
If a material breaks down quickly and safely into the natural system, then it causes no harm to the environment. But if it doesn’t, like plastic, for example, which takes decades to break down, or if it breaks down into microplastics, then the material can cause a lot of problems. This includes health problems for humans, and survival problems for other animals and organisms.
Are Detergents and Soaps Biodegradable?
Some soaps are biodegradable while others aren’t. It really depends on the ingredients present in the soap. Synthetic soaps contain ingredients that are petroleum-based, such as surfactants. Some detergents and soaps contain triclocarban (an antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal agent) or triclosan (an antimicrobial agent that’s banned in the US and EU). None of these will break down naturally.
RELATED: Non-Toxic Hand Soap Brands
How do I know if my soap is biodegradable?
Soap is considered to be biodegradable if at least 90% of it breaks down into safe materials within six months of it being discarded.
Now, you wouldn’t know that while buying the soap. So, you have to check the labels. Apart from looking at the labels, look for soaps that are made from minimal, natural, and safe ingredients. Natural ingredients will break down faster, and if they’re safe for the environment, they will not go on and pose any danger to the ecosystem.
It’s always a good idea to look at the ingredients in the soap to determine if it’s safe for the environment (and us!).
Are Detergents Biodegradable?
Most laundry detergents, especially brand name detergents, are not biodegradable. They contain synthetic chemicals such as dyes, artificial fragrances, etc.
Bio soaps’ organic content makes them biodegradable. But detergents have many artificial ingredients added in order to increase their effectiveness. So, the detergents end up becoming synthetic salts of ammonium and sulfates, with long and branched carboxylic chains. These chains cannot be broken down by bacteria, and so they are not biodegradable.
Looking for biodegradable detergent brands for your eco-friendly laundry routine? Check these out:
1 / Charlie’s Soap | From $11.99
2 / ECOS | From $14.92
3 / ECOVER | £12.55
4 / Seventh Generation | From $14.99
5 / Sun and Earth | $18.99
What is Biodegradable Soap Made Of?
What makes soap biodegradable? The first-ever type of soap was made by combining fats or oils and an alkali, such as lye. This simple soap, with these original ingredients, is biodegradable. But, according to the FDA, “Today there are very few true soaps on the market. Most body cleansers, both liquid and solid, are actually synthetic detergent products. Detergent cleansers are popular because they make suds easily in water and don’t form gummy deposits. Some of these detergent products are actually marketed as “soap” but are not true soap according to the regulatory definition of the word.”
Phew, ok. Soap, in order to work effectively, needs water, oil, or fat. While shopping, again, look for a soap with the minimum added ingredients, so it’s more biodegradable than the other options. Ingredients such as coconut oil and shea butter are biodegradable. So are essential oils, which are derived from plants, so they are biodegradable. Natural dyes, such as alfalfa or alkanet root that are used to naturally color soap, are biodegradable. Naturally occurring ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate and lauryl alcohol are both biodegradable.
Please note: Biodegradability does not mean low toxicity. Some chemicals that are rapidly biodegradable have also been identified as carcinogens, mutagens or reproductive toxicants.
How is Biodegradable Soap Bad for the Environment?
Can you use biodegradable soap while out camping? Does biodegradable mean environmentally safe? Generally, yes. One of the most popular biodegradable soaps among outdoor enthusiasts is Dr. Bronner’s. But many people get rather careless while using biodegradable soap, and end up pouring it into the water system. Why is this a problem?
Well, the ingredients, no matter how safe for us and for the soil, may not be suitable to that specific ecosystem (imagine releasing a coconut oil-based bio soap in the rapids of Alaska!). Why mess around with nature like that? Even the highest quality, organic bio soaps still can negatively impact the environment, especially for the wild water systems and the aquatic species that live in them.
Leave No Trace
If you go out camping, hiking, or are just passing through natural areas, you probably follow the ‘Leave No Trace’ rule (you should if you don’t yet!). Under this rule, biodegradable soaps and cleansers shouldn’t be used in and around a natural water source. The best practice is to move at least 200 feet away from streams or lakes, and wash up over there using water and small amounts of biodegradable soap. Then dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep, and pour all the wastewater into it.
Is Dr Bronner’s actually biodegradable?
Dr. Bronner’s soap is among the most popular biodegradable soap options, and correctly so. Their castile soap is made from vegetable oil, only contains certified organic and fair trade ingredients, and is among the most environmentally friendly and natural soaps you can get these days. It’s also highly recommended for use while outdoors in nature.
The Best Biodegradable Soap Brands
It’s quite simple to just switch your soaps to bio soaps going forward. (You can also switch to zero waste shampoo bars!)
Here are some of the best biodegradable soaps available in the market:
1 // Biodegradable Bar Soaps
1 / Alpine Provisions | From $12.00
2 / Kirk’s | From $1.86
3 / Ursa Major Morning Mojo | $14.00
2 // Liquid Biodegradable Soaps
1 / Dr. Bronner’s | $19.95
2 / Joshua Tree | From $9.99
3 / Juniper Ridge | From $16.00
3 // Biodegradable Soap Sheets
1 / Coleman | $3.99
2 / Sea to Summit | $10.97
3 / SOAPY MATE | $9.99
4 // Biodegradable Soaps For Outdoors Lovers
1 / Dead Down Wind Base Camp | $6.99
2 / Dr. Bronners Bar Soap | $6.33
3 / MSR Packsoap | $3.95
5 / Wilderness Wash | From $8.04
Switch to Biodegradable Soap!
Check out biodegradable options for other household purposes here. Try to use biodegradable soaps, solid shampoo bars, and more, as much as possible. Since the US is among the largest consumers of soap annually, we need to try out best to reduce use of soap, and switch to more eco-friendly soaps. We hope this post was useful for that!
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