For today’s post I thought I would write about something connected to a more immediate concern, and one that has been topping news stories for the last three weeks: infectious disease. Most parents, especially those who have children in daycare or schools, are wondering how to keep their little ones healthy and virus-free this winter.
While teaching and practising good hygiene for yourself and your kids is important – and the the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has simple guidelines you can follow – one thing is still clear:
Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations.Centre for Disease Control, When and How to Wash Your Hands, February 2020.
In our household, that means going through a lot of hand soap because let’s face it — toddlers are gross. If you’ve ever purchased liquid hand soap, especially if you’re into ultra-fragrant fancy soaps from higher end stores, you’ll know that a small container can cost anywhere from $5 to $25, and we go through one per month per sink. Considering we have one kitchen and two bathroom sinks to stock, buying all of those single-use pump bottles involves a lot of wasteful packaging, and between $300 and $1000 in expenses a year. Using the method below, I project I will now only spend around $30 CAD this year on hand soap; not bad.
Foaming soap is not just great for your pocket book, it’s also wonderful for reducing water usage. According to one industry study, water usage from washing hands can be cut down nearly 45% if hands don’t need to be moistened before scrubbing. Since the specialised pump infuses the soap with thousands of air bubbles, the foam spreads easily without the need for additional water.
Making my own hand soap liquid from a concentrate is really easy to do. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 empty foaming soap dispenser
- liquid hand wash, liquid shampoo or liquid body wash of your choice
Mix 15ml (about 1 tbsp) of liquid soap to 300ml (8 oz) of hot water in the dispenser. Shake well until combined. That’s it! You will need to adjust the ratios depending the viscosity (the thickness) of your original liquid soap. If it comes out too runny, add some more soap. If your pump seems jammed, add more water. It’s pretty fool proof.
Reducing costs and environmental impacts further
The recipe is quite simple and there are many variations you can use to reduce cost and environmental impacts.
For instance, you can reuse a dispenser you previously emptied. Or, you can join a local Buy Nothing Group on Facebook and request one for free from your neighbours. Lastly, if you could buy a few in local stores or online if all else fails.
As for the liquid soap, you can buy soap in 1 or 2 L containers to reduce cost per mL and the number of trips you make and to stretch your dollars further. Hand soap, shampoo or even body wash will work equally well, so feel free to find one that has a feature you like, perhaps a kid-friendly scent like bubble-gum?
I would suggest that you consider something with moisturising additives like coconut oil or aloe as frequent hand-washing can really dry little hands in the winter.
There are even DIY recipes on how to make liquid soap from scratch using castile soap and essential oils (which you can then foam!). As a parent to two very young children who make constant demands on my time, I’m pretty happy with the cost/benefit ratio of making the diluted solution I proposed here instead of investing more time to make everything from scratch. With that said, from scratch can be fun to do, so feel free to give it a shot if that’s your jam.
For an added ecological benefit, you can use your own containers to pick up some liquid soap from a local bulk store, if you have one available to you. Finally, you can optimise your recipe by using a liquid soap with natural and/or organic ingredients (I like Method’s soap), locally made would be even better.
How effective is it?
So the real question is: does it work? As far as I can tell, there was one VERY small study published in 2017 that calls into question the effectiveness of foaming hand soap versus liquid hand soap. The study was conducted with groups of 5 people using two different types of soaps and found that foam soap reduced the amount of hand bacteria by close to one third, (about 33%), while regular liquid soap reduced the bacterial load by nearly two thirds (about 66%).
At the outset, it would seem that foaming soap is inferior, but on closer inspection, maybe not. The trouble I have with this study is that it is quite flawed and the results can’t be applied generally. For instance, the sample size is very small, so it shouldn’t be used to draw strong conclusions.
The second problem I have is that participants only lathered their hands for 6 seconds before rinsing and drying their hands, which is far less than the amount of lathering time recommended by the CDC (to scrub for at least 20 seconds). It is hard to conclude then, if used in the right conditions, the foaming soap would not have been as effective as the liquid soap.
In particular, the CDC notes that most soaps do not work by killing germs on hands, but by detaching them from out skin so that the water from the rinse can carry them away. It is quite possible that the study participants simply didn’t scrubs their hands enough because the foam soap had already lathered. The problem then is not with the soap but with the hand washing technique itself.
So where does this leave us? I, for one, will take my cue from reputable hospitals that have swapped their old liquid soap dispensers for foaming soap and ensure I use, and teach my kids, proper scrubbing technique for the recommended amount of time.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. If you’re already using foaming soap and don’t intend on changing that habit, this can present significant cost and water savings. If you’re looking to cut back on costs or on waste, this is a simple and good solution. In both cases, however, just be sure to scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds to maximise the effectiveness of the wash.
And there you have it! A simple, cost-effective solution to keeping budgets under control and our little ones clean during this challenging flu season.
Have you tried this recipe or experimented with castile soap? Do you have no plans of leaving your bar of soap? Any great hand washing tips for little kids? Let me know in the comments below and feel free to share with someone you think might appreciate these tips!