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In this day and age, we have come to believe that a magical clean is only achieved with soap.  Soap being whatever the store sells as soap.  It may not even be soap, but if the store calls it soap then it must clean and we are safe.  Safe from the nasty obnoxious germs we all fear.  These evil creature must be fought with foaming cleaners (sodium lauryl sulfate), antibacterial cleansers, and if that wasn’t enough, we make sure to use enough hand sanitizer to kill off yesterday’s germs, today’s germs, and tomorrow’s germs too.

Once we are sure that our hands are clean so we don’t get sick . . . we get sick because our bodies haven’t developed any resistance from the germs that we don’t have on our hands, then we beg the doctor for antibiotics or antiviral medications to zap the evil bugs from our body.

If only we understood how to live at peace with the bacteria in our lives,
instead of constantly waging war.

Can you get clean without soap? - Boholistic Mom


Did you know that we live in a symbiotic relationship with bacteria?  We need bacteria and bacteria need us.  We as humans are the host to all types of bacteria.  When we are at our healthiest, they have thriving colonies in our intestines, colonies on our skin, and even colonies in our mouths.  Our body can thrive and even heal when the good bacteria are succeeding in our body.

Why then are we always trying to get rid of bacteria?  Obviously, not all bacteria are good bacteria.  Because of these little creeps we like to call germs, all bacteria get a bad reputation.  However, the war that we are waging is upsetting the delicate balance of our body.  The symbiotic relationship with the healthy bacteria is being destroyed.  We are killing off the good guys to get at the bad guys.  Only . . . we don’t realize that our good guys, the good bacteria, can actually fight the bad guys all on their own with the right support.

We’ve all heard of probiotics.  It’s the quick fix to restoring some abdominal normalcy after having tortured our gut with antibiotics.  Some people take them all the time as a mysterious supplement.  Only, the good guys aren’t easily restored or repopulated by a pill.  As soon as we forget to wash or Purell ourselves, our poor colony of good bacteria quickly become overwhelmed by a host of bad germs.  Thus the continual washing, hand sanitizer, and other means of destroying the bad guys doesn’t work long term.  It’s a preventative, but not a solution.

Why We Need Soap Alternatives

While I could spend this entire post explaining the symbiotic relationship that we should have with our happy bacteria, my focus today is suggesting soap alternatives.  In the store that I shop in, they have eight options for soap that are antibacterial and one option for “regular” soap.  The “regular” soap that doesn’t have antibacterial goo contains sodium lauryl sulfate.  Think about this.  Our skin is the largest organ of our body.  Why should we put random chemicals on our body when we don’t even know what they are?  According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database, Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS) is classified as expected to be toxic or harmful and as medium human health priority.1  They also mention that there is strong evidence that it is a human irritant when used in products for use around the eyes, on the skin, or in aerosol form.  Finally, it is suspected to be an environmental toxin.  In addition to SLS, there are myriads of other nasty chemicals included in most store bought soaps.  Do you want this stuff on your skin?

Most bar soaps also contain rogue chemicals.  If you read the back of the box, you won’t recognize much.  Still real soap made through saponification can definitely be a healthier option with less chemicals.  The most basic recipe for soap is water, lye, olive oil, and coconut oil (the lye is consumed in the saponification process).  After the process of saponification is complete, you have soap.  Real soap.  Still, using soap all of the time removes all of the good and bad bacteria from your skin along with some of the oils that make your skin healthy.  Have you ever considered that you could be clean without soap?

The final reason to consider a soap alternative is due to your skin’s pH.  Your skin is naturally acidic.  This acid mantle actually protects your body from bad bacteria, viruses, and contaminants.

“Externally, pH plays a fundamental role in the skin’s barrier, called the acid mantle, which is formed by secretions from sweat and sebaceous glands as well as the breakdown of fatty acids by beneficial microflora. This barrier functions like an invisible veil that keeps the good stuff (lipids, moisture) in and the bad stuff (pollution, bacteria) out. As the name indicates, the acid mantle is at its strongest—and therefore most naturally balanced—when the skin is slightly acidic, with an optimum pH of about 5.5.” – Elle

When you use soap which is a strong alkaline, your mantle’s pH becomes more alkaline resulting in the removal of the natural protection offered by the acid mantle.  Foreign bacteria that thrive in alkaline environments move in and set up shop.  Soap results in an alkaline mantle and unhealthy skin.

Is soap good for you? - Boholistic Mom

Soap Alternatives that Work

Hear me out.  I use soap when I am really dirty.  Soap is beneficial after raw meat preparation, after using the toilet, or after being out and about touching every door knob, rail, and button in a 6 mile radius.  Soap has a purpose, but it isn’t needed all of the time.  You can be clean without the use of soap.  In multiple studies, the use of just water reduced the ratio of bacteria on the skin by half.2  By using water and these cleansing/exfoliating/moisturizing options, you will be able to come up with creative ways to lessen your dependence on soap.

Epsom Salt Soak – Cleansing

Water – Rinse/Cleansing

Himalayan Salt Bar – Cleansing

Raw Apple Cider Vinegar and Water (50/50) – For Arm Pits and Privates

Dry Brushing – Exfoliating

Epsom Salt Scrub – Exfoliating (use the link to the Epsom Salts above and simply add coconut oil or olive oil, and your favorite essential oil to the mix.  If you would like to join me with Young Living oils, visit my post –> here to find out how.)

Sugar Scrub – Exfoliating (make this by adding coconut oil or olive oil, plus an essential oil to the mix)

Olive Oil/Castor Oil – Facial Cleanser (mix half and half for normal skin; add more olive oil for dry skin; add more castor oil for oily skin)

Farm Fresh Egg Yolk – Shampoo/Conditioner

Baking Soda, Salt, Peppermint Oil – Tooth Cleaner (Find my recipe for toothpowder –> here)

Note: Add essential oils to any of these options, as needed.

Herbs and Plants with High Saponin Levels

Below is a list of plants and herbs that when crushed and added to water will create a lather.  We tend to equate a lather with our feeling of clean and these natural plants can provide a healthy lather.

  • Yucca Plant3,4
  • Soapwort (Saponaria) Flower and Root4
  • Amole Lily4
  • Guaiac Gum Tree Leaves
  • Papaya leaves
  • Soaproot
  • Quillaia bark
  • Soap pod fruit (various acacias)
  • Mojave yucca root
  • Red Quinoa
  • Our Lord’s Candle root
  • Wild gourd fruit (Cucurbita foetidissima)
  • Coralberry plant5

Final Points

As Americans, we are only one part of the world and world history.  The Greeks cleansed their skin with oil and the strigil.  In the Middle East, they have used a miswak for centuries to brush their teeth.  Some Native American tribes used Soaproot for cleaning.  Russians go to banya (bath houses) which have sauna rooms heated to high temperatures.  They cover their bodies in tallow, have venniks (bunches of birch, oak or fir tree twigs) hit against their skin, then refresh themselves in cold water.  In Korea, locals will go to bath houses to soak in hot water then are scrubbed with an abrasive towel for upwards of 40 minutes.  My point being is that we have one concept of clean and normalcy.  Maybe it’s time for a new normal and an open mind with soap alternative clean skin.

Thank you for considering new ideas on clean!


Brooke Shambley

THE Boholistic Mom


1 Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database: Sodium Laurel Sulfate – Environmental Working Group

2 Soap: How Much Cleaner Does It Actually Make Your Hands? – The Atlantic

3 Yucca Soap and Yucca Shampoo – Mother Earth News

4 Saponins. Plants That Lather: Amole Lily, Soapwort, and Yucca – New Life on a Homestead

5 The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published – John Lust

6 How to Get Balanced Skin – Elle


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