Soap is more popular in liquid form than in bars in the UK - but there are good reasons to stick with the old-fashioned way of keeping clean, says Gareth Rubin.
How do you like to scrub up? If you prefer liquid soap to the solid stuff, you're in the ascendancy. According to market research firm Mintel 87% of Britons regularly buy liquid soap, against 71% who buy bars of it. And solid soap is slipping down the popularity table. But why do many people still prefer traditional bars of soap?
1) It's what they've always known
Some people are just traditionalists. For them, liquid soap still has a sense of flimsy modernity. According to Mark Constantine, founder of cosmetics chain Lush: "It's always lovely when we're using something that's been about for 3,000 years. Huge empires have been built on soap - it's got a huge history and they're very beautiful."
2) Solid soap is more luxurious
Sniffing a plastic bottle doesn't feel very indulgent. By contrast, you can get bars with seams of different textures and scents - some bars have nuggets of sea salt, nuts or charcoal embedded in them for a bit of a surprise. Others come in beautiful or even amusing novelty shapes and sizes. You can tie attractive bars of soap up in silk ribbons and present them as a gift to a loved one - the effect isn't quite the same when you do this with a liquid dispenser.
3) The feeling of scouring away the dirt in the shower
There is something deeply satisfying about literally scrubbing the dirt off yourself. It's not just physical, it's psychological. Whether it's in the morning getting ready for a new day, or at night after eight hours of hell at the office, you can step out feeling refreshed and ready.
4) Less packaging is better for the planet
All that plastic has to come from somewhere and go somewhere. Recycling can only do so much, whereas typically a bar of soap comes in a little paper wrapper and that's it. If you are super-concerned about the environment, you can even buy bars of soap without so much as a slip of paper around them, so even the most eco-conscious of your friends will find you irreproachable. "And about 60% of the cost of a bottle of soap goes on the packaging and the pump, so you're paying over the odds too," says Constantine.
5) The bottles are fiddly
You can hold a bar of soap in one hand and it works. With the bottles you first have to curse a bit while attempting to unlock the pump, use both hands and then attempt to ignore the dispenser slowly dripping the sticky stuff onto your bathroom floor. When the bar of soap runs down, you can still use it until it is no more, but with the plastic dispensers it is a Herculean task to get the last frustrating pool out of the bottom. You end up unscrewing the top and just pouring it out.