Liquid vs. Bar in Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap

The liquid came first – peppermint to be exact. Bar soap meandered in a few decades later. While there are hardliners in both camps, the difference between liquid and bar is mostly a matter of personal preference. However, there are some differences between the two.

Here are the ingredients side by side for the Baby Unscented Pure-Castile Soap. I chose our simplest soap, which lacks any essential oils, so that the differences are easier to see.

Differences Explained:

  • Liquid contains more water.
    • Why: There is just enough water in the liquid soaps to keep them liquid. Any less water and the soap begins to solidify. To test this, leave the cap off your bottle for a day, and you’ll notice the soap’s starting to gel. You can reliquify it with a bit of water. (The thickness, or thinness, of the soap is not due to high water content, but to the consistency of the various oils.)
    • Effect on Performance: None
  • Liquid uses potassium hydroxide to saponify oils; bar uses sodium hydroxide.
    • Why: Hardness – sodium hydroxide produces a harder soap than potassium hydroxide. The purpose of these strong alkalis is to blast apart the oil molecules, separating the glycerin from the fatty acids. The fatty acids then reattach to the sodium or potassium ion, leaving the glycerin and water (hydroxide) free-floating. (Just a sidenote – soap cannot be made any other way. None of these alkalis are left in the soap. Check out the link at the bottom about soapmaking.)
    • Effect on Performance: None
  • Bar contains palm oil, in addition to coconut oil.
    • Why: Palm oil hardens more than coconut oil. Coconut oil, even in its solid state, is mushy, and it melts at 76° F.
    • Effect on Performance: Bar soap is slightly more moisturizing. Palm oil contains stearic acid, which some people find to be less drying than the lauric acid found in coconut oils.
  • Bar contains salt (NaCl – sodium chloride or table salt).
    • Why: Also serves as a hardener.
    • Effect on Performance: Bar soap is slightly more moisturizing. Since our bodies are slightly salty, salt water is gentler on our skin than pure water. Salty soap is, too.

Other Differences in Formulation:

  • How the Hemp and Jojoba oils are added:
    • In the liquid soaps, the hemp and jojoba oils are saponified, i.e. turned into soap, along with the coconut and olive oils. However, in the bar soaps, these two oils are added unaltered after the saponification process. This is called “superfatting” the soaps. A while back my brothers tried superfatting the liquids with the hemp and jojoba oils, but found that the oils separated out and floated to the top.
    • Effect on Performance: Bar soaps produce a creamier lather and are slightly more moisturizing.
  • Amount of essential oils:
    • This is only relevant to the scented soaps (everything except the Baby Unscented). The liquid soap have a higher percentage of the essential oils than do the bar soaps. Once again, the issue at stake is hardness. The bar soaps would soften with that high a concentration of the essential oils.
    • Effect on Performance: This is entirely a matter of personal preference. Those who like an intense whiff of scent, and those who are looking for the specific benefits of the particular essential oils, should opt for the liquids. Those who like a little scent, but not too much, the bar soap would be better.

Differences in Usage:
For all body applications, they are entirely interchangeable – from washing face, hair, or body, or shaving. For around the house purposes, you would need to take the extra step of dissolving the bar soaps in water before using them in a spray bottle solution, but they are equally effective. Also, the bar soap can be grated to achieve a kind of powdered soap for laundry, although the liquid works just as well.

Volume of Actual Soap:
I don’t know how to de-math this, but people who put together their own recipes for cleaners might want to know this. Bar soaps are 5% water; liquids are 61%. The chemistry is a little different for both, but considering that a bar of soap weighs 5 oz, and thus 4.75 oz of it is soap, you would need 12.18 ounces (a little over 1 ½ c.) of liquid soap to equal the soap content of a 5 oz bar. Doing the math the other way, 1 cup of liquid soap equals approximately 2/3 of a bar (or 3.64 oz.) of Dr. B’s bar soap.

Bottom Line:
The Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Bar and Pure-Castile Liquid soaps are interchangeable. However, the bars are slightly more moisturizing. The liquids are slightly more scented.

If you want more info on the process of soapmaking, check out this article, Making the Best Soap. And here’s a video tour of our Liquid Soap Production Factory.

If you have any other questions about what is in the soap and why or where it is sourced and why or anything else, let me know!

349 thoughts on “Liquid vs. Bar in Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap

  1. Even though I’m sure the Bronner company uses safe palm oil,I haven’t used palm oil in years coz of loss of orangatan habitat.Just to be “sure”.I have been a life long vegan,over 65 years,so I am & have health issues & absolutely have had to be a list ready always.You know the saying “Your pharmacist is your last line of defense”- don’t believe it.I am deathly allergic to atropine ,the specialist prescribed 2 meds with atropine & the pharmacist filled them both.Not 1 word.So if you are but allergic,check out before trying “almond”soap.& read these labels to see if all items are made on same items/runs area.I had a cousin that was very but allergic,so we all had to read labels for him too.Which,as it turns out,in this day & age, isn’t a bad idea!

    • Hi Sarah- I agree, it is important to read labels! Our Almond Castile soap does not contain atropine. It is made with “natural almond fragrance,” which is derived from Cassia flowers. Bitter almond oil contains prussic acid (better known as cyanide), so we use the Cassia flower instead. Palm oil can be grown from ethical sources. I covered this topic in a recent blog post, Making Ethical Palm Oil a reality (https://www.lisabronner.com/making-ethical-palm-oil-a-reality/)

  2. Hi! I was wondering if a tiny bit of the bar soap can be used on the teeth? I just recently got my first Dr. Bronner’s and it’s a bar and I’m interested in using it on my teeth too!! It’s the Lavender one

    • Hi Oriana- It sure can! Run you toothbrush across the bar then brush. It does taste like, well, soap.

  3. Hi Lisa! I’d like to start making my own liquid body/hand/dish soap. I’m trying to avoid any plastic. Is it possible to use the bar to create liquid soaps? Thanks!

  4. Has Bronner soaps considered adding a shea butter product or adding shea butter to current product

    • Hi Patricia- Shea butter is a great ingredient and we are currently looking at using it in some upcoming products. Stay tuned!

  5. I prefer not to buy products packaged in plastic; because of this I would like to switch to your bar soaps but am curious about how you source the palm oil?
    Also curious if you offer liquid soap in glass bottles?
    Thank you!

    • Hi Barbara- We are just as concerned at palm oil and responsible sourcing as I suspect you are. We partner with small scale farmers to ethically and responsibly source palm oil for our Castile bar soaps and palm kernel oil for our Castile liquid soap. Take a deeper look into how we source our palm oil: https://www.lisabronner.com/making-ethical-palm-oil-a-reality/ Because most of our products are used in wet and potentially slippery locations, glass is not a viable option for us.

  6. Hello, I’m new to this soap and don’t know the difference between them. I purchased the lavender scented one in hopes to even out my skin complexion. Please help me to determine the difference and if I purchased the correct one. Thanks

    • Hi Glenda- Lavender is one of our more mild scents, great for normal (-ish) skin. If your skin needs more balancing out, or is acne-prone, give the Tea Tree a try.

  7. I loved this explanation! My question is… If i cut the tea tree bar soap into pieces and dissolve in water to use as a shower “gel” is that diluting the product?
    Should just use the bar as is or opt forthe liquid if thats the case?

    • Hi Lillie- The bar soap is formulated so that it doesn’t turn mushy in the bath or shower, and that makes it difficult to dissolve into a liquid. The liquid Castile soap is not just the bar soap plus water. If you like a shower gel, you’ll be happier with the liquid Castile.

  8. Hi, I like your products very much however I have a family member that is extremely allergic to coconut [and nuts as well]. Is there any chance there would be a sensitive option of Castile soap coming out without coconut oil?

    • Hi Megan- No, unfortunately not. Coconut oil is a core ingredient of our Castile soap. Best wishes finding an alternative.

  9. Hi, my husband bought us a box of Dr bronners tea tree bar soap to use. I can use it like a normal soap bar for washing I guess, but I’m stuck with how to dilute it to use for other purposes. I saw the cheat sheet for liquid soap but this is bars. Do you have something similar for the bars? I’d like to use it for house hold cleaning and laundry, and today I need to use it too kill lots of white fly, if possible (without killing my plants). I also need to use it too relanolise a wool nappy. I tried grating to equal the amount of soap flakes the nappy website suggested, but it was far too soapy. I’m not getting much use from your soap as I’m stuck with how to use it. Thank you.

    • Hi Sophie- Oh, do I have a blog post for you. The Unexpected Versatility of Bar Soap, is chock-full of great ideas to put your bar soap to use (https://www.lisabronner.com/the-unexpected-versatility-of-bar-soap/). The bar soap can be grated and used in laundry. You’ll find it dissolves best in hot water. I don’t have a recipe to share, but there are many available online. To make an insecticidal soap, bring one quart (1 L) of water to a boil and add ½ Tbsp. (7.5 Tbsp.) of grated soap. Mix and let cool. I haven’t tried this recipe, but it’s the equivalent of using the liquid soap. Castile soap is mild enough to use on wool (provided the label says it can be washed), although I don’t have a suggestion on how to relanolise wool.

  10. Hi! I just purchased your peppermint Castile soap. I’d like to add some drops of tea tree oil to the bottle. How much do you think will suffice?

    • Hi Sandra- Congratulations and welcome! It depends on the usage. Tea tree essential oil is very potent. If you’re using the soap for body care, I recommend using our Tea Tree Castile soap instead. In the All-Purpose Household Cleaner Spray (1/4 c. soap in a quart of water in a spray bottle), you can add 1/4 tsp. tea tree essential oil.

  11. Hi I just purchased one of the bar soaps and I was wondering if I have to melt it or can I just use it as it is in its solid form.

    • I keep reading about diluting Castile soap. I want to purchase the Castile bar soap but do I have to dilute it when I use it or is that just for the liquid the Castile soap . Thanks

    • Hi Mrs. Kaplan- Our bar soaps do not need to be diluted. A few swipes on your washcloth or a rub through wet hands will clean you from head to toe.

  12. I want to scent the bar soap myself. Will it melt well so I can add the essential oils I want, and then I can pour it in a mold? Thank you!

    • Hi Rebekah- I’m sorry, there isn’t really a way to liquify the bar soap and then re-harden it. It is formulated not to melt. The reason they are not as scented as our liquid soaps is that more essential oils would soften the bar soap.

  13. Hi Lisa, I was wondering, I am wanting to try a bar soap for my facial cleanser, is the all one hemp almond bar soap ok for this use???

    • Hi Mae- Yes! Almond is one of our more mild scents and great for normal to dry skin. For combination or acne-prone skin, I recommend the Tea Tree Castile.

  14. Are the scented soaps any less biodegradable?
    Was recommended to use the baby unscented. However, thinking a scent may be nice.
    For sailing in the BVI’s.

    • Hi Julia- It’s funny that you should ask. The essential oils in our soaps actually accelerate their biodegradability. If you’re in need of a scent recommendation, the Peppermint Castile is cooling and refreshing in a tropical climate!

  15. Hello,

    I was looking up DIY laundry detergent and found that bar Castile soap paired with Super Washing Soda would work. How many bars would I need for 1 Cup of Washing Soda? Thank you. ✌?❤️

    • Hi Carolann- This is not a combo that I have tried, although I have seen many endorsements for it. I can tell you that bar of soap comes out to about 3 1/2 cups when grated. If there are any other readers who want to weigh in on this laundry recipe, please do.

    • Here is a DIY recipe that includes just washing soda and castile soap (https://mommypotamus.com/laundry-detergent/). I have not tried it, so I cannot speak to its effectiveness. I use a DIY recipe from Arm ‘n Hammer; it calls for 1 grated bar of soap, 2 cups of washing soda and 1/2 cup of baking soda. I have used it for over two years and I’m very pleased with it. I use vinegar in my fabric softener opening on my washing machine. My suggestion is to try a small or trial batch to see how it works with your machine, water soft/hardness, and laundry needs. I hope this is helpful to you.

  16. Hi Lisa, love your liquid soaps and have been using then for dishes and laundry. However, I’m trying to go Plastic-Free. Will the bar soap work for dishes and laundry? Any suggestions on how to use?

    • Hi Patti – Yes, the bar soap will work for both. Grate the bar soap to use in the laundry. For dishes, rub a stiff brush on the bar, or rub the bar on a nubby cloth to pick up the soap. Both the inner and outer wrapper on the bar soap are made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper and fully recyclable.

  17. Hi Lisa. I am verifying that all the oils listed in the Baby Unscented Liquid Soap have been saponified into Glycerin?

    Also, I find with all soaps there is kind of like a rubbery residue-type feeling on my skin after it’s washed off. The only bar soap that has never left me feeling that way was Dove. But I know they use Tetrasodium EDTA which changes the texture of the water and soap with the way it reacts with your skin (which is probably why it doesn’t leave that feeling). But that ingredient is toxic. Do you think if I add an oil or maybe vegetable glycerin to the Bronners Liquid Soap that it might not give such a rubbery feeling to the skin after it’s washed off? And if anyone else can weigh on this was done their own formulations with adding oils or glycerin let me know. I also break out really easily from oils which is why I’d prefer to use added glycerin.

    • Hi Kristina- All of the oils in the liquid Castile soaps have been saponified. Two ingredients go into this reaction: the oil blend (in our case, coconut-olive-palm kernel-hemp-jojoba) and the alkaline (potassium hydroxide). Three things come out of the reaction: soap molecules, glyercin and water. There is a great explanation of this reaction, and soapmaking in general, on the Dr. Bronner’s website, https://www.drbronner.com/about/our-customers/making-the-best-soap/. The difference with the Dove bar is that it is mostly not soap. It is a combination bar, primarily of a detergent, Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate, with tallow (beef) or palm soap added. Soap leaves a different feel on our skin than detergent cleansers. You are welcome to add more glycerin to the liquid soap. Glycerin is a natural humectant, which means it draws moisture into the skin. You might also consider the Dr. Bronner’s Sugar Soaps which are more moisturizing than the Castile and have organic white grape juice and organic sucrose (sugar), which are also natural humectants. Perhaps my article on Skin Health, pH, and Dr. Bronner’s Soap (https://www.lisabronner.com/skin-health-ph-and-dr-bronners-soap/) will be helpful. If other readers have experimented with glycerin and Castile soap, or have a similar afterfeel description, please share your thoughts!

    • Hi,

      I just want to say that I think jojoba oil has unsaponfiable percentage, which make soap less harsh.

    • Hi Ahmed- Thanks for pointing this out. Yes, as general rule, all oils have a small unsaponified fraction, or percentage. With jojoba, this fraction provides increased mildness of the soap and also increases moisturization.

  18. Hi Lisa,

    I love the Dr-Bronners soap bars! I want to use the All-One Hemp Almond bar of soap to make liquid soap.
    How much water should I add to one 140g bar of soap to get a good liquid soap?
    Also, should it be hot or warm water?
    Finally, when it’s in the liquid form, should I use the same dilution suggestions as those for the liquid soap?

    Many thanks,
    Becs

    • Hi Becs- Almond Castile is a favorite in our house too! This use of the bar soap is not something we recommend because the chemistry of the bar soap is different than that of our liquid soap. Liquid soap is not just the bar soap plus water. The bar soap is formulated so that it doesn’t turn mushy in the bath or shower, and that makes it difficult to dissolve into a liquid. However, if you’d like to give it a go, grate the 140 g (5 oz) bar of soap and dissolve it in 208 mL of hot water. This will get a near exact concentration of our liquid Castile soap, but this will not get you a liquid. It will be a cloudy gelatinous blob. You’ll need to add a lot more water to make the consistency more liquid, maybe quadrupling the amount of water. This blogger describes it well: https://nwedible.com/can-you-make-liquid-castile-soap-from-bar-soap/. But the liquid Castile is great for laundry. Use ½ cup soap as you would detergent. Optional is to add ½ cup baking soda to the wash and/or 1 cup vinegar to the rinse cycle (especially if you have hard water). Halve the amounts for HE machines.

  19. Hi could you tell me where the tocopherol has been derived from used in the naked lip balm thank you

    • Hi Shelly – The tocopherols we use are from non-GMO sunflower oil.

    • Thank you. I keep getting emails saying subscribe to you. Have I subscribed ok? Every time I click it sends another one. Not sure I’m doing something wrong ha ha x

    • Hi Shelly – Great, thanks for subscribing! It looks like you’re all set. When someone subscribes, there is a follow-up email to confirm you’re a real person and really do want to subscribe. Maybe that’s what was going on. From now on, you’ll receive an email when there’s a new blog post.

    • Hi Lisa I just wanted to say thank you for making such an amazing lip balm. Since October my lips have been dry chapped cracked and inflamed all around my mouth nothing would get rid of it. After 2 days of using your lip balm it’s completely gone and my lips are maItback to normal and feel great fantastic thank you so much I will be ordering lots more ? xx

    • Hi Shelly – That’s great to hear! Our family goes through it pretty quick this time of year as well.

  20. So there really shouldn’t be a difference in how your skin reacts to the soap?

    • Hi Elizabeth – The bar soap is more moisturizing, but it is primarily personal preference.

  21. Does it take some time for your face to adjust to the bar soap? I am 50 and have a pretty good regime going now, but I would much prefer to go natural/vegan and I want to something that I can use for my hair, face, and body. I tried the almond bar soap once and my face instantly broke out. Should I keep trying it for a certain amount of time or try something else?

    • Hi Sara – It can take up to two weeks for skin to adjust to a new regimen. I know that time period can be challenging. The almond is a mild scent and the bar more moisturizing than the liquid Castile soap, making it good for dryer skin. Continue to moisturize and exfoliate gently. Let me know how it goes.

  22. How do you dilute the bar soap to wash your face? I use a spin brush to wash my face. I tried to just wet the spin brush and scrub it a little on the bar and then wash my face, but it think it wasn’t diluted enough because my skin was very red and irritated the next morning.

    • Hi Lani- If both the spin brush and the soap are new, use just one of them for a couple of weeks to see if you can identify whether it’s the brush or the soap irritating your skin. There’s often a transition period for skin when trying out a new skin regimen. I agree, you just need a little soap. Wetting the bar and lightly tapping it on the brush would be sufficient. You might try adding a little extra moisturizer during the transition period as well.

  23. The bar soaps were my entry to the world of Dr. Bronner’s and I absolutely love them for body and face washing. I have long been wondering if they’re just as good as the originals — glad to find this post to verify that they are! (Of course there’s also a bottle of the liquid soap in the house for everything else).

  24. Can the bar soap be used on the face? And is it effective on the face like the liquid ?

    • Hi Monique – Yes, absolutely! It is slightly more moisturizing than the liquid Castile soap, so it’s simply a matter of personal preference.

  25. I’ve been making my own laundry detergent that uses bar soap. I’ve not been able to find Dr. Bronner’s bar soap locally, but have found the liquid soap. Using the conversion formula above would tell me how much liquid soap to use. Can you think of any other reason that bar soap would be better? Or should I not use the liquid?

    • Hi Jim – The bar soap, Castile soap and Sal Suds all work equally well as laundry detergents. It is simply a matter of personal preference. If you give the Castile soap a try, use 1/4-1/3 c. of soap per large load in a top loading machine or half that for an HE machine. Sal Suds is more concentrated so 2T is all you need (again, half for HE). With either one, you can add 1/2 c. (1/4 c. for HE) of baking soda for extra whitening, brightening, softening, and deodorizing.

  26. Hi Lisa, I want to know the expiry date for dr bronner liquid castile soap 946 ml.
    Lot code printed on the bottle is 18130 5708. Please reply when is expiry date.

    • Hi Prabu – The expiration date is 3 years from manufacture – in this case May 10, 2018 – but I find that if the soap is kept indoors in a dark place it can last much, much longer. The scent might fade over time, though.

  27. Hi there! I was wondering if someone could tell me if the bars of soap float in water?
    Thanks so much!
    Shawna

    • Hi Shawna – Our bar soaps do not float because they are denser than water. Soap that floats has air whipped into it, making it less dense.

    • Hi Deb – Although we do not yet have a gluten free certification, all of our products – soaps, balms, lotions, shave gels, hair care and coconut oils – are gluten free and we do not process gluten in our factory.

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