Photographs by Nicholas Efran
This is a handy tip I learned as a Girl Scout that I still use in my home today. It’s a great project for Girl Scouts (or any group of kids) as a follow-up to soap carving: kids can put their soap scraps in the Soap Saver and then add any bits of soap they have at home.
A lot of people have switched to liquid soaps, foam soaps, and body-washes instead of bar soaps. One reason for this is that a bar of soap sitting in a soap dish accumulates a puddle of water underneath, which has an unpleasant look and texture, may harbor germs, and gradually dissolves the soap so that a lot of it ends up being wasted. A soap dish in the shower really wastes soap if it’s positioned such that the shower water falls on it, causing the soap to melt rapidly and drip from the soap dish onto the shower floor, making the floor slippery.
The other problem with bar soap is that as the bar gets smaller and smaller, it’s more and more difficult to get the soap you need. You end up turning it over and over and over in your hands, wasting time. But it’s annoying to throw away perfectly good soap just because it’s a small piece.
However, most hotels still give out bar soap, and most of us don’t use the whole bar during our stay. If we leave it, they’ll have to throw it away. It’s best if we can take it home and make use of it.
Also, there are some nice soaps that are available only in bar form, not in liquid, that you might want to use if only you could control the slimy mess problem.
What you need is a Soap Saver!!
Other than soap, the only material needed for this project is a long, narrow mesh tube. It should be at least 12 inches long; 18 inches is better. You might happen to purchase some type of fruit or vegetable that comes in a mesh bag you can reuse. If not, the best source is a scrubby-puff, like these, which I found in a 3-pack for $1 at a local dollar store.
Of course, if you happen to have a used scrubby-puff that you don’t mind destroying, that’s even better for the environment than cutting up a new one. Each puff will provide enough mesh for 2 or more Soap Savers, depending on the size of the puff.
In addition to saving soap, this gadget saves time, because the mesh helps the soap lather up quickly so that you spend less time rubbing it.
Probe through the layers of your scrubby-puff until you locate the cord that holds it together. Carefully slide one scissors blade under the cord and clip it, being careful not to cut a hole in the mesh as you do so. (If young children are doing this project, an adult should prepare the mesh in advance.) Unravel the puff into a long tube of mesh. Cut it into appropriate lengths.
Now collect the soap that you’re going to put into your Soap Saver. You need a total volume of soap at least equal to one small bar; you can use a lot more than that, if you have it. Each piece of soap should be bigger than the holes in the mesh. Remove any stray hairs, lint, or other yucky stuff from your soap.
If you have a lot of tiny bits of soap (for example, shavings from soap carving), get them wet, mash them together into a lump, and let it dry before placing it in the Soap Saver.
Tie a double knot near one end of the tube: Twist the end, curve it over itself, push the end through the loop, and pull through, pushing the knot toward the end. Then repeat the process, curving in the other direction so that you make a square knot. (A square knot is less likely to come untied accidentally than a knot formed by tying in the same direction twice.)
Put the soap into the open end of the tube, and shake it down to the bottom.
Tie your Soap Saver to whatever handy ring, towel rack, or hook you have in your shower, or to the pipe behind the showerhead. Alternatively, you could hang it over a sink, if you have a good spot for it there. Tie a square knot here, too.
To use your Soap Saver, put your wet hands around the outside of the mesh bag and rub it. The mesh increases friction, giving you a nice lather quickly!
If your hands are very dirty, the soap or mesh may get dirty and look bad. Simply untie the top knot, hold the Soap Saver under a faucet, and rinse off the grime; then tie it back in place.
When your soap supply gets low, untie the top knot and add more soap.
We conserve resources when staying in hotels not only by bringing home our soap remainders but also by keeping the housekeeping staff out of our room until we leave. We aren’t so messy that they need to clean the room every day, and even the most eco-friendly cleaning processes use water, electricity, and cleansers. Here’s how we manage it:
- As soon as we arrive, we put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door. We leave it there for our entire stay, even at times when we are away from the room.
- We set aside some type of plastic wrapper (from the soap itself or from some other item–often, hotel drinking cups are wrapped in plastic, which we’ll need to remove if we haven’t brought our own cups).
- If we are leaving the room and see housekeeping staff in the hall, we tell them they can skip our room; we don’t need cleaning, thanks. (They often have some type of list they can mark so that they don’t have to worry about coming back to try to clean our room later.)
- If we do need cleaning during our stay–because we’re staying a long time or some type of mess happened–we hide the soap before we take off our Do Not Disturb sign and go out. When we get back, we get out our old soap to use it some more, rather than opening new soap. Most hotel housekeepers will discard any soap in sight and replace it with new soap every day if you allow it.
- When packing to leave, we wrap the soap in the plastic wrapper and put it in our luggage.
A Soap Saver works for me! I use bar soap in every shower, yet I haven’t bought a bar of soap in years!
UPDATE: Check out Lazy Budget Chef’s 17 Ways to Reuse Leftover Pieces of Bar Soap! Visit Hearth & Soul for more great ideas!