Best Biodegradable Soap: Low Impact CleaningMarch 6, 2018
One quick search for eco-friendly or biodegradable soap produces lots of conflicting information. Using environmentally-safe cleaning products is obviously important, but how do you know you’re buying the best biodegradable soap? Some claims are misleading, and some products are expensive, even if they don’t work all that well.
To prevent you from both wasting your money on junk, and also to make sure we’re all doing our part to protect ecosystems and the life they support, I’ve done an exhaustive review of all the different biodegradable soaps on the market.
Overall, I’ve found Joshua Tree 8 oz. Body Wash and Shampoo to be the best biodegradable soap on today’s market. It cleans the best, has the least impact on the environment, is reasonably priced, and it’s made by a small company with a vision we can all get behind.
If you’re looking to reduce environmental impact without sacrificing the quality of your soap, then pick up some Joshua Tree 8 oz. Body Wash and Shampoo today.
If you want to know how I made this choice, or if you’re interested in learning about other types of biodegradable soap, continue reading for the full review.
Why you should trust this review?
On the surface, I know it doesn’t seem like buying the best biodegradable soap is all that important. And maybe it isn’t. After all, the amount of pollution we create as individuals is minimal compared to that of irresponsible industry.
But I consider this to be a dangerous way of approaching the problem, and of looking for solutions. Yes, we can’t do it all as individuals. Yet if we team up and combine our energy in support of causes focused on environmental safety and sustainability, then yes, we can do something.
For me, the little things are the most important. Taking the little stuff seriously means redefining how we understand the impact of our actions. It means embracing the role we play in shaping the world, and it means we’re no longer going to let the actions of a few bad apples render our efforts ineffective.
If you’re camping, hiking, or just at home, you’re having an impact. Making smart choices is better for you and the environment. Biodegradable soap is just one of many small, yet significant, things we can do to help take better care of the only home we’ve ever known.
The recommendations I make here are grounded in these principles. But they are also practical. I understand it’s not logical to spend $30 on a bottle of soap, and I also know it’s not worth buying it if it doesn’t work.
So I set out out to find the best biodegradable soap by comparing specs and my experiences, hoping to make it a little easier for us all to care for Mother Earth.
Why do you need to best biodegradable soap?
It’s kind of as simple as that. Now it’s true there are worse things we could be putting down the drain, and it’s also true that if you live in a city, there’s a good chance your water is filtered and cleaned and then reused.
But the fact remains that what we put down our drains will eventually make it into some body of water. The presence of detergents messes with marine ecosystems in a variety of ways. They can stimulate plant growth, which can in turn deprive water of the oxygen fish and other marine life needs to breath, a process known as eutrophication. Or the surfactants (the stuff used to make soap sudsy) can also deprive marine ecosystems of what they need to sustain diverse life.
Biodegradable soap is often thought of as something you only need to worry about when camping. This is certainly an important use—anyone who has spent time in a national or state park knows there are strict regulations on which cleaning products you can or cannot use.
However, we should be paying attention to the soap we use even when we’re not camping. But to make sure our actions are having the impact we think they are, it’s important to have the best.
Unfortunately, though, not all biodegradable soaps are created equal. There are lots of false claims, and it’s easy to spend your money on something that doesn’t work or that is overpriced. I want you to feel encouraged by your decision to care for the Earth, not jaded about all the people trying to take your money. That’s why I’ve spent so much time seeking out and reviewing the best biodegradable soap.
Let me show you how I got there.
Stop! Even the best biodegradable soap isn’t perfect
One thing I need to mention before going too far with this review is what biodegradable means in this scenario. Although these soaps are better for the environment, their impact is not zero.
Never use any type of soap while inside a natural body of water. This means do not take your soap, biodegradable or not, down to the river near the campsite and bathe.
The best biodegradable soap will be made from natural substances that do breakdown when in soil, but they can still be harmful to marine ecosystems if they are introduced directly into water.
One of the best ways to prevent damage is to simply limit soap use. Hot water and some scrubbing can be a good substitute for basic cleaning, and consider using alcohol-based hand sanitizers for quick wash-ups. If you do need soap, use one of the ones recommended here, and make sure to follow the instructions. Most will tell you to move at least 200 feet away from the nearest water source before using.
When at home, things get a bit murkier. We have to trust that our water isn’t being dumped into nearby lakes and rivers without first being filtered. We’ll never really know, unfortunately, but using a quality biodegradable soap is a good first step towards reducing our impact.
Finding the best biodegradable soap: THR Methodology
There are tons of different options for biodegradable soaps out there. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and to not know if what you’re buying is of the best quality. To help you, and to make it easier to make an impact, I went through the various options on the market to find the best biodegradable soap.
To get started, I began by outlining some criteria for the best biodegradable soap. Then, I eliminated some options that weren’t up to standard. I then tried some out myself.
Here are some of the criteria I used to begin the search for the best biodegradable soap:
When looking at biodegradable soaps, what we are really trying to do is limit chemical use. Most conventional soaps use things such as water conditioners, surfactants (chemicals that help make soap sudsy), detergents, and fragrances.
None of these substances are “natural,” and they take ages to breakdown, if they ever do. Instead, you’ll want to find soaps made of vegetable oils, such as olive oil and coconut oil. You really only need oils such as these, plus lye and water, to make soap. The more you add, the more Nature needs to work to break it down.
In searching for the best biodegradable soap, I applied the “less is more” ideology to narrow down the options and make my final choice.
Just as you tend to not wash your clothes with the same soap you use in the shower, not all eco-friendly soaps are intended for the same use. Some are more effective for cleaning surfaces, whereas others will work better on your body.
For our purposes, I’ve chosen a body soap as the best biodegradable soap. I figured this was what people would use the most, and the one that we would miss most when camping or hiking. However, I’ve also identified some other products that have different uses so that you can find the best biodegradable soap for you and your needs.
We associate soap with suds. It gives us the impression that it’s working better. But this is an illusion created by chemical companies to make their product look more complete. The truth is suds have little to do with a soap’s cleaning power.
Suds usually come from the addition of surfactants, chemicals that lower the surface tension of a liquid. These are not natural, nor biodegradable. There are some biodegradable soaps out there advertising suds power, but be weary of this. You can find soaps that lather up nicely, but don’t go all in on something just because it “looks like” it’s cleaning better.
How much does the best biodegradable soap cost? How much does soap even cost? These aren’t questions we always ask. But their answers are important. Obviously, you can get bars of regular soap for just a few bucks, and specialty items always cost more. But, as is sometimes the case in the “all-natural, environmentally-friendly” market, things can come with an excessive price tag.
It’s hard to say what is too much, but you know it when you see it. For example, $10 for one bar is excessive. And $15 for a box of tiny wipes is also too much. The best biodegradable soap will not make you choose between helping out Mother Earth and meeting rent.
Using these criteria, I began going through all the different options, tossing out any that didn’t meet my standards. Then, I did some testing, relying on my experience to help me make the best choice.
Here’s a snapshot of the elimination process I used to eventually arrive at my choices for the best biodegradable soap.
Elimination Round 1
The first thing I did was to toss out options I considered wasteful. Just because something is biodegradable, it doesn’t mean it’s automatically good for the environment. Coleman Dish and Hands Camp Soap Sheets are a great example of this. They are biodegradable, yes. But the package comes with 50 sheets that are only a few square inches each.
You’ll go through these in no time. Showering or washing dishes with these is simply wasteful, as you’ll need to carry several packages with you everywhere you go. Using this type of product at home would create needless waste.
This shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Big companies such as Coleman are usually more interested in selling a lot of products than having the best impact. Some of the other stuff they make is great, but I tossed their wipes out of the running for best biodegradable soap.
Elimination Round 2
The next thing I looked at to try and narrow the list was price. Some products, while relatively high-quality, are simply not worth the price. It’s unfortunate, but the eco-friendly world must find a way to compete on the open market. It’s okay to ask people to spend a little extra, as it helps support businesses with a cause. But there’s a limit.
To give you an idea as to what I consider excessive, consider that I threw out the following options:
- Trascentuals camping soap and shampoo bar ($9.95 for one small bar)
- Outdoor RX (~$8 for 100 ml)
- Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap (An 8 oz. bottle of this stuff is nearly $40…excuse me?!)
As you’ll see later when I discuss the best biodegradable soap options, there’s no need to spend this kind of money on soap, no matter how good it is for the environment.
Elimination Round 3
The last thing I did to narrow the list was look at ease-of-use. If you’re going to use these soaps around the house, or if you plan on taking them camping, the last thing you want to do is worry about diluting the product you buy with water or something else.
For example, Quinn’s Pure Castile Organic Soap seems like a good option. But to use it, you need to dilute it with essential oils. This is both expensive and a pain. I threw out any options that had this extra step. We’re trying to be as practical as possible here.
The Best Biodegradable Soap
Okay, after narrowing down the choices using the above criteria, the list became much smaller. I then went through and compared what was left, leaving me with my choice for the best biodegradable soap. But as I mentioned before, I also made other selections based on specific uses so that everyone can find the best biodegradable soap for them and their needs.
93/100—Joshua Tree 8 oz. Body Wash and Shampoo
The award for the best biodegradable soap goes to the Joshua Tree Body Wash and Shampoo. It’s simple formula is great for the environment, smells great, is affordable, and comes from a small company in Michigan who cares. If you’re looking for the best biodegradable soap you can find, then get the Joshua Tree 8 oz. Body Wash and Shampoo now.
The first thing you’ll love about this soap is how it feels. While this isn’t always a good indicator of cleanliness, it definitely feels like regular soap. It lathers, but it isn’t sudsy. This sensation is a natural reaction that comes from combining the vegetable oils and lye.
This soap also smells great. You can get it in citrus, tea tree + mint, or lavender, so there’s something for nearly everyone’s taste.
It’s also a gentle soap. You don’t need to worry about it drying out your skin. Again, it feels like any other soap you would use. It being safe for the environment is simply an added bonus.
Joshua Tree Skin Care is a small company based out of Michigan that is committed to making quality, organic products that protect both you and the environment. Buying biodegradable soap from a company like this is a nice added bonus that will make you feel even better about the impact of your choice.
Probably the biggest knock against this product is that it’s not as “all-purpose” as advertised. While you most certainly could use it to clean dishes or clothes, it won’t have the same effect. I really think it’s best for skin care. But I’ll leave you to make the final call.
Also, this, like all other biodegradable soaps, does not break down in water. This isn’t really a drawback of this product, though, but rather of soap in general. I simply wanted to remind you of this key fact to encourage responsible practices when you’re out hiking or camping.
If you’re looking for an effective, modestly-priced, good smelling, and eco-friendly soap to shower and wash your hands with, then get some Joshua Tree 8 oz. Body Wash and Shampoo now.
90/100—Charlie’s Soap Indoor-Outdoor Cleaner (Best Household Soap)
If you’re not much of a camper, and instead are looking for the best biodegradable soap to use at home, then get Charlie’s Soap Indoor-Outdoor Cleaner. It’s strong, effective, and a little goes a long way.
Here’s some more information about why I like this soap so much:
What I like the most about Charlie’s Soap Indoor Outdoor Cleaner is that you can use it for pretty much anything. It’s tough enough to clean dirty, grimy plates, and it does a decent job removing stains from clothing.
It also smells clean. It has a strong citrus smell that makes you trust it more. I know how something smells doesn’t determine how clean it is. But it’s certainly a nice bonus.
The spray bottle is a nice feature. You can use this stuff in place of Windex or other household cleaners. Then, when you run out, you can get a refill to keep you going.
This soap is not the best for your skin. While it will certainly clean you, it feels a little more like you’re showering with Spic-and-Span instead of real soap. In a pinch, this is fine, but it’s not the most practical for baths and showers.
If you’re looking for a way to clean your dishes and clothes at the house in an eco-friendly way, then get Charlie’s Soap Indoor-Outdoor Cleaner.
86/100—Surviveware Biodegradable Wet Wipes (Best Biodegradable Wipes)
Cleaning wipes are convenient and useful, especially in a pinch. Surviveware Biodegradable Wet Wipes are great because they’re big, effective, and affordable—one package will last you a long time.Here’s a little more about these wipes and why they made it onto the “best biodegradable soap” list.
What’s great about these wipes is that they’re so big. Each one is about 8” x 11”, which is the equivalent of a letter-sized or A4 sheet of paper. With one, you can give your whole body a good scrub, or you can do the dishes from dinner. One pack will go a long way.
These wipes are also easy on the environment; they compost in about 28 days. You don’t need to feel guilty about using them, as they will eventually disintegrate into the soil.
They are also unscented and alcohol free, and they contain aloe vera and Vitamin E, to help take care of your skin and keep it from drying out.
And at about $9 a pack, they are pretty reasonably-priced, especially considering how long each pack lasts.
Wipes are hardly the model of sustainability. While they do breakdown, and you can compost them, this doesn’t mean you can use them and toss them wherever you please. If we all used wipes instead of liquid soap, we’d have a real waste problem on our hands. But to have as a backup or for emergencies, these are a great option.
Furthermore, they aren’t reusable in any way. Once you take one out, you need to use it. Those inside the package are sealed away and protected. But as soon as one is out of the package, it’s basically used. This isn’t something you can really get away from, but just keep it in mind.
If you are looking to carry some wipes with you to clean up quickly and easily, then get Surviveware Biodegradable Wet Wipes now.
85/100—Starbrite Sea Safe Biodegradable Boat Wash Soap (Best Biodegradable Boat Wash)
Since most boaters clean their boats on or near the water, there’s a great need for biodegradable boat wash. While some extra precautions need to be taken, if you own a boat, get some Starbrite Sea Safe Biodegradable Boat Wash Soap to help you minimize the impact of cleaning.Here are some more details about this soap:
This soap is gentle but also strong. It will remove dirt but not degrade wax or polish. You can use it on tough stains and marks and not worry about it damaging the boat.
Also, it uses a concentrated formula, meaning a capful or two in a bucket of water is really all you need. This is good for both the water and your wallet. You don’t need to use a lot, and not a lot of soap is getting into the water.
The low-suds formula helps to reduce the impact of the soap. It’s fully biodegradable, but remember, that doesn’t mean it breaks down in water
The fact this soap made the list hopefully demonstrates my commitment to practicality. This soap advertises as biodegradable, but this doesn’t mean you can let the soap go in the water worry-free. This is still something you should avoid. Use this soap when the boat is out of the water and far from the shore to help minimize your impact.
However, if you must use it while it’s in the water, do so sparingly, making sure to sufficiently dilute it before you do. Otherwise, you’ll be defeating the purpose of seeking out and buying the best biodegradable soap.
If you own a boat, make sure you pick up some Starbrite Sea Safe Biodegradable Boat Wash Soap now so as to minimize the impact of cleaning your boat at or near the water.
Using eco-friendly soap is just one of the many small things we can do to live our lives in better harmony with Nature. It’s a small gesture, but the impact is big.
However, a crowded market and some misleading information makes finding the best biodegradable soap a real challenge. So to help you, I used a strict set of criteria, compared different products, and drew on my experiences to find the best options on the market.
I have determined the Joshua Tree 8 oz. Body Wash and Shampoo to be the best biodegradable soap out there because of its effectiveness, sustainability, price, and smell. It offers the perfect combination of what you want in eco-friendly soap.
If you’re looking for something to use on clothes, dishes, and surfaces, then Charlie’s Soap Indoor-Outdoor Cleaner is also a great option.
But no matter which one you choose, I hope I’ve made it easier for you to find the best biodegradable soap and to do your part to protect Mother Earth and change the world.