What’s better? A liquid soap pump or a bar of soap? It’s the great germophobe debate. Actually, I have no idea how opinionated other germophobes are on this issue, as I don’t personally know many others. I formed an opinion early on in my great adventure with OCD. Has the passage of time affected this view?
At the age of sixteen, OCD was still somewhat new to me, especially the fear of germs. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that a bar of soap could harbor germs. A fresh bar of soap removed directly from its wrapper is a beautiful thing. It is cleanliness waiting to happen. But what about a bar that has been sitting in a pool of water next to a bathroom sink? We’ve all seen it. The bottom gets soft and mushy, and it squishes when you pick it up. It was just such a bar that put me in an awkward situation at that tender age.
I went with a friend to visit her grandmother. While there, I went into the bathroom to wash my hands. And there it was next to the sink: a big glob of soap. At least that’s what it looked like to me. It was, in fact, a bar of soap that had been sitting in a puddle of water and had turned to mush. It was a rather large bar of soap, and approximately one-third of the bottom was waterlogged. It had the typical appearance of mushy soap: The color was much lighter than the rest of the bar, and the wet area had expanded with the uptake of water. What I saw was the opposite of what soap is supposed to be. Soap should get a person clean, and that bar had soaked up all of the germs on the sink. It was the Anti-Soap! That wasn’t going to sanitize my hands, but there was nothing else to use.
I had already started using rubbing alcohol as my primary disinfectant by that time, but I was in a strange house and didn’t have any available. Therefore, I had to rely on the heat of the tap water. I turned on the water and reluctantly took the bar into my hands. I ran my fingers over and over the waterlogged region, removing the offensive matter. I had to go over it several times because of the large amount. Only after it was gone did I feel that I could start the actual washing of my hands. And because I felt that the bar was dirty to begin with and I couldn’t disinfect it with alcohol, I had to lather and rinse more times than usual. And all of this was under scalding water.
When I completed my ritual, the ordeal was over. Or was it? I was approached by my friend later on, and she had a question for me. She asked, “Why did you use all of the soap?” I wanted to answer that it was because it was gross, but all I could muster was, “I don’t know.” My friend sounded distressed as she then said, “What am I going to tell my grandmother?” I didn’t know what to say, so I shrugged. Honestly, I didn’t realize that the soap usage was monitored that closely in the house, although it’s true that there was only a fraction of the bar left when I was through with it. I felt bad that she was upset, but I didn’t know how to rectify the situation. She didn’t mention it again, but I knew that I needed to come up with a better plan when I was at the homes of others.
Fortunately for me, it wasn’t long before the liquid soap pump became a popular bathroom fixture. That didn’t exactly solve the problem of using large quantities, but I felt cleaner! I had begun using the pump dispenser at home. The major drawback for me was that I had to drip soap on my fingers every time they touched the pump. So, if I was on round seven of lathering up, I had to dispense enough soap into my palm to drip soap seven times on the fingers that had touched the pump. It took up much time.
After years of use, I became disenchanted with the liquid dispenser. While I was careful to place the pump itself in a clean spot while refilling, I had seen others who placed it in the basin! That meant that I could no longer use the soap pumps in private homes. Even with my own use, I noticed that water dripping off my hands could slide down inside the dispenser and form a pool on top of the liquid. And I didn’t like the goopy globs that formed on the dispenser tip.
These days I’m back to using bars. But I drain them well and store them where they won’t get soggy. I still keep a liquid soap pump that I use to drizzle soap when only one hand has become severely contaminated, but I always finish up with hard soap. I really like using soap chips, as I do when I need to wash at work. Maybe that will be the next chapter in my evolving soap opera.