Should You Use a Washcloth in the Shower

I personally never heard of this debate until talking with other guys on a basketball team who were showering together half using a washcloth to lather up in the shower and to apply soap to their body while the other half were lathering up their hands and applying the soap directly to their bodies. Should you use a washcloth in the shower?

No-use a plain bar of soap:

  • Compounds used in bar soap called surfactants physically remove most germs from skin
  • Washcloths can smell-stay wet, promote growth of mold/bacteria
  • Use soap-clean-rinse 
  • Wash hands
  • Lather up body using hands
  • Start at the top-working lower
  • Rinse bar
  • Store Soap in a plastic case/box

If you’re just sharing the bar with family members, you have nothing to worry about since you probably share many of the same microorganisms anyway but use these simple steps.


Is it More Hygienic to Use a Washcloth


A bar of soap that is continually wet and sits out in the open, could be vulnerable to germs in your shower. Then you rub that same bar all over your body, or with a washcloth, loofah again and again until it whittles down to just about paper-thin nothing, especially if you live with kids.

According to,Tatyana Petukhova, M.D., a dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian, tells SELF. The bulk of germs on your bar soap are most likely from your own skin. It’s estimated that about half the cells in the human body are bacteria, and a lot of those live upon your skin, helping to make up what’s known as your skin microbiome. Other microorganisms like fungi are also part of this environment.

The skin on your body is a microbiome  and is essential to your immune system as it helps protect you from pathogens. So it’s not a big deal to deposit microorganisms from your skin onto your soap, then back onto your skin.

If you use a washcloth or loofah,  they be depositing germs onto your bar soap in the shower. They also have many nooks and crannies that can harbor more microorganisms (and skin cells that could serve as a food source for potential pathogens), according to Philip Tierno, Ph.D., a clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU Langone Health.

“Washcloths and loofahs can also stay moist for long periods of time, which promotes the growth of mold and [microorganisms such as] bacteria,” Kelly A. Reynolds, Ph.D., a professor and chair of community, environment, and policy at the University of Arizona’s Zuckerman College of Public Health, tells SELF.


Can Bacteria Grow on Soap


Unless the bar soap is being used for the first time, clean it before you apply it. Wash it with water to get rid of the slime that may contain germs. then lather and apply with your hands. You can also use a clean and dry sponge to absorb that soapy grime.  Also, try to store it away from water after you are done to reduce the buildup of bacteria. Use a cheap plastic container available at Dollar Stores or the box it came in.

Most people wash their hands first before washing their body when showering, then work their way from the top of their body shampooing their hair then working their way down to lathering up.

Using your hands is much more hygienic than a washcloth or something similar, kept in a wet environment unless you constantly wash the cloth, it’s going to be dirty. And since washcloths usually stay wet, they can smell and most likely accumulate more germs fungi, and microbes. 

 Try to keep your bar soap dry between uses. Consider using a soap holder in your shower with drainage slats if you don’t already, and try to keep it far from the showerhead so it’s not getting a soaking until you are ready to use it. To minimize the growth of bacteria and mold on the washcloth hang them up so that air circulates around it, drying it faster.


Does Soap Kill Bacteria


No, soap isn’t actually very toxic for bacteria. The reason that washing your hands with soap and water works so well to decontaminate them is actually the physical decontamination. When you rub your hands together, the soap helps to prise away various oils and other layers from the skin that the bacteria are hanging on to and then eventually detach.

Compounds that are used in bar soap called surfactants work to physically remove germs and debris as soon as you add water. The keywords are physically removed germs. Rubbing a soap bar against your skin until it foams up washes away even more matter and is the best method.

If your bar soap is labeled antibacterial, it also uses chemical agents to kill germs. But you don’t need to seek out antibacterial soap, because it has no added health benefits according to the Centers for Disease Control CDC.  Plain soap is quite effective at getting rid of germs on its own because of these surfactant compounds and the actions of contact against your skin.


Body Wash Vs Soap Bar


I don’t know about other people but once I started using Body Wash I was sold and here are a few reasons why:

  • Ease of use-No need to lather up the soap and then apply it to your body-less dropping the soap (where did I hear this was a good thing)
  • Travel-The Body Wash is easier to travel with like a shampoo container
  • Body Wash contains more moisturizers than a bar of soap so it’s better for your skin

Here are some reasons to keep the Soap Bar and leave the Body Wash for your sister:

  • Body Wash can contain some questionable ingredients checking your labels is key
  • Bar soaps also contain less water compared to body washes
  • Soap Bars contain a surfactant compound that physically removes germs from your skin (unlike Body Wash)



JimGalloway Author/Editor




Centers for Disease Control CDC,


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