Do hotels recycle unused soap bars?

Couldn’t find anything in the search.

With all those rooms out there, rarely does a soap bar get used up. Does the housecleaning staff collect them to be recycled into “unused” bars of soap? Seems like it shouldn’t be too difficult unless it’s totally not economically feasible.

What’s the SD?

I’ve never seen a used bar of soap in a hotel room. My guess would be that they use the once-used soap bar for internal purposes, or else the cleaning staff take them home as a perq.

You mean take all the soap slivers and press them together to make new bars of soap? And then give those bars of soap to other guests staying at the hotel? Ewwwwwww! That not only doesn’t sound economically feasible, it doesn’t sound sanitary.

However, I bet they do give the soap to other rooms if it is obviously unused (as in still in the wrapper).

More likely they leave unused, still-wrapped cakes in the room and replace used soap in other rooms from stock.

OK, that does make more sense.

Having spent cumulatively a couple of years in various hotels (for several years I was on the road 50%+) I can state without fear of contradiction that hotels do not recycle soap into new bars.
How do I know this? Well one way is I have walked past the maids closets, looked in the open door and seen the cases of soap stacked inside.
Secondly if you pay attention when you open the bar, often you will get some soap millings falling out of the wrapper. To me this indicates that the bar was milled to it’s final shape at the soap factory. Not recast at the hotel.

I have wondered about this as well and thought it would make a good question for Cecil. Or, actually, my thought was wondering if they were gathered and passed along to a local homeless shelter. A few years ago I searched and found a thread by Dex (IIRC) that it had been considered. They had done some preliminary research but found that most people in the hospitality industry were not willing to talk about it or would just say that all used soap was thrown out. Bottom line was that they didn’t know how to either believe the answers they were getting or get a trustworthy answer.

My unfounded conclusion is that there is no incentive for hotels to reuse or recycle partially used bars of soap. There may be a few places or cleaning staff who do pass them along to shelters, but how would you find out unless someone admitted it?

I’ve asked this at a small, family-owned motel where I have stayed a couple times a year for several years.

They said:[ul]
[li]They always put new bars in each room.[/li][li]Used bars that look ‘gunky’ get thrown away.[/li][li]Other used bars are taken by them, and used either by them personally, or used in general cleaning around the motel.[/li][li]Really small ‘slivers’ are left to dissolve in a wet container, and used as a soap spray to keep insects off their many flowerbeds.[/li][/ul]

I worked at a small family run motel for a few years. I spent a lot of downtime browsing hotel supply catalogs.

Each of those bars of soap are worth like 10 cents each if that. They are bought in packs of thousands. It’s no more worth it to recycle used soap then it would be to wash out the garbage bag liners and re-use them.

Just like used cooking oil is being picked up from restaurants for recycling into fuel, and beverage bottles at 5 cents are being recycled, I thought that maybe all of that partially used soap might be thrown in a bin and some operation might come by, reclaim it and turn it into something else that is useful.

For some industrious person this may be a good business idea. I just figured that if I thought of it someone is probably already doing it.

What Mycroft said. I really, really wanted to do a Staff Report on this (and also on shampoo bottles in hotel rooms) but we couldn’t get beyond trusting what a variety of different hotel managers told us. And, of course, if they were re-using soap, they wouldn’t want it want it known.

The soap seems pretty clear, because it’s almost always pristine looking. One would presumably be able to tell a used (or recycled) bar. And Rick’s comments about the shavings are interesting confirmation (that I hadn’t thought of.) Shampoo bottles seemed more open to reuse, since they’re not necessarily sealed: how would you know if your shampoo container had been used by someone else (assuming they filled it to the top.)

So, it was disappointing that we couldn’t actually find a source that we could trust. We were pretty well convinced that the hotels don’t do that, for a variety of reasons, but none certain enough for Staff Reportage.

Rick, if you’d like to tackle this as a Staff Report, email me and let’s talk. :wink:

At the hotel where I work, we recycle neither bar soap nor shampoo bottles.

I am fairly certain that the Health Department would come down very hard on the practice, if they ever even suspected it of occuring.

I am completely certain that the boss would be unwilling to pay anyone by the hour for refilling the bottles. He is a grinch about payroll, as is. Much cheaper to just throw them away, and pull a case of new bottles out of storage.

Thank you to and even sven for the inside stories. ETA: And mbh. I missed it with the simulpost.

The thought of taking slivers of soap and making a new bar does remind me of a catalog of bizarre items available in Japan that I saw a decade or so ago. They had a device to do just this. It was a small screw press where you could collect the old soap slivers and press them into a new block. In the photo they used different colored slivers to emphasize the process. It made for a very funky looking bar; is guess what you would expect from Dr Frankenstein’s Bath Soap™ .

This issue is one of the reasons I fell in love with the SDMB. I figured that if others could be thinking of the same crazy-ass stuff that pops into my brain, they had to be good people (or at least the same level of insane that I could like). Yup Spartdog, you’re my kind of crazy guy.

Y’all have got me thinking of a new business opportunity. Must research…

In my recent experience, I don’t recall a single hotel that doesn’t have a seal on their shampoo and other like bottles (conditioner, mouthwash, etc.). Now they’re not particularly good seals, and won’t stop someone who’s determined from contaminating them undetected, but they’ enough of a paid that it’d be labor intensive to try to recycle them.

Again, I’m not thinking so much of repackaging used product. I’m thinking more along the lines of using it in a secondary fashion such as laundry soap or some other cleaning product instead of hitting the landfill.

For laundry soap, I suspect the government would probably require you to sterilize it first. Which would probably destroy the soap molecules.

Our other cleaning agents are mostly liquids, spray-on-and-wipe-off. You would need to re-process the soap and shampoo into something that could be used in a spray bottle. And you would still have to come up with something cheaper than the multi-gallon jugs we get from the wholesaler.

I’m not saying that it could not be done. But it will take some ingenuity and some work.

Many many years ago I worked in the kitchen at a Best Western. The housekeepers collected the used soap, and we would put it in a #10 can with holes punched in the bottom and use it to lather up the pot sink.

No one thought much of it, until the day we hired a new dishwasher. She promptly freaked out over having to use this leftover soap, pointing out how it had been in contact with people’s naughty bits. After she pointed out a few pubies in the can, we decide we’d better just throw it away.

(in retrospect, ew)

How dirty could it be? It’s soap!


I’ve worked in hotels almost my whole life and I can tell you they don’t recyle.

Hotels give new amenities to each new guest.

For guest that are stay overs a policy is dictated. Usually it’s 1/2 used, replace.

In otherwords if room is a stay over and the soap or shampoo is half used (or more) replace it. If it’s less than half used, leave it. Again this applys to guests staying over only.

I was an asst controller and the soaps and shampoo are only about 2¢ per item at a major hotel chain. (It varies the more you can buy the lesser it is, since we were a huge chain, smaller hotels probably pay a nickel).

Watch housekeepers clean rooms, you can see the ditch the soap in the trash first thing.