The First Aid committee I work with is in discussions about whether we should permit or forbid people from leaving bars of soap in the shower house for other people to use. The population under question is approx. 1800 people of all ages camping for one to two weeks, mostly in tents. Many people come woefully unprepared for camping, including a lack of bringing soap. A few people want to put out a basket full of donated toiletries (hotel soaps, half bottles of shampoo and such that they’re not using) in the showerhouse with a sign inviting people to use what they need.
The shampoo and liquid soap doesn’t have anyone really bothered. But the potential for shared bar soap is triggering debate. One camp is of the “ew…that will transmit diseases, won’t it?” mind and the other, “better clean hippies than dirty hippies.” We’re not finding a lot of scientific support one way or the other. I’ve found a slew of google hits suggesting that bar soap is a “personal item” which should not be shared, along with razors and the like - but when I go to those pages, either I can’t find the actual word “soap” anywhere in it, or there’s no citation for why that advice is given. I’ve found this article about a study suggesting that “washing even with contaminated bar soap is unlikely to transfer bacteria”, but the study is 26 years old and sponsored by “the Dial Corporation Technical Center,” which makes me dubious.