6 of the Best Eco-Friendly Soaps
Most guides will tell you some fresh water and vigorous scrubbing will keep you plenty clean, but if your stink requires stronger weapons, you’ll want to find a biodegradable, eco-friendly soap for your next river trip.
That means no phosphate, surfactants, triclosan, or any “anti-bacterial” ingredients. The first two spike algal growth resulting in mucky, sluggish rivers. Conversely, triclosan, found in hand sanitizers and most hand soaps, is extremely toxic to aquatic life.
It’s also important to remember that no soap, eco-friendly or not, should be used directly in rivers or lakes. Biodegradable soaps need soil to be broken down, so follow Leave No Trace guidelines and do your bathing at least 200 yards away from any water source. A bucket and a washcloth are all the tools you need.
That said, here are our top picks for eco-friendly soaps that will save the fish, critters and your tent-mate from a smelly demise.
Eco-friendly Soaps That are Good for the Environment (and Your Body!)
1) Bathing Culture Mind and Body Wash
Bathing Culture’s Mind and Body Wash, an ultra environmentally-friendly liquid soap, is made with organic coconut, olive and sunflower seed oils and packaged in 100-percent recycled bottles. The best part? Bathing Culture offers refills, so you don’t have to buy more packaging. And this eco-friendly soap doesn’t just clean. The California-based maker says this soap will give you the “just-jumped-into-a-cold-river” feeling. That sounds pretty good to us.
2) Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap
A product that needs no introduction, Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap is a tried and true liquid soap. Easily diluted and useable for body, hair, dishes and laundry, the castile mixture has an ingredient list that a five-year-old could understand. Available in several variations, you’ll be able to find the scent that works for you.
3) Stream2Sea Conditioning Shampoo and Bodywash
The Florida company became famous for its reef-safe sunscreen. With Stream2Sea’s new offering, Conditioning Shampoo and Bodywash, they continue their legacy of products that are harmless to the environment. With a healthy helping of green tea extract, the biodegradable, eco-friendly soap will leave you tingling clean. The tubes are made from sugar cane resin, so you don’t have to worry about another piece of plastic.
4) SallyeAnder No-Bite-Me Bug Repellant Soap
Packed with aromatic ingredients, this SallyeAnder bar is easy on the environment and helps biting bugs steer clear of your skin. Using cedar, mint and lemongrass essential oils among others, the bar helps repel mosquitoes, black flies and ticks for up to two hours after washing. It can even be used as a shampoo to keep your head clean and clear.
5) Juniper Ridge Body Wash
Juniper Ridge’s Body Wash is free of so many things from dyes to preservatives, phthalates and parabens, that it’s a wonder they found anything to put in it. All ingredients are plant-based, and the mixture will leave you smelling just like the forest you’re enjoying.
6) Sea to Summit Wilderness Wash Pocket Soap
Now in a sheet form, Sea to Summit’s Wilderness Wash, a super concentrated multi-use soap, is great for all things outdoors. From washing bodies to dishes, the handy to-go soap can be quickly added to a bucket of water in just the right amount. The rest can be stored away without worry of spillage.
An earlier version of this eco-friendly soaps post by Caitlin Kauffman first appeared in June 2015 and was rewritten and updated September 2021.