Tidy, self-contained liquid soap dispensers and bottled body wash have largely replaced bar soap in the hearts — and bathrooms — of many shoppers, but that doesn't mean you should stop buying the old-school bars. Even if you seldom wash your hands with one, a bar of soap has dozens of offbeat, practical uses around the house.
Unstick Doors and Drawers
Got a stubbornly sticky kitchen drawer? Pulling it out and rubbing a bar of soap along its corners and edges, or along the slides if it has them, will lubricate it and help it slide easily and effortlessly. You can apply the same magic to large windows and sliding doors, by lifting them out — it's best to have some helping hands for this — and then rubbing soap along the track on top and bottom. Soap works equally well on the tracks of pocket doors and trendy interior sliding barn doors.
Clean Up Broken Glass
It's always irritating when you drop and break something. When that something is made of glass, it's downright dangerous because glass has a nasty habit of scattering fine shards all over the floor, counter or any other surrounding space. Sweeping will get the large pieces, but tiny shards and fragments are harder. To pick them up reliably, wet a bar of soap and then glide it methodically across the entire area where glass may have landed. It should pick up the pieces that are too fine for a broom or cloth, but not for the skin of your feet. Just remember to discard the soap afterwards, because you really won't want to wash your hands with it.
Deodorize and Freshen
Scented soaps make a great low-key, multipurpose deodorizer and air freshener. One or two bars in baskets in your closet will keep your clothes smelling fresh. Soap works the same magic in running shoes and gym bags, especially when they'll be in storage for a while. Keep one in your sock or underwear drawer, and another in your overnight bag for short trips (and hey, bringing your own soap isn't a bad idea to begin with). In a pinch, you can even use a lightly moistened bar of soap as an emergency underarm deodorant.
Un-Stick Stubborn Zippers
Zippers were one of the great 20th-century innovations, but like a lot of other great things they can be maddening when they don't work properly. If one of your favorite pieces of clothing is gathering dust because of a stubbornly sticky zipper, a bar of soap can help you bring it back into daily use. Just rub the zipper with bar soap along its entire length, then slide the pull up and down until it's freed and slides easily. You may need to apply the soap a second time, after it comes unstuck, just to make sure the problem area is thoroughly coated.
Whether you're building from scratch or just assembling something that came in a big box from the big-box store, a bar of soap can simplify furniture-building. Rubbing some soap onto the threads of a screw will make it easier to screw in, whether you're putting it into a pre-drilled hole or driving it into virgin wood. Soaped-up nails also go in more easily, and are less likely to split the wood as you work. If you're cutting boards to fit, rubbing the blade of a hand saw with soap before you start cutting reduces friction, which means quicker, cleaner cuts with less effort.
Create DIY Laundry Detergent
Whether you're coping with allergens, wary of chemicals or just plain frugal, making your own laundry detergent is an easy DIY hack that gives you more control of your at-home environment. To make up a batch, chop or grate a bar of soap and dissolve it in a quart of warm water. Add baking soda, washing soda and borax (available at your local supermarket, pharmacy or department store) and stir until it's all dissolved. You'll need about two tablespoons per load.
Keep Mirrors and Glasses Fog-Free
On a lazy weekend morning, the fogged-up mirror you leave behind after a shower is just a blank canvas you can use to leave cutesy messages for your partner. When you're getting ready for work, it's an irritation that slows you down. To keep the mirror from fogging up, rub it with your bar of soap and then buff it from edge to edge with a soft cloth. The soap will keep steam from clinging to the glass, keeping it clear and usable. The same trick works beautifully with eyeglasses or sunglasses, kitchen windows or even your car's side mirrors.
Remove Stubborn Wallpaper
Giving your home a makeover? Stripping out old wallpaper can be a real chore, but bar soap can make it easier. Shave or grate your bar of soap into warm water, to make a thick and soapy mixture. Pour it into a spray bottle and soak down the wallpaper heavily with it, then leave it to soak in for a half-hour or so. The slippery, slithery, soapy water will moisten and lubricate the old adhesive behind the wallpaper, helping it come off easily. If you uncover messy nail holes under the paper, don't worry. Just rub your bar soap over the hole to fill and conceal it.
Discourage That Furniture-Chewing Pup
If you've got a destructive, chew-crazy pup, a bar of soap can be your best friend. Rub it liberally over chair and table legs, the edges of your coffee table and book shelves, or anywhere else Fido has a notion to chew. The nasty taste of the soap takes away your pup's interest in chewing where it's inappropriate, so you won't need to give nearly as much "time out" in the crate for misbehavior.
Make Easy-to-Erase Marks
Bar soap makes a conveniently short-lived mark when you drag it across a surface, and that's a characteristic you can use in a number of ways. If you like to sew, use a bar of soap (leftover slivers are especially useful) to mark your fabric for cutting. When you're finished, it simply washes out in the laundry. Soap is also handy for writing messages on car windshields, bathroom mirrors, house windows or even appliances with a dark finish.
Check for Leaks
If you're getting a whiff of gas somewhere you shouldn't, it's often the result of a fitting that's not sealed as well as it should be. To find it, make up some soapy water and dribble it thoroughly around the suspect joints. If there's a leak, you'll see bubbles. The same technique works for the propane lines running into your barbecue. On a less serious note, you can also use the bubble test to find a slow leak in a tire, or to find small holes in air mattresses, pool floats and other inflatable items.
Keep Pests From Your Plants and Garden
Deer are graceful and beautiful creatures, but it's hard to appreciate them while they're laying waste to your carefully tended garden. They don't like the strong scents of soap, though — it "blinds" their nose to potential predators — so hanging bars of soap in mesh bags around your garden can help deter them. If there are some plants the deer are especially fond of, surround them with shaved soap as an added deterrent. Spraying plants with soapy water makes them taste bad to the deer, and as an added bonus, it's effective against mites and many insect pests.
Dirt-Proof Your Nails
How do you like to spend your weekends? Gardening, maybe, or working on the car? A lot of pleasurable pastimes involve getting some dirt under your nails, which sounds admirable and old-school until you have to get the dirt out again. Of course, dirt can't get under your nails in the first place if there's something already taking up that space, and this is where the bar soap comes in. Just draw your nails across a bar of soap so the soap sticks underneath, then go out and have fun. When you're done, come in and wash your hands normally. Any dirt that does get under your nails will be trapped in the soap, and will wash away easily.
Keep Your Camping Pots and Pans Clean
Cooking over a campfire is one of the best things about being in the great outdoors. There's nothing like the smell of a campfire in the crisp morning (or evening) air to stimulate the appetite. As rewarding as this is, it's definitely hard on your pots and pans. They'll quickly build up a layer of soot on the underside which can be a pain to scrub off, especially in the case of cast iron pots and pans with a textured surface. Rubbing the underside of your pots and pans with bar soap before they go onto the fire will help keep the soot particles from adhering directly to the metal. When your camping trip is over and you head home, you'll find it much, much easier to scrub away the soot.
Turn Into Arts and Crafts Materials
Kids love to make crafts and be creative, but a lot of craft supplies are problematic. Paints are messy, and can stain clothing. Clay is basically mud, and polymer clays release nasty fumes when they're baked in the oven. Fragrant, colorful bar soaps, on the other hand, are just about perfect. They can be sculpted easily without especially sharp tools, and they're small enough for little hands to work with. They can easily be wrapped in felt or mesh bags to make hand-crafted gifts, or grated soap can be mixed with enough water to make it squishy and easy to shape and mold. The best part, of course, is that cleanup is super-easy.