Tip: Use regular bars of soap to save money, time and help conserve the environment

Bars of soap

This article makes a case for using regular solid bars of soap and detergent powders instead of liquid soaps.

Soap bars are available all over the world at cheap prices. They are great for use at home and for travel.


Use a regular bar of (solid) soap while taking a shower every day instead of expensive liquid soaps. Using a regular bar of soap is cheaper, simpler and more environmentally-friendly than liquid body washes. A bar of soap is also easier to travel with: It avoids potential leakage of the liquid messing up your travel bag. Unlike liquids, it does not cause airport security hassles. All you need to do is dry it and carry it. If you lose or run out of your soap while traveling, no problem, just buy another. Its simple, minimal paper packaging is better for the environment than plastic bottles that liquids require. While taking a shower, you don’t have to waste time opening the bottle, pouring the liquid, closing the bottle and keeping the bottle clean. With a soap bar, you just pick it up from the soapstand, use it and put it back. Soaps bars are simple, convenient and stress-free.

Washing Hands

Wash your hands regularly with a regular bar of soap placed near the sink. There is no need to keep a liquid or gel there either. The liquid soap does make good sense in places like public restrooms where it is shared with strangers. Washing your hands after returning from the gym, after travel in public transportation and before cooking and eating is always a good idea. It is also a healthier, safer and cheaper alternative to keeping bottles of hand sanitizers at home.

By the way, scientific studies have shown than more expensive, so called, anti-bacterial soap bars have no significant advantage over using regularsoap bars.1 It is the habit of washing regularly with soap that matters for good health, not whether your soap is anti-bacterial or not.


I also recommend using a bar of shaving soap instead of shaving cremes and foams. It has earth-friendly benefits, travel convenience and cost savings similar to the ones I mentioned above for body washing soap bars. A bar of shaving soap lasts much longer than foams and shaving cremes that cost a lot more. It comes in minimal packaging, typically paper/cardboard and you don’t have to dispose off aerosol cans, tubes, etc.

Laundry, Where to buy

Soaps are available at very low cost, especially in bulk at online retailers like soap.com and at brick and mortar stores. They take up little space, are light and don’t go bad even in a couple of years, especially when stored in their dry, sealed packaging.

Also, inexpensive soap powders can save a lot of money over expensive liquid laundry detergents. For example, this Charlie’s Soap Powder – 2.64 lb Bag does 80 large loads of laundry, has excellent reviews on Amazon and costs $11 (with free 2-day shipping with Amazon Prime)2 .

Some exceptions, Washing dishes by hand

For hand-dishwashing, I do prefer liquid gels. They are quite inexpensive and easy to use. That’s because they mix with the water quicker and lower the odds of the soap getting left on the dishes. I recommend Palmolive Ultra Pure and Clear Dish Liquid, which is also good3 for hand-washing merino wool clothes.

There are many tips available on the Web about using products that can help you be healthier, happier and environmentally-friendly while also saving you money. Reading tips on lifehacker.com inspired me to write this.

  1. FDA Panel: No Advantage to Antibacterial Soap: Advisory Panel Says Regular Soap and Water Just as Effective in Preventing Illness: http://www.webmd.com/news/20051020/fda-panel-no-advantage-to-antibacterial-soap  []
  2. When I wrote this article in 2010, Charlie’s Soap Powder – 2.64 lb used to cost under $11 and came in an environmentally-friendly cloth bag. I edited this article in December 2012 and now it costs $13 and comes in a plastic box. []
  3. Recommendations for washing merino wool clothes using Palmolive Dishwashing Liquid: 1. Morehouse Farm, 2. Pashmina International and 3. WikiHow  []

How to Avoid Duplicate Search Results when using Apple Mail.app with Gmail

I use Gmail’s IMAP feature with my Apple Mac OS’s built in Mail.app program. Mail.app keeps local copies (on all my personal Macs) of all my email messages that I’ve kept (since 1994). It enables me to:

  • Effectively work offline with all my emails (searching, reading and composing), when my computer is not online. That’s sometimes the case when I’m traveling, especially in places where Internet access is unavailable, unreliable, slow, insecure or too expensive.
  • Regularly back up all my saved emails using Apple’s Time Machine. It is also a precaution in case I someday no longer have my Gmail account and/or move to another email service. With email account theft rampant these days, it is important to have up to date backups of all your emails.
  • Send digitally signed and encrypted emails when needed.
  • Compose greeting cards and other visually rich emails with pictures on Mail.app’s stationary.

The Problem:

When you initially set up Mail.app to use Gmail via IMAP, you will observe that when you search your mail using Apple’s built in Spotlight feature, the search results will show duplicate (or more) copies of your email. This is because Gmail’s labels and special views (like “All Mail” or “Starred”) appear as separate IMAP folders in Mail.app. Messages in these seemingly “separate IMAP folders” appear to be duplicates to Mail.app and Spotlight search.

The Solution:

To solve this problem, I suggest showing only essential Gmail special views and labels as IMAP folders to Gmail and then telling Spotlight search to only index the master copies of the messages in Gmail’s “All Mail” folder. To accomplish this, I did the following.

Note: I do the labeling of my messages via the Gmail Web interface and do not need to see the labels applied to messages when I’m using Mail.app. My solution below hides all my custom Gmail labels from Mail.app and that’s fine with me.

In Gmail (via the Web interface)

Go to “Settings > Labs” and activate “Advanced IMAP Controls“. After enabling it, go to “Settings > Labels” and uncheck “Show in IMAPfor each custom Gmail label you have created. Also uncheck it for “Starred” since Mail.app shows to do flags in messages in other folders.

Leave “Show in IMAPchecked yes for “Inbox“, “Sent Mail“, “Drafts“, “All Mail” and “Trash” since these are system folders and Apple Mail.app should be configured to use them. Also leave it checked yes for a label folder called “Apple Mail To Do” which is an Apple Mail system folder.

On your Macs

Go to “System Preferences > Spotlight > Privacy“, exclude the following folders from appearing in search results. Where it says [email protected] below, use your Gmail account name.

~/Library/Mail/IMAP-[email protected]/INBOX.imapmbox

~/Library/Mail/IMAP-[email protected]/[Gmail]/Sent Mail.imapmbox

Also, if you are displaying your starred folder via IMAP, exclude:

~/Library/Mail/IMAP-[email protected]/[Gmail]/Starred.imapmbox

Now when you search messages in your Mac’s Mail.app, only results from your Gmail All Mail folder will appear.