The 9 best soaps for fresh water


If you have fresh water in your house, you have a lot soap options. “Most things will work well in soft water,” Stephanie Greenwood, longtime soap maker and founder of Bubble & Bee Organic, told Bustle. However, soft water makes it harder to rinse off the soap, and according to Elizabeth Mullans, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Uptown Dermatology, you should “be careful with soaps and go for scent-free soap.” That’s why the best freshwater soaps use gentle formulas that don’t contain synthetic fragrances and wash off easily, whether you’re bathing, doing the dishes, or doing laundry.

When choosing a soap, it helps to understand the difference between hard water and soft water. Hard water contains a high amount of calcium and magnesium, which creates soap scum and requires more detergent to clean things up. “Soft water doesn’t have the amount of minerals that hard water does, so you’ll need less detergent to clean your clothes,” Dr Mullans told Bustle. But 85% of the United States has hard water, and many manufacturers add chelating agents such as ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) to improve soap performance, which can cause skin irritation in some people. With soft water, you can choose a soap that is free of EDTA and other potentially irritating ingredients. Likewise, synthetic soap-free detergents are a good choice if your skin is easily irritated. The best “always give you lots of lather and a clean rinse,” according to Greenwood, adding, “Organic and natural soaps will work better in soft water than hard water, so if you’re looking for more natural options, l water is your friend.

With all of that in mind, scroll on for the best soaps for soft water, including shower gel, hand soap, and dish and laundry detergents.


Best bar cleaner overall

This soap-free CeraVe cleansing bar is non-comedogenic and free of parabens and fragrance, although it does contain EDTA. The formula is accepted by the National Eczema Association, so it is gentle enough for sensitive skin and can be used on the face, body and hands. The cleansing bar contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid to help the skin retain moisture and maintain its natural barrier. Each bar also contains 5% CeraVe moisturizer to hydrate the skin. The Body Bar is an Amazon favorite, with an overall 4.8-star rating after over 7,000 reviews.

A positive opinion: “I love the smoothness and hydration of my skin after using this product. Has just enough lather to feel clean but leaves no sticky residue on the skin.


Derm’s Pick Liquid Laundry Detergent

Dr. Mullans recommends this mild liquid laundry detergent, specially formulated for sensitive skin and dermatologist tested. The 100% SkinSAFE product is free from perfumes, dyes and other potential irritants (although it does contain EDTA), so it removes dirt and odors from your laundry and rinses cleanly. Plus, the low foaming formula works in High Efficiency (HE) washing machines.

A positive opinion: “Arm and Hammer is my first choice of detergent. I particularly like the fragrance-free A&H. It works best with heavy soil and doesn’t irritate my skin. The High Efficiency works great with our washer and is reasonably priced.


The best body wash

If you prefer a liquid cleanser, this Eucerin soap-free face and body wash is a great choice as it is fragrance-free, dye-free, and EDTA-free. It is also formulated to help the skin maintain its pH balance and is designed to rinse off without leaving a residue. Plus, it’s backed by an overall 4.7-star rating on Amazon with over 4,000 reviews.

A positive opinion: “I was so surprised at how much foam I got from a small amount. Leaves you feeling very clean and no irritation.


The best hand soap

This coconut based Castile soap is free from artificial fragrances, dyes, parabens and EDTA. The soap uses a vegetable fermentation process that removes odors like onion, garlic, and fish, making it a great choice for cooking. The soap is formulated with coconut and aloe vera to create a creamy, soothing lather, and is safe to use on sensitive skin. Although this version is fragrance free, the liquid soap is also available in lemon and eucalyptus, rosemary and sage, and assorted packaging.

A positive opinion: “I was looking for something that didn’t have a scent, that wasn’t antibacterial, and that had good reviews. I wasn’t expecting it, but it’s the only soap I’ve ever used that rinses off easily with fresh water. It was a good surprise. I am sold. We put a dispenser at each sink.


The best facial cleanser

Another great CeraVe product, this non-foaming face wash has an overall 4.7 star rating on Amazon as well as an incredible number of over 50,000 reviews. It is formulated with ceramides and hyaluronic acid to help the skin retain moisture and has a non-greasy feel, which is especially important for soft water. The cleanser is paraben, fragrance and soap free, but contains EDTA. It is also non-comedogenic and accepted by the National Eczema Association.

A positive opinion: “I love this stuff! No more greasy residue on your face after using a typical facial cleanser. This cleanser is lightweight and leaves your skin clean.


The best natural bar soap

This natural bar soap contains organic turmeric root powder, which has anti-inflammatory properties, along with organic turmeric extract and essential oil. Other nourishing ingredients include olive oil, shea butter, and chamomile extract. The soap is ideal for soft water, EDTA free and can be used on both face and body. While this natural cleanser is gentle, it’s not soap-free and essential oils leave a scent, so it may not be the best for very sensitive skin.

A positive opinion: “This stuff is so good I went back and ordered two more! The skin is glowing, smooth and clear. It’s very soft and I also love that it removes make-up really well. is very earthy but refreshing.


The best dish soap

This mild dish soap effectively removes grease and residue from your dishes while being gentle on your skin. The herbal liquid soap is free from fragrance, dye, EDTA and other harsh ingredients. It is also USDA certified as a 95% bio-based product and has an overall 4.7-star rating after over 19,000 reviews on Amazon. However, the soap is not intended for use with an automatic dishwasher.

A positive opinion: “I have been using this brand for a few years. It does a good job of cleaning without leaving an odor on dishes or glassware. It’s also easy on the hands. A little makes a fair amount of lather in the fresh water, and I don’t see any stains on things I hand wash and let air dry.


The best dishwasher pods

Also from Seventh Generation, these detergent pods are a great option if you have soft water and are using a dishwasher. The pods are free of fragrances, dyes, phosphates, chlorine bleach, and EDTA and are USDA certified as 78% bio-based. The enzyme-rich formula removes fat and food residues without leaving a trace. It is backed by an overall 4.7 star rating and over 5,000 reviews on Amazon.

A positive opinion: “I am a huge fan and supporter of Seventh Generation and this is one of my favorite products. It leaves no white residue on your dishes and gives it a good clean without leaving any food.


Natural powder laundry detergent

The low suds formula of this laundry powder is free from synthetic fragrance, dyes, EDTA, optical brighteners, phosphates and other additives. It is safe to use on all fibers except silk and leather. It can be used with HE washing machines, however, it needs hot water to completely dissolve and get to work. The concentrated formula means each bag should last around 70 charges. With over 7,000 reviews and an overall 4.7-star rating, it’s a popular choice with Amazon customers, and you can choose from peppermint, dewy, and unscented formulas.

A positive opinion: “I am really impressed with this product. My laundry is cleaner and brighter. I have tried other eco-friendly laundry products. Molly’s Suds is superior to all. I like how little product is needed for an average load of laundry. It also saves me a lot of money!


Stéphanie Greenwood, founder of Bubble & Bee Organic

Elizabeth Mullans, MD, Certified Dermatologist and Founder of Uptown Dermatology

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