Biodegradable soap is better for the environment, and there’s no denying a little soap certainly has its perks. We tested the recommended brands and this is what we found. Read on to learn which is the best biodegradable soap for you along with some buying advice.
Table of Contents
Best Biodegradable Soaps
The best biodegradable soaps are:
- Best Overall Biodegradable Soap: DR. BRONNER'S PURE CASTILE SOAP
- Best Biodegradable Soap Bar: KIRK'S ORIGINAL BAR SOAP
- Best Biodegradable Liquid Soap: WILDERNESS WASH BY SEA TO SUMMIT
- Best Biodegradable Soap Sheet: TREK AND TRAVEL POCKET BY SEA TO SUMMIT
- Best Biodegradable Wipes: WILDERNESS WIPES BY SEA TO SUMMIT
- Best Natural Biodegradable Soap: URSA MAJOR MORNING MOJO BAR SOAP
|1. Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Soap||Liquid||2 oz, 4 oz, 8 oz, 16 oz, 32 oz, 1/2 gallon, 1 gallon||$7.29 (8 oz)||10/10|
|2. Cascade Forest Body Wash||Liquid||8 oz||$15||9/10|
|3. Wilderness Wash by Sea to Summit||Liquid||1.3 oz, 3 oz, 8.5 oz||$4.95 (3 oz)||9/10|
|4. Kirk's Original Bar Soap||Bar||4 oz||$2.19||8/10|
|5. Mt. Mazama Rogue by United by Blue||Bar||5 oz||$14||8/10|
|6. Ursa Major Morning Mojo||Bar||5 oz||$14||8/10|
|7. Joshua Tree Body Wash||Liquid||3 oz squeeze tube / 8 oz bottle||$9.99 - $12.99||8/10|
|8. Sierra Dawn Campsuds||Liquid||2 oz, 4 oz, 8 oz, 16 oz, 1 Gallon||$23.40 (4 oz)||8/10|
|9. Wilderness Wipes by Sea to Summit||Wipes||3.3 oz (12 pack; 6x8 in)||$4.95-$9.95||8/10|
|10. Ursa Major Face Wipes||Wipes||5 oz||$26||7/10|
|11. Trek and Travel Pocket by Sea to Summit||Sheets||0.5 oz||$4.95||7/10|
|12. Coleman Soap Sheets||Sheets||0.3 oz||$3.99 (50 sheets)||7/10|
|13. Surviveware Biodegradable Wet Wipes||Wipes||8 oz (15 wipes) - 17 oz (32 wipes)||$6.95 - $10.99||7/10|
Best Overall Biodegradable Soap:
Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Soap
Price: $7.29 (8 ounces)See on REI See on Amazon
✅ Best biodegradable soap
✅ Super concentrated
- Weight: 2 ounces, 4 ounces, 8 ounces, 16 ounces, 32 ounces, 1/2 gallon, and 1 gallon
- Main Ingredients: Coconut oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Palm Kernel Oil, Olive Oil, Hemp Oil, Jojoba Oil, Almond.
- Uses: 18 different uses including face, body, hair, dishes, deodorant, house cleaning, pets, etc.
- Special Features: Post-consumer recycled bottles and all ingredients are certified fair trade.
Hands down, Dr. Bronner’s our best overall biodegradable soap. And for good reason, it scores high in every category. This eco-friendly soap has no synthetic preservatives, is made with organic oils, and is easy on people with allergies. It’s super concentrated, we’ve found a travel-sized bottle that will last for weeks, if not longer. We love the versatility of this soap. Dr. Bronner’s claims to have 18 uses, even claiming to be used as mouthwash and toothpaste. We’ve tested the toothpaste use, and it works, but best in an emergency only. It’s also found in many stores and nearly every major trail town too.
Best Biodegradable Liquid Soap:
Wilderness Wash by Sea to Summit
Price: $4.95 (3 ounces)See on REI See on Sea to Summit
✅ Highly concentrated
✅ Strong cleaning power
✅ Can be used in saltwater
❌ Sterile scent
❌ Higher cost
- Weight: 1.3 ounces, 3 ounces, and 8.5 ounces
- Main Ingredients: Cocamide MEA, Glycerin
- Uses: Body wash, Shampoo, Dish, and clothes detergent.
- Special Features: PH neutral concentrated
A low suds, multi-purpose wilderness wash, this super concentrated biodegradable soap is thick and we love that it can be used with fresh or saltwater. The soap is unscented; however, we found it does give off a bit of a sterile whiff. A single capful of this soap has some powerful cleaning power behind it that you can use on just about everything. We don’t love that it’s on the expensive side, but we found it to be highly concentrated, lasting longer than other options.
Best Biodegradable Soap Bar:
Kirk's Original Bar Soap
✅ Easy on sensitive skin
❌ Can dry out skin
- Weight: 4 ounces
- Main Ingredients: Coconut oil, Glycerin, water, sodium chloride.
- Uses: Body wash, and hand wash, can be used to make homemade dish and laundry soap.
- Special Features: Fragrance-free, all-vegetable based, naturally hypoallergenic.
Kirk’s bar soap is made from coconut oil and the fragrance-free soap is easy on sensitive skin. However, over time it can dry out your skin more than other options. For a bar soap we found Kirk’s to be the most versatile. It can be used for body hygiene as well as for making dishes and laundry soap. It can even be used as a treatment for poison ivy. We love the low price, it’s the least expensive bar soap in our list. The ingredient list, cleaning power, and concentration fall in the middle range of our metrics. Overall we rank this as the best overall biodegradable soap bar.
Best Natural Biodegradable Soap:
Ursa Major Morning Mojo
Price: $14See on Amazon
✅ Cleaning power
✅ Best natural soap
❌ Less versatile than some
- Weight: 5 ounces
- Main Ingredients: Pumice (volcanic rock), rosemary, eucalyptus, peppermint, grapefruit peel oil, shea butter, honey, sunflower seed oil, aloe vera, willow leaf, and bark extract
- Uses: Hygiene
- Special Features: Naturally energizing, soothes and hydrates skin.
Made from volcanic rock exfoliants, a mix of natural oils, and energizing peppermint, eucalyptus, and rosemary scents, the Mojo Bar soap is our favorite natural soap. We like that the naturally infused peppermint stimulates the body's circulation while the grapefruit helps to tone oily skin. And we found the bar to besoft to the touch while gently exfoliating your skin. Because of this we found the Mojo Bar has one of the highest cleaning powers on our list. We didn’t love the higher price and that it’s less versatile than similar options. On the plus side it lasts longer than other bar soaps.
Best Biodegradable Wipes:
Wilderness Wipes by Sea to Summit
Price: $4.95-$9.95See on REI See on Sea to Summit
✅ Good cleaning powder
✅ Best biodegradable wipes
❌ Takes a long time to break down
- Weight: 3.3 ounces (12 pack; 6x8 inches)
- Main Ingredients: Water, aloe leaf extract, vitamin E
- Uses: Hygiene
- Special Features: Extra thick wipes made from Viscose non-woven fibers that can be composted.
If you want to indulge on the trail, we’d recommend a 12-pack of these extra thick wipes to do the trick. We love a single sheet as a great daily face cleanser and two are enough to clean your entire body. They’re absorbent, pH balanced, and infused with aloe vera and vitamin E which hydrates skin. The wipes do break down, but take 6 months in ideal conditions and much longer in desert environments. Best to pack out with your trash. We love the low price on these, the least expensive wipe on our list. These are our favorite biodegradable wipes.
Best Biodegradable Soap Sheet:
Trek and Travel Pocket by Sea to Summit
Price: $4.95See on REI See on Sea to Summit
✅ All-natural ingredients
✅ Compact design
✅ Best biodegradable soap sheet
❌ Not as versatile or concentrated as other soap types
- Weight: 0.5 ounces
- Main Ingredients: Tapioca starch, glycerin, parfum, citronellol, mineral oil
- Uses: Options available for hand, body wash, conditioning shampoo, laundry, and shaving soap.
- Special Features: TSA approved and comes in five types.
Phosphate and Paraben free, these soap sheets have a subtle green tea fragrance that comes in a pocket-sized plastic case. Each case includes 50 environmentally friendly sheets. We were able to use a few drops of water to create enough suds to clean our hands. We needed to use multiple sheets to clean larger items. Like other soap sheets, we noticed a lower versatility and cleaning power. However, we found these to be our pick for the best biodegradable soap sheet.
The Other Noteworthy Models
Cascade Forest Body Wash
Price: $15See on Amazon
❌ Pine scent can be too strong for some
This all-natural wash has hydrating oils and a bold piney scent from wildflowers, bark, and tree trimmings. The soap is offered in a 2 oz travel size or a larger 8 oz bottle. This soap ranks high on our list for using all natural ingredients and being highly concentrated. Like other liquid soaps we like the high level of versatility. Upon use, we found the soap doesn’t create much of a sudsy lather but a small dose still provides a powerful clean. The piney scent is strong and may not be suitable for everyone.
Mt. Mazama Rogue by United by Blue
Price: $8/barSee on Amazon
✅ Excellent cleaning power
❌ Less versatile than others
- Weight: 3.75 ounces
- Main Ingredients: Organic palm oil, coconut oil, olive oil, fruit oil, essential oils, bentonite
- Uses: Hygiene
- Special Features: United Blue removes one pound of trash from oceans or waterways for every product sold.
Mt. Mazama Rogue soap is made with bentonite clay, an absorbent and slightly exfoliating material that pulls dirt and oils away from your skin. The use of the bentonite clays gives this soap excellent cleaning power. We found the bar has a rougher exterior upon initial use, but it isn’t tough on skin. The cedar and sage smell is refreshing too. We love the clean list of ingredients that makes this one of the most eco-friendly soaps on our list. We don’t love the higher price, but the bar does last a long time.
Joshua Tree Body Wash
Price: $9.99-$12.99See on Amazon
✅ Natural antiseptic ingredients
✅ Great for pets
❌ Cleaning power is weaker than others
- Weight: 3 ounces squeeze tube, 8 ounces bottle
- Main Ingredients: Coconut oil, Palm Kernel oil, Peppermint Oil, Tea Tree Oil
- Uses: Body wash, dog shampoo, dishwashing, and laundry soap.
- Special Features: Jojoba Oil infused to condition hair, essential oil scents.
The Joshua Tree Body Wash is another soap that we give high marks for its clean ingredient list. The mint and tea tree oils both help to soothe sore muscles after a long day and are a natural antiseptic for cleaning sores and cuts. Like many users, we love this soap for use on pets. Either in the backcountry or in everyday life. We found that it doesn't have the cleaning power of some soaps, this lightly scented body wash suds up surprisingly well. It’s also on the pricey side compared to other liquid soaps.
Sierra Dawn Campsuds
Price: $23.40 (4 ounces)See on REI See on Amazon
✅ All-natural ingredients
✅ Can be used with salt water
❌ Weaker cleaning power
Campsuds prides itself on being the first-ever biodegradable all-purpose outdoor cleaner for campers. It has a lemon-lime scent and is made from all-natural ingredients. We were surprised by the thinness of the soap. It’s concentration is in the middle of the pack and we wished the cleaning power was a little better. If you have greasy dishes it’s best to wipe them out before cleaning with Campsuds. What we are shocked about is the price. At $23 for just 4 ounces we can’t really picture a time when we’d choose this over a soap like Dr Bronners.
Ursa Major Face Wipes
Price: $26See on Amazon
✅ All-natural ingredients
✅ Designed to soothe skin
- Weight: 5 ounces
- Main Ingredients: Aloe vera, witch hazel, green tea.
- Uses: Hygiene, skin care, soothing skin irritation.
- Special Features: Individually wrapped wipes made from bamboo
Good for all skin types, these organic wipes are not only clean they also are designed to soothe skin irritation with aloe vera, witch hazel, and green tea. Our main drawback is the high cost. These are the most expensive wipes on our list. We also found them to score lower on concentration and versititly. They come individually wrapped, which is convenient but adds packaging waste.
Coleman Soap Sheets
Price: $3.99 (50 sheets)See on Amazon
❌ Smaller sheets
- Weight: 0.3 ounces
- Main Ingredients: PVA Alcohol, Corn starch, Water, Paraffin Wax, Tetragon Lobo Gum
- Uses: Dishes and hands.
- Special Features: Works with hot or cold water, unscented, compact size.
Ideal for ultralight packers, Coleman soap sheets are a straightforward, cost-effective cleaning product. One lightweight and compact plastic case contains 50 single-use soap sheets that can be used for dishes, hands, and laundry. We found a sheet will wash hands, or a few can be mixed with water for cleaning multiple products. We like that they work in hot or cold water. The two big drawbacks for us are the low cleaning power and concentration.
Surviveware Biodegradable Wet Wipes
Price: $6.95-$10.99See on Amazon
✅ Large size
✅ Great cleaning power
❌ Not versatile
❌ Longer time to break down
- Weight: 8 ounces (15 wipes) and 17 ounces (32 wipes)
- Main Ingredients: Benzalkonium chloride, citric acid, aloe barbadense leaf juice, vitamin E.
- Uses: Hygiene
- Special Features: 100% biodegradable, PH balanced, hypoallergenic wipes that begin decomposing in 28 days.
The Surviveware Biodegradable Wet Wipes are the largest wipe on our list. We found one wipe will clean almost your entire body. We don’t score them highly on versatility. They are only designed for cleaning your body. The cost is on the higher side, but given the large size, you shouldn’t need to use as many. Like other wipe options they can be composted but take a long time to break down.
Key Factors To Consider When Choosing
In short, a soap cleans by combing molecules that both repel and attract water through a process called saponification. The molecule chain structure gives the soap its cleaning power. Additionally, natural clays and volcanic sand use light scouring power to remove oils and dirt from your skin.
Biodegradable soaps with the most cleaning power are:
The more concentrated the soap, the less weight you have to pack. Liquid soaps are the most concentrated and are almost always diluted with water. Look for a soap that can be diluted with a 1-part soap to 3-parts water ratio or higher. Some soaps offer much stronger concentrations.
Biodegradable soaps with the highest concentration are:
A versatile soap can provide one soap for all your cleaning needs. But not all soaps are designed to be multipurpose. Look for a soap that can, at minimum, be used for personal hygiene, laundry, and dishes.
The most versatile biodegradable soaps are:
Ingredients are an especially important consideration to minimize your impact while in the backcountry. Your soap should contain only all-natural biodegradable ingredients and be free from toxic chemicals such as phthalates, sulfates, surfactants, parabens, petrochemicals, and “anti-bacterial” components.
The best all-natural soaps are:
- Ursa Major Morning Mojo
- Cascade Forest Body Wash
- Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Soap
- Joshua Tree Body Wash
Other Things to Consider
The 4 Types of Biodegradable Soaps
1. BAR SOAP
Pro: Made from animal fats and oils, bar soap is a long-lasting, cost-effective hygiene option. It’s also argued to have the lowest overall environmental impact because of its natural makeup and compostable packaging.
Con: More water is required to get a sufficient lather from bar soap, and its higher pH levels can leave sensitive skin dry or irritated. Also, it must be stored dry to avoid bacteria and germ growth which makes it less convenient for travel compared to liquid soap, sheets or wipes.
Weight: 3 to 6 oz
Ease of use: Not as multifunctional as liquid soap.
Ease of disposal: Biodegradable packaging. Life span: Many bar soaps have a shelf life of 3-5 years if unopened and 4-8 weeks after initial first use.
Who’s it for? Those without skin sensitives looking for a cost-effective, eco-friendly hygiene product.
Recommended? Bar soaps create a thicker lather compared to other portable soap options. That being said, bacteria build-up can be a concern and they aren’t as cross-functional or convenient as liquid soap.
2. LIQUID SOAP
Pro: Multi-use and compact, liquid soaps fill many cleaning needs and their added moisturizers typically make them gentler on skin. A bottle is also less likely to spread bacteria.
Con: Pricier than bar soaps and more of a “detergent” base, liquid soaps may contain more chemicals and are stored in plastic containers. Also, it may be harder to find completely fragrance-free options.
Weight: 1.5 to 6 oz.
Ease of use: Pop, pour, add water and voila: you’ve got soap!
Ease of disposal: Plastic containers must be disposed of properly.
Life span: 3 years, if unopened longer.
Who’s it for? Hikers wanting a compact, multi-purpose cleaning product.
Recommended? Liquid soaps are small enough to fit in your pocket and easy to store thanks to their seal tops. A little bottle can be used for multiple cleaning purposes while backpacking like germ sanitation, killing off bacteria on clothing, or cutting grease on dishware.
3. SOAP SHEETS
Pro: The lightest and most compact soap option on our list, these mini-cleaning wonders are smaller than the size of your palm and can be used for a variety of cleaning needs.
Con: Multiple sheets will be required for washing clothing or larger items, and your hands must be dry to remove sheets from plastic packaging. Also, they must be stored carefully because if water leaks in the package they’ll dissolve.
Weight: .5-1 oz.
Ease of use: Wash hands with a single sheet, or dissolve a few sheets in a container of water.
Ease of disposable: Sheets dissolve and the plastic case should be recycled.
Life span: Never expire.
Who’s it for? Hikers looking to pack ultra-light or travelers who want a pocket-sized cleaning product to easily wash hands, clothes, etc.
Recommended? Soap sheets are a solid lightweight hygiene option. If going into wet, rainy climates, you may want to store them in a waterproof bag since the sheets can dissolve if exposed to water.
Pro: No water required so you can give yourself a thorough wipe down anywhere you please. Also, wipes are a good way to ensure things “stay clean down there” after using the facilities.
Con: Wipes per package are limited and they can be heavier/bulkier than other cleaning options.
Weight: 4-10 oz.
Ease of use: Just like a portable shower.
Ease of disposal: Unless wipes are 100% biodegradable, they must be carried out and disposed of properly.
Life span: 3-6 months after opening.
Who’s it for? Those who want a quick, fuss-free way to stay clean or those heading into areas where water supply is limited.
Recommended? Wipes fare well for hikers with sensitive skin or those who only want to hit the hot spots during their cleansing routine. Wipes are also great in sterilizing cuts, wiping down camp gear or to use in place of showers if water is not readily accessible.
UNSCENTED OR SCENTED?
Out on the trail, you won’t be the only one who thinks that citrus-scented soap smells delightful. Bears and other wildlife will also find the aroma quite alluring. In areas where bear canisters are required these items will have to be properly stored.
THINK SUSTAINABILITY, PACKABILITY, AND PERMEABILITY
Each option has its pros and cons. Bar soaps have little to no plastic waste, however, they must be stored properly for travel. Liquid soap and soap sheets come in compact, recyclable plastic containers but leakage can pose a problem. Wipes may be biodegradable, but their packaging is likely not, and they must remain sealed to stay moisturized.
Biodegradable Soap vs. Regular Soap
Myth: Biodegradable soap has no negative environmental impact
According to the ATSM (American Society for Testing and Materials), the term “biodegradable soap” means it’s a product that’s able to decompose by natural organisms and bacteria, breaking down to around 90% H20 and C02 within six months of use. Many of these soaps are made using animal fats, various oils, and most importantly: little or no chemicals. They’re earth-friendly and a great, green-minded sanitation product for hikers, campers, or anybody looking to cut back on their overall carbon footprint.
However, it’s important to note that no soap—biodegradable or not—should ever be used directly in streams, lakes or other water sources. A study performed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency found that detergent-based phosphorus and other ingredients commonly found in soap leads to algae overgrowth and reduces oxygen levels that are necessary for aquatic plant and animal life. These effects prove that if not used responsibly, even eco-friendly soaps can contaminate water, harm aquatic habitats, and disrupt the balance of delicate ecosystems.
Myth: Disposable soap can be disposed of anyhow
Even though biodegradable soap is less toxic to the environment than regular soap, the sudsy stuff still must be handled carefully and disposed of properly to keep its environmental impact minimal. Since soap requires soil to adequately break down, one major rule to stick with is that all soapy water must always be buried after use.
Just because biodegradable soap may be made from all-natural ingredients, doesn’t mean it’s 100% nature-friendly. For example, when was the last time you saw a “soap bush” growing wild alongside a trail? Didn’t think so. Since we are the ones who bring our bars, bottles, sheets and wipes of soap into the woods with us, it’s important to ensure we’re also using these forest-foreign products with a green mindset.
Here are a few important rules to follow:
- To avoid contamination ALWAYS use any soap product at least 200 feet away from water sources.
- Make sure biodegradable soap products are phosphate and surfactant-free.
- Use soap sparingly.
- Collect all soapy water in a bucket, pot, bottle, water reservoir, etc.
- Dig a hole at least 6-8 inches deep and bury soapy water. This not only helps the soil break the suds down, but it also deters wildlife from its scent.
Myth: Soap is essential while backpacking
Bringing soap on a backpacking trip is a hikers’ preference. Many thru-hikers save some space and ounces by ditching the stuff all together and keeping themselves and their things clean by elbow grease, a washcloth and some hot water. On extra grimy days, a good trick is to throw in a few pebbles or sand alongside that hot water scrubbing routine for extra cleaning power and some au natural exfoliation. After all, there’s no place like nature to embrace one own’s natural scent, right?
Fact: A great lightweight all-in-one hygiene solution
If hot water just won’t cut it for your cleaning needs, then biodegradable soap is a nice luxury to have out on the trail. Many options are multipurpose and can act as body wash, shampoo, dish soap and even detergent.
Fact: Decreases the likelihood of germs
Disease and germs are a fast track to cutting a thru-hiker’s trip short. Regularly sanitizing with soap before cooking up that evening meal or after taking a pit stop at the local “facilities” is a good way to ensure hands stay clean and germs stay away.
Bonus: Carrying a small bottle of hand sanitizer is another good option to keep clean on the trail.
Final Safety Considerations:
- The EPA concluded soap must be diluted in at least 20,000 oz of water to not affect aquatic life.
- If not buried, even ingredients in biodegradable soap can cause an imbalance in water's natural biome.
- A report published by Friends of the Earth and Forest Heroes states that mass expansion of palm oil farms is becoming one of the leading causes for rainforest destruction and is threatening many endangered species habitats. Palm oil is a common ingredient found in biodegradable soaps. Check to make sure it is environmentally sourced.
What is the most biodegradable soap?
The most biodegradable soap is soap made with all-natural ingredients and no synthetics.
What is considered biodegradable soap?
To be considered a biodegradable soap, the ingredients must be able to be broken down by bacteria.
Is biodegradable soap really biodegradable?
Biodegradable soap is really biodegradable as it degrades over time as long as it’s disposed of in soil, not a waterway.
What's the best biodegradable soap?
The best biodegradable soap is Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap.