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Soaps and Cleansers

Top Picks

How we choose: The best soaps and cleansers highlighted here were selected based on 32 reviews of 13 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

How we test: Trailspace is powered entirely by our community of readers. The reviews posted here reflect the real-world experiences of outdoor enthusiasts just like you.

If you've used a soap/cleanser that you think should be listed here, please share your experience.

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Sea to Summit Wilderness Wash

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

Dirty face? Dirty Pots? Dirty clothes? “Backpacking-greasy” hair? A little bit goes a long way with this biodegradable wash. Works well and would do well for hiking or air travel.

Reasons to Buy

  • Concentrated
  • Non scented
  • Biodegradable
  • Gentle on skin and cooking appliances

Reasons to Avoid

  • More needed with hair wash
  • Cleans pots, but may not get "stuck on" off

This is my first wilderness wash that I’ve ever owned, so I have no comparison other than that normal daily washes (i.e. dish soap, body wash, shampoo). At 3 fl. oz. it’s compact, about the size of a deck of cards, both in height, width, and depth. I do not have an electronic scale, so I can’t attest for its weight, but it honestly is about the same as a deck of cards too. It’s also super concentrated, so a little goes a long way, more on that below. The question for me was, "Why stink in the backcountry?" What is it and how can it be used? If you need body wash, shampoo or to clean your pots while out in the backcountry, this is for you.

Read more: Sea to Summit Wilderness Wash review (1)

Dr. Bronner Liquid Soap

user rating: 4 of 5 (1 review)

Dr. Bronner's liquid soap has been a backwoods staple for as long as I can remember. This pure castile soap (meaning it is made using vegetable oil) is environmentally friendly and smells great.

Reasons to Buy

  • Smells good
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Helps to repel insects (for some scents)
  • Has multiple uses

Reasons to Avoid

  • Makes terrible deodorant
  • Leaves suds behind

I was first introduced to Dr. Bronner's pure castile soap when I was about 8 years old. Back then, it was a camp staple as it was environmentally safe, and so could be used in the pond as well as the showers (try getting a hundred 8-year old boys to shower. Having them jump in a pond is much easier!). INGREDIENTS: Castile soaps themselves aren't really anything special. They're just soap that uses vegetable oils in place of animal fats. It's the addition of the various essential oils that makes Dr.

Read more: Dr. Bronner Liquid Soap review (1)

Coghlan's Biodegradable Camp Soap

user rating: 4 of 5 (1 review)

It's a handy, portable, fairly effective soap. Easy to transport, not very messy, doesn't smell too bad and isn't too harsh.

Reasons to Buy

  • Sturdy bottle is a must for packing
  • Gel in a bottle form keeps things cleaner than a bar
  • Inoffensive scent
  • Reasonably effective
  • Relatively non-toxic
  • Generates respectable suds

Reasons to Avoid

  • Gel is thicker than dish soap and won't get into scrubbers/sponges as well
  • Less effective than regular soap — doesn't go as far.
  • Cap can be tough to open with dirty/slippery hands

We got the chance to try this soap out on our annual coastal car-camping trip. First time, we approached it from a 'try and see' standpoint, figuring that if it works well, then we can stop lugging along actual dish soap, which would be an improvement in many ways. Short answer: We'll be taking it along again in the future. Long answer: This is a pretty reasonably performing soap. easy on the hands, effective at cleaning up, doesn't smell too bad, and overall does the job. You can use it for personal washing as well, giving it dual-purpose status — something not all other soaps can boast.

Read more: Coghlan's Biodegradable Camp Soap review (1)

Dr. Bronner Eucalyptus Organic Bar Soap

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Let Dr. Bronner improve the way you stay clean with this Eucalyptus Pure-Castile Bar Soap. A soothing organic scent and an awesomely smooth lather. An all-in-one soap that has quickly become my favorite.

Reasons to Buy

  • Smells AMAZING
  • Organic, FairTrade, Made in USA
  • Feels great

Reasons to Avoid

  • Difficult to find other than online
  • Smell not for everyone
  • Expensive

I first read about Dr. Bronner’s on a hiking forum. It was mentioned only briefly so I decided to check out their website. I placed an order for a couple of bars of soap, shaving cream, and a bottle of liquid soap. I have been using Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Bar Soap for over 12 months now. I have used 3 of the different scents of the bars, Eucalyptus, Peppermint and Tea Tree. I was using a liquid body wash; after my first bar of Dr. Bronner’s I haven’t used anything else.Each bar of soap is 5 ounces.

Read more: Dr. Bronner Eucalyptus Organic Bar Soap review (1)

Dr. Bronner Tea Tree Liquid Soap

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

I saw the other guy's review, and I thought I'd add my 2 cents. I love Dr. Bronner's.  I use it at home as well as the field when backpacking.  They also offer bar soaps that don't leak in your pack, but I prefer the liquid. I'm also a mechanic.  My hands get greasy.   Nasty greasy.   Dr. Bronner's Liquid Peppermint soap works the best of any product I've found, including stuff like GoJo that was made for removing automotive grease.  The other 'natural' product that works well is Ivory liquid, but I'd bet there is petroleum in there somewhere, but I don't know for sure.

Read more: Dr. Bronner Tea Tree Liquid Soap reviews (2)

The Poison Ivy Soap Co Poison Ivy Soap

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Gets rid of active poison ivy breakouts and prevents them from starting.

Reasons to Buy

  • Gets rid of poison ivy
  • Easy to use
  • All natural

Reasons to Avoid

  • None with my experience

I purchased Poison Ivy Soap from the Poison Ivy Soap Company off Amazon a few weeks ago. This year has been hard for me. I got my first breakout in early March and have had poison ivy rashes all over my body ever since. After trying to ignore it, I tried OTC creams and astringents to no avail. After some research it came down to using a course of Prednisone that I keep for knee emergencies, or Zanfel, which is very expensive at $30 an ounce, or trying this $8 bar of soap. When the soap arrived on a Monday I tried it on a two-week-old set of rashes, a week-old set of rashes, and some just beginning outbreaks cause by my weekend hike.

Read more: The Poison Ivy Soap Co Poison Ivy Soap review (1)

Outdoor Rx Camp Soap

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Multi-purpose soap that works.

Reasons to Buy

  • Low cost
  • Works well
  • Multi-use

So, how does one go about writing a review on soap? Well, when you consider that every piece of gear you toss into your pack needs to serve a purpose I guess it's as valid as anything. What I like most about the Outdoor Rx soap is the bang for the buck. Like that old Brylcream commercial that said, "A little dab will do you" this soap lasts a long time as it's concentrated so you only need a touch to get the suds working. It's obviously biodegradable to make stream side cleaning safe and the non-scented formula won't attract Yogi, although I still include it in my bear bag.

Read more: Outdoor Rx Camp Soap review (1)

Atsko Sport-Wash

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

After using my tent and storing my tent in my bag and forgetting all about it—leaving it in my Forerunner for a week, while it was still wet—when I pulled it it out and saw how wet it still was, I could smell the mold. So I hand washed it with vinegar, which worked well and then I found some Sport Wash at the local True Value. After a good hand wash and some rinse, hanged it to dry on the clothesline. It came out just like new! Now I just did my 80 liter pack and it came out really well too. I'm going to treat them both with some for Nikwax tent and gear Solarproof as soon as I find some. iI will give a review on that too when I can.

Reasons to Buy

  • Worked great
  • Good price

Reasons to Avoid

  • None that I can see so far

The wash worked just fine. At first i was trying to find come Nikwax Tech Wash, but of course the store I went to didn't have any. Looks like you get enough for your 13 bucks to do a number of loads. I used one cap full for the tent and 2 for the bigger pack in my tub. Rinsed clean and then hanged on the clothesline.

Read more: Atsko Sport-Wash review (1)

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