Packing List Question: What’s the Deal with Biodegradable Soap?

“You have biodegradable soap on your packing list. Can I wash in the lake with it?”

Short answer: no.

We can set you up with pots or sinks of warm water and you can head back into the bush for a little washup.

biodegradable soap

What’s the deal with biodegradable soap?

Longer answer: biodegradable soap tends to be vegetable-based. They do not contain petroleum products or animal ingredients or chemicals that take a long time to breakdown. So that makes them more able to breakdown as they filter through the earth (the “bio” of biodegradable). But unfortunately their ingredients – which are typically proprietary – don’t make them degradable in water. We want to avoid changing the chemistry of the lakes and rivers we travel and risking the lives of fish and other aquatic fauna or flora. We don’t want to create algal blooms either.

Fortunately if you bring the biodegradable soap on trip in its original bottle, the instructions are listed right there for you (e.g. Use sparingly because the soap is concentrated. Use at least 200 feet [60+ meters] away from a water source. Dig a hole to dispose of soapy water so that the bacteria in the soil can break down the soap).

You’ll notice when you’re out on trip with us, we keep our handwashing station away from water sources. And we’ll dump grey water (dishwater, pasta water, etc.) following the instructions noted above.

Is there aqua-degradable soap?

No. A quick Google search will turn up a wide variety of biodegradable soaps but no one has manufactured a truly aqua-degradable soap as of yet.

If the thought of a bush bath doesn’t appeal to you, consider that (a) we’ll all be a little stinky on trip and most of us are pretty nose-blind in the backcountry, (b) usually a quick swim will do the trick [as long as you aren’t completely covered in sunscreen and/or bug spray], or (c) you can bring towelettes with you for a quick swipe of your stinkiest spots and then deposit them into our garbage bag.

Want to Join Us on Trip?

We would love to share a canoe (or a hike!) with you. Book here!