Thursday, May 5, 2011
We often receive questions about soap use in the outdoors, more specifically, how damaging or not “biodegradable" or castile soap is to the environment.Our take on the situation is as follows:
Generally speaking, getting any soap in a water source is not acceptable or recommended. The soap can cause all sorts of issues from increased nitrogen to actually causing significant harm to aquatic inhabitants.
Regarding acceptable Leave No Trace protocols, it’s important to stress that there are still significant impacts from supposedly “completely biodegradable” products. We’ve encountered folks washing dishes with that product in a lake, claiming that it was a safe and acceptable practice. Unfortunately this is not the case, and the manufacturer says as much, and now commonly includes advice to use it 200 feet from water and to dispose it in a cathole. We generally believe that pouring dirty dishwater (which generally contains food smells and fragrances) into the soil will lessen the attraction of wildlife – as compared to the broadcast method, which also broadcasts the smells.
If safety/health issues are a concern—for example, an extended trip or trip involving youth—remember, a little goes a long way. Using hand sanitizer or hand wipes beforehand can also minimize the chance of spreading illness.
Remember, safety and fun are key components to Leave No Trace. Thank you for helping minimize impacts on our public lands!