The Washcloth Experiment
© 13 Aug 2013 Luther Tychonievich
Licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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A pilot study on the impact of using a washcloth in the shower.


As a result of a series of conversations with my mother over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays last year, early this year I decided to conduct an experiment comparing washing myself with with and without using a washcloth.

A opened two identical bars of soap on the same day and placed them next to each other in my shower in a place where they would not get wet except when in use. Next to one I placed a washcloth. I used a token to keep track of which bar I had used the previous day so that I could alternate bars every showering. Both bars were Dial Gold—not my favorite soap, but I happened to have two bars on hand when the experiment began. For context, bar soap is the only cleansing agent I used in the shower, finding it more effective than shampoo or body wash.

Last week the non-washcloth bar reached too-small-to-use-effectively status, having lasted for three more uses than the washcloth bar. Each bar lasted approximately 100 days (I didn’t keep careful track of how many days I was out of town), so three days is within my expected margin of error. I thus declare washcloths to have no measurable impact on the amount of soap used.

There is a different skill needed for each washing; with a washcloth it is possible to put too little soap on the cloth and need to add more, or to put on too much soap and waste some. It took me a few weeks to find the right balance for this bar, which may explain the 3 day difference. Conversely, without a washcloth holding onto the bar and keeping it from breaking during the last part of its life can be challenging.

I was unable to perceive a significant difference in the quality of the cleaning produced; however, I rarely have more to clean off of myself than a small amount of sweat residue so it is not clear that I would have noticed a difference if one was present.

Conclusion: I was unable to find a meaningful difference between using a washcloth and not using one.

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