Can You Use Soap (In Any Form) As Lube Or For Anal Sex?

Soap is great — for cleaning. But using soap as lube? Bad idea. This includes soap in a bar or liquid forms like shower gel, dish soap, and others.
Photograph Of Green Bar Of Soap Resting On Bedside Table With Bedding In Distant Background

No, you really can’t.

Here’s why:

  • Soap is not meant to be used as lube and in fact, no mainstream soap is safe for internal use — including vaginal or anal penetration.
  • Soap is formulated to strip away oils and dirt from the skin, often through the use of harsh surfactants (surface-active agents that act as detergents) like sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, which can be incredibly irritating to sensitive areas, including the labia minora, vagina, or anus.
  • For those with vulvas, in particular, soap as a lube can cause vulvitis — inflammation of the genital area — causing itching that may be accompanied by burning or pain.
  • Soap can also affect vulvar and vaginal pH, disturbing its natural balance and leading to irritation or infection.
  • Soap as lube can cause penis irritation and in some cases, inflammation of the urethra (urethritis), as well.
  • Additionally, soap is ineffective as a lubricant because it dries out quickly without water — but rinses away too easily with it — and it can be absorbed by the skin during prolonged contact.

The same holds true for any kind of soap, including bar soap, liquid soap, hand soap, dish soap, body wash, and even “gentle” moisturizing products like Dove soap.

As it turns out, soap is best saved for washing — so only use as directed.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about using soap as a personal lubricant, including:

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Lube Alternatives and Everything Lube hubs, in-depth and evolving resources that comprehensively explore all aspects of personal lubricants from the different types and how to use them, to ingredients and safety — created to help you achieve the sexual pleasure you deserve.

Can You Use Soap As Lube?

No. Not at all — in any circumstance and regardless of the type.

You should never use:

  • Bar soap as lube
  • Hand soap as lube
  • Dish soap as lube
  • Liquid soap as lube
  • “Gentle” products like Dove soap as lube
  • Body wash as lube
  • Facial cleanser as lube, such as Albolene

Soap might be slippery when wet, but that texture is created by the detergents, surfactants, and other ingredients it contains — and generally speaking, none of those make a safe lubricant when alone, or mixed.

Here’s what you need to know about using soap as lube:

  • It contains harsh surfactants (surface-active agents) that can cause contact dermatitis, irritating delicate genital skin, including the vagina and anus
  • It may also contain added fragrances or dyes that irritate those areas, as well
  • It can cause vulvitis (inflammation of the vulva), even when used only for external masturbation
  • Soap can alter the natural pH of the vulva and vagina, potentially leading to irritation and infection
  • It can cause urethritis — irritation and/or infection of the urethra — when used for masturbation of a penis, along with general penis irritation and balanitis (irritation on the head of the penis)
  • It’s incredibly ineffective as a lube because it dries out without water, but rinses away when it makes contact with water
  • No soap is designed or intended to be used internally — full stop — and that includes during vaginal or anal penetration

Using soap as a lubricant is a bad idea because although it may feel slippery at first, it dries out quickly without water and causes extra friction.

But adding water to soap makes it wash away — rendering it completely ineffective.

Soaps are designed to strip oils and dirt from the skin, made possible through the use of detergents and surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfoacetate.

They also often contain added fragrances and even dyes.

All of these things can be incredibly irritating to the genital area — regardless of sex or gender.

In those with vulvas, soap disturbs the body’s natural pH, potentially resulting in irritation or infection. Likewise, it can lead to vulvitis — inflammation of the vulva — even during external masturbation.

People who have penises are at risk for irritation when using soap for lube, as well.

General penile irritation can be caused by soap, including balanitis on the head of the penis. If soap makes its way into the urethra, however, urethritis — irritation and inflammation — can occur.

Finally, no soap is manufactured to be used internally, and that goes double for the vaginal or anal canals.

The solution? Use only trusted lubes from respected brands or specific lube alternatives that are safe if you’re in a pinch. Your body deserves nothing less.

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Can You Use Soap As A Vaginal Lube?

No, not safely. Not effectively. Not at all.

Commercial soap, whether in bar or liquid form, is likely to have surfactants — surface-active agents that work as detergents to remove dirt and oil — that can irritate sensitive skin.

Surfactants help the soap or body wash penetrate the protective top layer of skin — which is great for cleaning in general but it’s bad for the vagina.

Vulvitis, which is the technical term for inflammation of the vulva, can be caused by soap — even during external masturbation only.

Additionally, the pH of soap is very high — often in the 9-10 range, depending on the brand.

That’s much higher than the pH of the vagina, which is generally between 3.8 and 4.5.

Throwing off your body’s pH by using soap as a lubricant can cause itching, irritation, and it can leave you vulnerable to infection.

Vaginas are basically self-cleaning and soap can cause your vaginal canal’s pH to become unbalanced, which is irritating in every sense of the word.

Finally, soap and body wash aren’t meant to be used internally.

It’s okay to wash near your vagina or anus with gentle soap, of course, and the vulva and labia majora can handle that brief contact, as long as you’re not sensitive to it and you rinse thoroughly after washing.

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Can You Use Soap As Anal Lube?

No, you cannot use soap as anal lube.

While it may be true that the anus isn’t quite as “finicky” about care as the vagina, soap is harsh on delicate skin — and that includes the anus.

While anal pH ranges from 7 to 8, it is closer to that of soap (ranging from 9 to 10) but that doesn’t make it safe for use as anal lube.

As we mentioned before, soap contains surfactants that are meant to work as detergents to remove dirt and oil — and they’re too caustic for use inside the anus, potentially leading to itching, inflammation, irritation, or infection.

Not to be indelicate, but having an intensely itchy butthole is either a terrible way to spend your day or a very specific and curious kink.

Finally, soap is not designed to be used internally and it should only be used as directed.

It’s safe to wash the outside of the anus during your bath or shower, such as when using a body wash, but it should be rinsed away quickly and not used for anal penetration of any kind.

When it comes to anal sex, there are much better options available.

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What Is Soap Made Of And Is It Safe?

Provided you don’t have allergies or sensitivities to its ingredients, soap is safe when used as directed, but what it is made of really depends on its formulation.

Bar soap and liquid soap of all types are generally made from a combination of alkali (lye) with an acid (fat) of some sort — like an oil or butter.

When they are mixed, a chemical process called “saponification” occurs, changing the two components in a way that removes the lye completely and creating a final product that cleanses without harming the skin.

This process can take several weeks.

Liquid soap and body wash use a different kind of lye known as potassium hydroxide (KOH), but the process is similar — it’s mixed with a fat — although it doesn’t “firm up” like bar soap.

Soaps may contain a variety of different fats, such as cocoa butter, tree nut oils like almond oil or hazelnut, shea butter, olive oil, tallow, and other animal or vegetable fats.

It can also have surfactants — surface-active agents that work as detergents — like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (SLSA).

Sodium lauryl sulfate is a known irritant.

While SLSA is vegetable-derived and considered safer in comparison — it’s still not appropriate for internal use.

Glycerin soaps may seem safer because they often have fewer, if any, surfactants. The label might assure you that it’s “moisturizing,” which sounds safe for skin.

But remember that “safe for skin” and “safe for internal use” are not the same. Glycerin is also known for contributing to yeast infections.

If the soap you have on hand is a pretty color, smells nice, or has a shimmer of glitter effect, that means it could contain any number of dyes and fragrances — all of which can irritate delicate genital skin.

Some of these types of fancy soaps may contain parabens, as well, which are known carcinogens.

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What Are Better Lube Alternatives To Soap?

Instead of using soap as a lubricant, we highly recommend any compatible lube designed and intended for intimate use.

Better personal lubricant options include:

Here’s a cheat sheet for selecting the best lube based on how you intend to use it:

Lube Type:
Water-Based
Silicone-Based
Oil-Based
Oral Sex Yes Yes Not usually
Vaginal Sex ONLY if pH/Osmolality suitable Yes Yes
Anal Sex ONLY if pH/Osmolality suitable Yes Yes
Condom Types All All Polyurethane, nitrile and lambskin only
Sex Toy Types All All but silicone All but latex
Bath/Shower Use No Yes Yes
Does It Stain? No Yes Yes
Lube Type:
Oral Sex
Vaginal Sex
Anal Sex
Condom Types
Sex Toy Types
Bath/Shower Use
Does It Stain?

There is a personal lubricant for every situation and personal preference, so if you’re not sure which is right for you, read through our in-depth lube guide or take our helpful lube quiz to find one.

We’ll take a quick look at the four main lubricant categories below.

  • Water-Based Lubricants

Water-based lubricants are a fan favorite for a reason.

First off, these lubes are water-soluble.

That makes cleanup simple and easy and keeps staining to a minimum. Water-based lubes also feel similar to what the body produces naturally.

Better still, water-based lubes are safe to use with any sort of dental dam, condom, or diaphragm.

If you’re a fan of sex toys, and we certainly hope you are, water-based lubricants work well with the most popular sex toy materials like silicone, annealed glass, plastic, and metal.

Soap used as lube simply can’t do any of these things.

Want to learn more about water-based lubes? Get more information, plus a list of our tried and true favorites here.

  • Silicone-Based Lubricants

Whether water-based or silicone-based lubricants are best for you depends entirely on what you’ll be doing with them.

Silicone-based lubricants are longer lasting than water-based, so rarely need to be reapplied. They’re also safe with condoms.

The texture is smooth with great glide, and the thicker consistency means silicone-based lubes are an excellent choice for anal sex — far better than soap as anal lube — and they’re even great for shower sex.

One caveat: Silicone lubes do not play well with silicone sex toys. You absolutely do not want to ruin your favorite vibe because you didn’t know what type of lube to use with it.

Want to know more about silicone lube? We’ve compiled a list of favorites to help you pick the perfect lubricant for your needs.

  • Oil-Based Lubricants

Those who are concerned about natural or organic lubes often turn to oil-based lubricants.

These could contain any number of natural oils, including olive oil, vitamin E oil, or tree nut oils like almond, hazelnut, coconut, cashew, or shea oil.

If you have allergies, however, many of these oils are best avoided.

Oil-based lubes are body-safe for anal or vaginal sex, though they do not play nice with latex or polyisoprene condoms, diaphragms, or dental dams.

In fact, oil-based lubes shouldn’t be used for oral sex as they are not meant to be ingested and can present a choking hazard.

Want to know more about oil-based lube? Check out our list of the ones we’ve tried and loved.

  • Natural and Organic Lubricants

More and more, consumers are concerned about what goes into the products they put on or in their bodies.

If that sounds like you, it’s important to keep in mind that “natural” is an advertising buzzword with no real meaning in terms of ingredients, beyond having been harvested from nature.

A product can be called “natural” without meeting any type of legal or FDA standard, whereas “organic” means that the product in question is made with certified organic ingredients.

Natural and organic lubes are often made from nut or seed oils that may be less than suitable for those with allergies or sensitivities to such ingredients.

We found the best natural and organic lubes if you’re in search of a nature-based lube.

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What Are The Safest Home/DIY Soap Lube Alternatives?

Now that you know not to use soap as a lubricant, you’re probably asking what you can use instead.

Chances are you have one or more of these at home already:

Aloe vera gel makes a great lube provided it’s pure aloe gel with no additives. Many “natural” aloe products can contain stabilizers, fragrances, or other additives.

Real, fresh-from-the-leaf pure aloe should be kept refrigerated for up to 7 days — or used immediately.

Keep in mind too that while aloe is excellent for skin, it naturally contains latex.

If you have a latex allergy, avoid using aloe gel as lube unless you’re skilled at removing the gel thoroughly from the plant leaf.

Unrefined coconut oil of the extra-virgin (unprocessed) variety is also safe to use as lube. It can absorb into the skin quickly though and reapplying may be necessary.

Like all oils, coconut oil can degrade condoms, diaphragms, and dental dams, putting you at risk for STIs or unplanned pregnancy.

Vitamin E oil is also safe as anal or vaginal lubricant — and may already be present in the lube you’re using now.

Other safe lube alternatives include argan oil, shea butter, and avocado oil.

Bottom Line:

Soap is great — for cleaning. It can smell nice, make your skin soft, and keep nasty germs away.

But using soap as lube? Bad idea.

The good news is that there are plenty of other things that can be used as intimate lubricants that are safe, effective, feel great, and are probably lurking in your kitchen or bathroom as we speak.

Knowing how to keep yourself safe and healthy is essential self-care. Your body will thank you for taking the time to choose the perfect lube for your sexual and masturbatory needs.