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What is Soap on a Rope?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 21, 2024
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Ordinary bar soap can be extremely difficult to control when wet, and picking up a dropped soap bar could have dire consequences. A bather could also slip and fall after stepping on a loose bar of soap, or the soap could become contaminated with other materials. One popular solution to this problem is known as soap on a rope.

Soap on a rope consists of a bar of molded glycerin soap attached securely to a loop of rope through a preformed hole. The user is supposed to place the rope loop over his or her wrist to prevent the soap bar itself from falling to the floor. The soap may still slip out of the bather's hand, but at least it's not going anywhere else.

This type of soap does serve a legitimate purpose for bathers who tend to lose ordinary bars or lack the physical ability to bend over in the shower to retrieve a lost bar. However, many people buy the product as more of a novelty item than an actual bath aid. Soap on a rope is a popular gift for men because of its association with a prison cautionary tale more than anything else.

This dubious warning to men concerns the communal showers found in prisons and the sadistic behavior of certain inmates who use them. New arrivals to the prison are said to be prime targets for sexual assaults, especially if they should happen to bend over in the shower to retrieve a dropped bar of soap. The best way to thwart this sort of assault, according to the urban legend, was to always use soap on a rope while showering in prison.

Because of this apocryphal tale, many men and women treat the novelty soap on a rope available in gift stores as the ultimate gag gift for other men. While some may actually use the soap for bathing, many recipients keep the soap on display as a joke or conversation piece. Some novelty companies enhance the joke through graphics and copy on the packaging which plays up the "prison shower" angle.

Not all soap on a rope products are sold as novelties, however. Several cosmetics and beauty aid companies do offer it for customers who want the convenience and safety of a more secure soap bar. The soap itself may be formed into different novelty shapes such as dog bones, flowers or hearts, but the intended use is for personal hygiene, not a novelty gift. It may be difficult to retrofit a standard bar of soap to accept a rope, so the manufacturers design their products with an appropriate opening.

Soap on a rope may seem to be more of a novelty item than an actual bathing aid, but it does hold some appeal for elderly bathers and those with physical limitations that make bending difficult.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to BeautyAnswered, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon998999 — On Oct 05, 2017

Something not mentioned, if soap on a rope is stored hanging (like over the shower head, etc) it keeps the soap out of the water and muck in a soap dish, prevents it from getting mushy and prolongs the life of the soap.

By anon267648 — On May 10, 2012

The novelty among men also extended (no pun intended) to the joke of on what other male appendage -- besides the arm -- that the soap could be hung.

By anon209248 — On Aug 25, 2011

I believe the original meaning goes back to old (very old) days when all rope was like twine. If you want to hang somebody (or yourself) with that kind of rope the knot may get stuck and even though it would hurt a lot you wouldn't actually succeed in hanging anyone. The solution was to use soap to make the rope self-tightening knot slide well and tighten the loop around the neck. Sorry.

By CopperPipe — On Sep 17, 2010

Where can I buy soap on a rope in Burkitsville? Does anybody know the where to buy soap on a rope around here?

By galen84basc — On Sep 17, 2010

There really are a lot of "gag" soap on a rope molds, though whether that refers to "gag" gifts or the reaction it causes the recipient to have I'm not sure.

Some are formed after genitalia (I assume that's the prison angle), whereas others are even religiously themed.

I've seen something called "Hope Soap on a Rope" which is essentially a Jesus shaped soap on a rope.

I personally don't have a problem with it, but I can see how some people could be really offended by it. I simply find it confusing, to tell the truth.

They also have kids soap on a rope shapes that look like stars and animals and things like that. Although I don't know how useful a soap on a rope is for kids -- they don't tend to bathe themselves anyway, and one would hope that a young parent would be able to keep ahold of a bar of soap.

By closerfan12 — On Sep 17, 2010

This is one of those things that you never think about until it happens, but my grandmother actually really used soap on a rope when her arthritis made it hard for her to hold things.

She couldn't bend down to pick up her soap if the dropped it, and she was almost sure to drop it because of the pain in her hands.

So she actually got proactive about it, learned how to make milk soap, and bought herself a soap on a rope mold. Now she makes her own, and even makes it as gifts for her friends.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to BeautyAnswered, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
Learn more
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