Search this site:


December 10, 2004 12:01 AM

Broken: Hotel soap combos

Image004_copyTerry Jones writes:

You have certainly noticed the laudable trend of hotels that provide liquid soap and shampoo in showers to save the cost of all those little soaps. Most hotels do it like this, with one bottle for soap and one for shampoo

However on a Ferry from St. Petersberg, Russia to Tallinn, Estonia I noticed a disturbing new trend. The container said, "shower gel and conditioning shampoo", but there was only one lever and one hole (i.e. one liquid for both functions)

This was topped in my hotel in Copenhagen when the container over the sink proclaimed: "Hand Soap, Shower Gel and Hair Shampoo".

What's next? Soap, gel, shampoo, conditioner, hair restorer, colorizer, and motor oil? A universal solvent??

[I have to say, I like Gel the best..   -mh]


I don't see what's broken about this. Shampoo/soap combos have been around for at least a decade. Soap and shampoo basically is the same stuff: they are designed to desolve fat molecules and to make you clean. It seems sensible to combine the two, particularly in a hotel where the people using the shampoo does not really care either. (If you really care about what kind of shampoo and soap you are using, you don't use the standard hotel shampoo and soap.)

Posted by: name at December 10, 2004 02:03 AM

Personally, taking showers in hotels is crappy anyways because you dont really feel clean and your hair has a hard feeling, its that damn hard water...

anyways yeah... i see nothing broken, soap is soap.

Posted by: Dragon at December 10, 2004 02:26 AM

Just because a user is annoyed by a design choice does not mean it's broken. The poster's preference is for multiple types of soap, even though using only one chemical is arguably still very effective.

In fact, this design is more environmentally friendly, less expensive to refill, etc.

Maybe we can convince Mark to change the name of the site to ;-)

Posted by: Robby Slaughter at December 10, 2004 05:25 AM

"They use soap for shampooo. ... It's what men do." -- Spotted on a billboard for VO Gold liquor

It works the other way too. I love how the apple-scented shampoo I got from some hotel recently doubles as a hand soap.

Again, this is *not* broken. There is no blatant design flaw that should have been caught in design. This is simply a matter of user taste. As others mentioned, if you don't like the soap/shampoo they provide, bring your favorite brand with you when you travel.

Posted by: Jay at December 10, 2004 08:58 AM

You have never been to a Gym?

They have been doing this for ever...

Posted by: Bill at December 10, 2004 09:47 AM

Um, you know, guys, you can bring your own shampoo to a hotel. They don't, like, search your bags or anything. Um... yeah.

Posted by: Citizen Of Trantor at December 10, 2004 12:22 PM

So now it's broken that you can't get your daily fix of lauryl and laureth sulfate from two different spigots?

You /are/ aware that it's the same product in each case, with different fragrances, right?

Posted by: Daniel Drucker at December 10, 2004 01:03 PM

>desolve fat molecules

i dont think thats what soap is supposed to do. i think it just cuts down on water's surface tension to allow water to take more particles into solution. bases desolve fat molecules into soap which then does all this.

Posted by: bob at December 10, 2004 06:10 PM

Here's a fuller description of how soap works:


Surfactants lower the surface tension of water, essentially making it 'wetter' so that it is less likely to stick to itself and more likely to interact with oil and grease.

Detergents have long molecules. One end attracts water, the other end attracts oil. The molecules can therefore bind oil and water.

Hot water melts fats and oils so that it is easier for the soap or detergent to dissolve the soil and pull it away into the rinse water.

Posted by: Bob Sifniades at December 10, 2004 07:56 PM

I think we can all agree that God meant for shampoo and soap to be two different entities!

Posted by: Maurs at December 11, 2004 03:16 AM

I think the next revolution will be the use of paper soap (see my link). This has the potential to combine the soap, shampoo, notepaper, "do not disturb" door hanger, envelopes, phonebook, and bible into one product.

I'm still waiting for them to invent soap thread, so the sheets can be made of it -- after you wake, just bring the sheets in the shower and wash them away. It would lower the housecleaning effort, too. Maybe they can make the towels out of the stuff, too....

Posted by: morcheeba at December 11, 2004 01:55 PM

> I think we can all agree that God meant for shampoo and soap to be two different entities!

No, we cannot agree on that. Dual-purpose liquid may be boring but it has many economic and environmental benefits.

Posted by: Jay at December 12, 2004 09:34 AM

Y'know, I was going to come down firmly on the "this is not broken" side -- after all, soap is frickin' soap, whether you put it on your hands, your hair, or your body, and I don't see any problem with just providing one liquid. In fact, I agree with Jay and Robby and others that it's a superior solution.

But I do have a problem with *labelling* it "Hand Soap, Shower Gel and Hair Shampoo". This goes against user expectations, and is a little fatuous, to boot. It's almost like they're saying, "We know you expect us to provide 3 products, so here's all 3, really." I would be happier with a label that simply said "Soap" or maybe, to fend off the inevitable customer complaints that "there's no shampoo", something like "Multi-purpose soap for hair and skin." It just seems a little more honest.

A minor point, maybe, but I can see how it would affect the customer's experience.

Posted by: E.T. at December 12, 2004 02:24 PM

E.T.: very good comment!

Posted by: name at December 12, 2004 02:51 PM

Not broken.

My understanding is that shampoo makes perfectly good soap but most soap doesn't make good shampoo--only the non-residue soaps (ie, Zest) make good shampoo. (Long ago, travelling in third-world areas, we carried Zest to use as shampoo. It was a lot lighter than hauling all the water of normal shampoo.)

Personally, I haven't used soap in the shower in more than 20 years--the shampoo works fine.

Posted by: Loren at December 12, 2004 03:05 PM

I like E.T.'s point, and I am going to amend my earlier response. The concept of having one type of soap is not broken, but the **labeling** of this particular soap dispenser IS broken.

See, I can find things broken on This Is Broken. ;-)

Posted by: Robby Slaughter at December 13, 2004 07:49 AM

Shampoo is detergent. Washing your hair with soap (unless the said hair is very non-oily and very short) will have unfortunate results.

You can use shampoo as shower gel - I've done it in a pinch - but it tends to be harsh. Certainly it's possible to put shampoo in a single dispenser and use it for everything, but it isn't ideal, particularly if you've got dryish skin. Mildly broken.

Posted by: jaed at December 14, 2004 03:04 AM

Just label it "Cleaner for skin and hair"

Posted by: Michael Spina at December 15, 2004 03:11 PM

Combo shampoo/conditioner/bodywash/whathaveyou is all the rage this year. Just check out the huge variety by Philosophy (for example, this nifty gift set that I hope my mother will enjoy):

I see nothing broken here. There's one product in the dispenser and a label to illustrate its various purposes.

And jaed, I've often washed my hair with bar soap, even when it was long. Admitedly it was home-made soap, so it might be a bit different from commercially available stuff, but nothing bad ever happened to my hair.

Posted by: Lillian at December 23, 2004 11:10 PM

Partially broken in the fact that shampoo is good for shampoo and soap, but soap for shampoo isn't quite as effective.

Posted by: Brittney at June 5, 2005 07:32 PM

Comments on this entry are closed

Previous Posts: