One of my earliest experiences travelling with soap leaves involved a lawyer from Australia and a Jordanian washroom.

I met Michelle (the Australian) beside a minivan in a large bus station park in South Amman, Jordan. We were both heading to Wadi Mousa to visit the ancient city of Petra. There was plenty of time to become acquainted because the minibus would only leave once all seats were filled. Trading travel stories passed the time profitably. Eventually, the minibus filled with people and gear, and we were on our way, dropping off passengers and picking up others as space permitted.

Jordanian washroom

Half way into the three-hour journey, the bus paused at a rest stop. As Michelle and I were the only women on board, we found ourselves in the washroom at the same time. Washrooms in Jordan bear few similarities to western toilets. 


“Michelle, are you set for toilet tissues?” I called out. What was I thinking??? While waiting for the minibus to depart, I’d learned that Michelle had travelled extensively. Of course she was equipped to deal with washrooms without toilet paper.

Travelling with soap leaves

We ended up at the washbasin at roughly the same time. Like most public washrooms in Jordan, there was no soap. I asked Michelle if she would like a soap leaf. Clearly, this was a totally new experience for her so I demonstrated how a single leaf could lather up a storm and wash away travel grunge. She was clearly impressed.

Cleaning hands was one thing, but it was equally as satisfying introducing a seasoned traveller to a new product.

After leaving the washroom, I ordered a tea that required pinching off mint leaves from a cluster of stalks on the counter… something I wouldn’t have attempted without clean hands. By the way, it was one of the best cups of tea I’d ever had.

Buying and using soap leaves

There are plenty of brands available. Mine are Sea-to-Summit. With 50 leaves in a lightweight plastic container, they’re easy to dispense using dry hands. They’re best removed from the dispenser before touching water. One leaf is quite effective, and tearing a leaf in half may be adequate. It doesn’t take much water to work up a lather but if stealing water from a water bottle, keep in mind it will take more to rinse off the dissolved leaf. They’re also phosphate-free and biodegradable so the leaves won’t harm the environment. Carry-on compliant and weighing in at just .5 ounces (14 grams), they’re worth their weight in gold when clean hands are essential and bar or liquid soap isn’t available.

Packing soap leaves

If you’re looking for ideas on packing soap leaves, consider a “comfort pack.” Mine is a four-pocket handmade pouch that resides in my daypack. The soap leaves sit alongside a pack of 3-ply dollar store tissues (they have to be 3-ply to double as emergency toilet paper), a small zip-top craft bag containing six tablet towels, some surface sanitizing wipes and a few other things – all ready for washrooms or situations when cleanliness needs a helping hand.


My travel comfort pack was created by Couture par Carmen Maillet. If you’re interested in a similar pouch, Carmen’s contact information is available on Facebook.

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Do you travel with soap leaves?  If not, what strategies do you use to deal with situations when soap isn’t available?

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