Carbolic soap

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Bar of carbolic soap

Carbolic soap is a mild disinfectant soap containing carbolic acid (phenol).[1] Once widely available in the United States and the most common disinfectant cleaner in hospitals, it has disappeared from all but specialty retail stores.[why?] It is distributed to disaster victims for routine hygiene by the Red Cross and other relief organizations.[2] Remembered by many older Americans as the household soap of their childhood, such as the brand Lifebuoy, it is sought after by some for its nostalgic sweet, tarry smell. By killing bacteria, it acts as a mild deodorant when used as a body soap.[3]

In England it was used in state schools at least up until the 1970s; in Scottish state schools its use continued at least until the late 1980s. Quite often it would irritate the skin.

In the 1960s teachers in England were allowed to use corporal punishment in the classroom, so along with the cane, a child who swore in class might be made to wash their mouth out with carbolic soap.

Carbolic soap is still used regularly in the Caribbean region, especially Jamaica where it can be found in most drugstores or supermarkets.


  1. ^ W. H. Simmons and H. A. Appleton, The Handbook of Soap Manufacture, Echo Library, 2007, p. 104.
  2. ^ "ReliefWeb ť Document ť West Africa Appeal No. 01.02/2001 Programme Update No. 2". Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
  3. ^ "Carbolic Soap". Carbolic Soap. Retrieved 2010-08-19.