RICHARD ORD: When soap-on-a-rope was the iPhone of its day

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To disperse rioting students, I always felt water cannons alone weren’t enough. If the police really want to get students to vacate an area, they should add soap.

‘Soap and water’ cannons would be far more effective on scruffy students, don’t you think?

And so it is with our kids. Water holds little fear, but soap will get them running a mile. Which is a surprise, considering the huge swathe of unnecessary advancements made in the world of personal hygiene.

There was a time when soap-on-a-rope was considered the zenith of human ablution technology. It was the iPhone of its day. What could improve a bar of soap? Why attach it to a rope, of course.

Mankind had wrestled for years over the vexing question of how to safely store a wet soap bar, until the marriage of rope and soap was realised. Leave it dangling. It was staring us in the face all the time.

Today, liquid soap is king.

Antibacterial soap for the kitchen and a moisturising soap for the bathroom.

It’s important you don’t get them mixed up. To use antibacterial soap for ordinary bathroom washing will leave your hands feeling very dry and abrasive.

Use moisturising soap in the kitchen and you’ll be dead within the week. From bacterial poisoning, probably.

Liquid soap is applied by the use of a handy plunge action dispenser, or, as our kids call it, a soap gun. They use it to apply soap liberally … to the side of the sink!

Perhaps the plastic soap dispenser should come with clearer instructions. I’ve looked, but nowhere does it say “to apply soap, repeatedly smash fist on plunger,”but that’s what they do.

I suspect it’s a boy thing. My two boys are 11 and 14, and they have a complicated relationship with hygiene. As did I, at the same age.

When asked by my mother to wash my face, I can recall wetting the front of my hair to give the impression of having washed. Why? I don’t really know. It was more complicated and time consuming to dampen individual strands of hair to give the impression of having washed, than to have actually washed.

Maybe it’s a rebellion thing. A victory for the oppressed. Ha, you wanted me to wash my face, but I didn’t. I win. Yes, I win a face-full of spots.

Our youngest, Isaac, 11, is particularly soap-averse. Except when the opportunity arises to use a Dyson Airblade hand dryer – one of modern life’s best examples of technology exceeding need.

You find them in pubs and they enable you to dry your hands without the inconvenience of touching a button or getting a towel wet.

Our Isaac thinks they’re great. He plunges his hands in over and over again. He’s even tried to dry his head in one.

Personally, I think they should have stopped hand drying technology at the roller towel dispenser. I miss them, not because they dried your hands well, but, to be honest, trying to pull the towel round to find a dry bit was the only exercise I ever got.