bars of soap

Q. I was troubled with severe leg cramps an hour or two after going to bed on the days when I’d exercised on the rowing machine. Then I read that people get relief by placing a bar of soap under the under the bed sheet near the legs. It worked, but the effectiveness of the soap seemed to diminish over time.

I wondered what might disappear from an ordinary soap bar. The one ingredient I could think of was glycerin. So I bought a bottle of it at the drugstore and tried rubbing some on the skin over my leg muscles, much like applying a moisturizing lotion. I found this eliminated cramping.

I even experimented by leaving one leg untreated; ouch, it cramped! Glycerin has been working for me about a year now. Perhaps others might find it as effective and more convenient than positioning soap bars in bed.

A. We appreciate home experimenters but we doubt glycerin would evaporate from your soap. Fragrance does dissipate and might explain why soap loses its cramp-relieving effects over time.

We have no idea how or why your approach would work, but glycerin is often used in skin care products and should not be harmful. Perhaps other readers will repeat your experiment and let us know how well glycerin works to prevent post-exercise muscle cramps.

If you are interested in a flat bar of soap designed not to disturb sleep when it is placed under the bottom sheet, consider our Bed Soap. It has a lovely lavender aroma and would make a thoughtful holiday gift.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. spayneuteryourpets

    If you have leg cramps at night, just try it. It’s OK to scoff and make fun of the idea. But what do you have to lose?

  2. Joy

    I am an RN who travels from city to city by car. For years I suffered horrible leg and feet cramps after lengthy drives. I heard about the soap regimen and I tried it. To my surprise, it has been over two weeks and I have not had one nocturnal cramp! My cramps were very frequent and it was not uncommon to get 3-4 at the same time — feet, toes, and calfs — but as mentioned, I have not had one since my first night! And, my cramps were so severe that my toes would actually fan out and would not bend! I don’t know what ingredient is in the soap that causes this success, but personally, I don’t care because it works!

  3. Linda

    Hylands Leg Cramps Ointment works wonders. It’s a homeopathic product that gives you relief immediately. I’ve used it for years and recommended to others as well. Worth a try, no exaggeration. Good Luck!!

  4. Mandolyn

    I think it’s mental.
    I suffer from leg spasms and cramping in my shins or toes EVERY night. I have to wear socks or they are worse. My blood work all came back normal, so there is no deficiency, or condition I have that I was tested for that relate to muscle cramps in legs. I have tried everything including this soap, and it doesn’t work. It’s a wives tale. I think that people get excited to try it and so they mentally rule out having a leg cramp and their body relaxes when they go to bed.
    For me, if I move my foot or toe at night it triggers a muscle cramp. Muscle relaxers helped, but those are hard to get since they are prescription.

  5. Linny

    I’ve experimented with the soap, electrolytes, exercise but it they had little effect. This seems to be a family trait. My Dad, three sisters and myself all have it. The most effective solution for me is a homeopathic cream made especially for this problem. Won’t mention the company name because this comment may not be published. Check it out, not too hard to find. The relief is instantaneous. Good Luck

  6. JC

    My doctor recommended leg exercises for my leg cramps. On my bed each morning I do five alternating reps of raising my knee toward my chest and extending the leg out perfectly straight as high as possible to the count of 20. This has helped me immeasurably, but I’m still going to try some “soap insurance” as well. It can’t hurt and it might impart a nice fragrance to my bedding.

  7. MA

    Well it is not the fragrance! I have used the bar of soap remedy for years and find I do need to replace the bars periodically too but I only use unscented soap due to allergy sensitivities.

  8. Brian M.

    As a university professor of life science, and a chemist, I have followed this soap discussion for some time with interest. I also suffer from restless legs, and find soap under the bottom sheet helps, but it needs to be a fairly fresh piece.
    A couple of points:
    -Commercial soaps are pretty complex in composition. some of the ingredients are from biological sources, and though purified, still are quite complex and varying from lot to lot. So it is going to hard to point o one ingredient or another and say “that’s it!” Also, it may very well be a combination of ingredients.
    -Possible effects of interest included fragrance (see below), but also perhaps some capacity to reduce static charge on fabrics.
    -If it is a fragrance which works, why wouldn’t soap on the night stand work best? Or does the odor (or other volatile substance) need to be concentrated beneath the sheets? does the “active ingredient” have to be smelled, or come into contact with the skin or the legs? Maybe someone should put a bar of soap in a heavy-duty zip lock bag and try inhaling the fumes given off after a few hours. Or put it in the bedside drawer and open it at bed time?
    -Fragrance can have powerful effects on people (obviously!). I think it was a study at the Monell Institute in PA which showed that prompt exposure to certain smells could abort panic attacks. The most effect substance? Baby powder.
    -Finally, why not dump part of a bar of fragrant soap in the rinse water when washing sheets? Changing to detergents years ago changed clothes washing, because soaps have a natural softening effect on cloth. Maybe wash the sheets (and pajamas) in a soap and see how it works?
    Lots to ponder and experiment with here!

  9. Lou G

    I seldom get leg cramps, but this morning about 5 AM, while asleep, I awoke with a painful leg cramp so bad I could hardly move. I was finally able to move it and massage it until it went away. I’m a side sleeper and since my lower back surgery in May, I sleep with a small pillow between my knees as it really provides less stress to the back. I don’t know if I can sleep with a bar of soap under the sheet as it would move all the time. If I kept a bar under the top sheet away from my body, but available if I got a cramp, would it then help if I placed it under the leg near the cramped area? For years I’ve placed bars of Irish Spring in the drawers with socks and underwear as it doesn’t let them get a musty smell, but the soap still smells good when I take it out to use it. I’d probably use a bar out of a drawer when I went to bed then put it back. I suppose I should wait to see if this will be a regular occurrence as the folks previously have had.

  10. ark

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. I will try glycerine as well.

  11. SJF

    Glycerine would not evaporate, but over time it could be lost by absorption in the bedding materials.

  12. susan

    maybe the simple act of massaging the leg w/ glycerin was the trick?

  13. RAB

    I have used the bar /bed soap idea since I first read about it. Love The Peoples Pharmacy and info and share it with many friends. I have read where some ‘shave’ the soap to refresh it. I just replace the bar with a new one and then bathe with the older one. No need to shave it, always fresh. I am going to try the glycerin approach, could be a factor. Keep the ‘natural’ remedies coming. At 72, I like the home remedies and health improvement ideas are working!

  14. spayneuteryourpets

    I don’t believe in hocus pocus but I was desperate. I had horrible leg cramps so I tried a bar of Irish Spring under the covers by my calves. To my disbelief, it works. No more cramps. When cramps start to threaten again, I replace soap with a new bar.

  15. Karen

    If legs cramp after exercise, perhaps more magnesium would help. Cramps are an electrolyte problem–why not go directly to the source and fix that?

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.