Q. I have used a bar of soap under the bed sheets for the last nine months or so to get rid of leg cramps. I change the bar every 3 months.

Recently I used a bar of Dove soap instead of the Dial I had been using. My husband and I both experienced leg cramps again.

Is there a reason why Dove soap doesn’t work although Dial does?

A. We don’t know why soap under the bottom sheet helps some people avoid leg cramps. One hypothesis suggests that the fragrance is key.

Popular folklore claims that Dial beats out Dove when it comes to preventing leg cramps. Perhaps that’s because Dove is not real soap, but rather a synthetic detergent bar.

Karl offered this testimonial: “For forty years my wife would wake up with foot cramps at night. I would end up massaging her foot until the cramps subsided. Out of pure desperation, she tried the soap theory.

“I would tease her, calling it her silly soap, but silly or not it works. She hasn’t had foot or leg cramps since she started sleeping with it. Sometimes however, I have to push that soap bar, lying under the bottom sheet, back over to her side of the bed. It definitely has a severe case of wanderlust. She has not had a cramp in many years now, therefore I’ve not been awakened in the middle of the night from cramping events. Both of us are pleasantly amazed.”

Some people find our flat Bed Soap bars are more comfortable under the bottom sheet.

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  1. Nancy

    Has anyone tried this for arthritis? I was just diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my knees. I’m thinking about giving it a try for this?

    • Katey

      The soap to use is Fels naptha. My mom just threw a bar at me and swears by it.

  2. Kris

    I just use Ivory soap. Cheap and effecive.

  3. John Brown

    I use the soap theory, but I massage my calves every night with the soap and so far it works better than placing it near my feet.

  4. Helga

    I’ve been having real bad leg cramps for quite some time and one of my friends told me to put a pinch of salt in my hand and lick it off and after just a couple of minutes the cramps where gone.

  5. Gillian C.

    I do have to add to my previous response that it makes me a little suspicious when people tell not just the type of soap they use, but the BRAND NAME, especially in ALL CAPS to make sure you see it – I put less trust in that than in a comment that specifies “glycerin soap” or “bath soap” because I picture some soap company rep. who’s been given the week’s assignment to google “soap bed leg cramps” and make sure that ACME soap!!! is prominently mentioned in ? the comments… ???

  6. Gillian Happycalves

    NO idea why this works, but it does. Is it a mammoth gargantuan placebo effect that works because SO many people believe? I suppose that might be an explanation, and I’ve never seen any other that was anything close to scientific. The reason it seems likely could be a placebo is because one person will swear that only Dove works, while another will say that Dove is the only one that *doesn’t*! Some say glycerin only, some say milled; some say they’ve had the same bar in the bed for several years, others say to change it every 3 mos. or it loses its power.

    It just seems absurd to me, so I stopped questioning because I don’t want to talk myself *out* of it, because she I put soap in the bed, no cramps. Never. Not one. And if I do get one, I check and sure enough, the soap is missing. It’s fallen under the bed, or someone helped me make the bed or stayed over and slept in the bed, thought it was a mistake and took it out. I put it back, no more cramps. I truly have not had one cramp with soap in the bed since a friend told me about the soap trick more than ten years ago.
    *shrug* ?

  7. joan myers

    Thank you for such a prompt response. I appreciate that you have covered numerous possible remedies not just one, including responses from listeners who have tried different remedies. I learned a great deal from the responses. I especially liked that possible causes were included. This has been extremely helpful. Thanks so much. I hope to be tuning in as soon as I find the local station you are on. I was so happy to hear someone pushing home remedies over prescription drugs. Thanks again.

  8. Kate

    I can prevent leg cramps by placing a large bed pillow under my knees as soon as I feel a cramp coming on. It absolutely works for me!

  9. Emmy

    Bev G – I think you are really onto something with the low carb concept. Good thinking.

  10. maryT

    I had throbbing, restlessness, and cramping in my legs from working 12 hour hospital shifts. My physician had given me flexeril and ultram to allow me to sleep and it was mostly successful. After working 5 shifts in a row, I was in agony and out of medication.
    I called my mom who told me about the “soap cure”. I laughed at her but out of pure desperation, tried it. I placed the bar of IVORY soap at my feet and actually felt the agony dissipate. That was 5 years ago and I wouldn’t dare go a night without my soap.
    I am off all medications. What’s more, I have given the “cure” to my patients and friends and it has never failed to work.

  11. Sarah W

    I talked my husband into trying soap before beginning a script for Requip; I thought he should give it a shot before accepting the potential side effects/interactions of the medicine. My husband had been bothered by aching legs, with uncomfortable twitching of muscles. With increasing frequency he would get painful charlie-horse cramps in the night or early morning, and his legs generally felt more restless at night.
    He was very reluctant to delay as he was needing relief, but allowed he’d try it for a night or two, more to get me to give up the idea than any expectation of success.
    I put an bar of Ivory soap on both sides of the bed and one in his side of the duvet cover.
    And the good news is he got relief – his legs felt better, and he was more rested. I had hoped he might benefit at least from placebo effect.
    What was unexpected was how much better I felt.
    I don’t think I’ve seen on bed-soap threads before, and don’t really understand how it could have helped.
    I am a former runner who developed a dropped metatarsal issue lately, which activity exacerbates. I’d been having difficulty just taking care of the amount of walking necessary to get through daily living.
    But post-soap, my foot has gotten remarkably better. I can even walk barefoot now and walk in ordinary shoes all day for miles. I was not expecting that at all.

  12. Bev G

    Regarding leg cramps– I saw your most recent column about this in the Hartford Courant on June 16th but can’t find where to respond to it there, so I’m commenting here in the hopes others will see it. I know everyone’s physiology is different and what may work for some may not work for all (bar soap never helped me) but in my experience with leg cramps during much of my adult life I have ruled out not enough water, trying quinine and other OTC remedies (nope), questioned doctors (no good answers), using salts with trace minerals (helps a bit, but not immediate) so I’ve ruled out a lot of things that have not worked.
    I eat mainly low carb during the week and if I indulge on the weekends in higher carb foods that’s when the cramps get bad (upper thigh cramps are so excruciating they feel like a heart attack in the leg and its really painful to try and walk it off- doesn’t work). Mine, I’m pretty certain are brought on by an imbalance in my ph; eating veggies and other very healthy foods I’m more alkaline, no cramps, eating junk food and most dairy products, meats, sugary things are acid forming, making the system’s ph acidic.
    If I continue to eat a more alkaline diet I’m leg cramp free. What does work well for me is taking magnesium as others have mentioned, but make sure to take magnesium glycinate to avoid loose stools. Magnesium has seemed to be the best remedy and eating more alkaline than acidic. I hope this helps some leg cramp sufferers. Not one doctor ever offered me any explanation (except saying maybe I don’t drink enough water, but I do!) and being a student of nutrition and natural remedies I figured it out myself! I’ve read most recently, that we are all low in magnesium and not only does it help to regulate our heart beat, it regulates all the muscles in the body as its a natural muscle relaxant and helps to balance our ph, go figure!

    • Joel

      Thank you for your reply BEV G. I have been searching for knowledge on why this could be happening to me after reaching a breaking point last night. 4 times waking me and the better half up with calf and shin cramps so bad that I thought maybe it would be easier to live without legs. Seriously. So, I have read close to 150 accounts of using over the counter remedies (which aren’t an option as the side effects are worse than occasional cramps – up to and including death!), salt, mustard (if I thought I could walk once they come on perhaps) Soap in the bed (I wake up if I role over onto a sock in the sheets from the dryer so a chunk of soap isn’t going to help me sleep) and one possible remedy, a sliver of soaping the sock….

      This could be a possibility, not used to wearing clothing in bed, but these cramps!!!
      Then I saw your message and it read like my life. I also live low carb 98% of the time. I have done this for a while since a Dr. recommended trying low carb eating to clear up an itch I had developed and and a topical spray stopped working. I won’t give up low carb as it not only dispatched the itch, but I lost almost 50 lbs in 10 weeks (it was much needed, but not expected) and I feel/look a million times better.

      I have kept a food diary to monitor what foods effected the itch and after reading your response went through it and noticed, every one of my cramp filled nights followed high carb or processed foods. Last night, my nephew was over and insisted I have pizza (was so good, and has been so long since I’ve eaten it I had 2 slices), gummy bears, chips and his mom insisted I try one of her bottles of wine cooler (tasted like strawberry sugar in liquid sugar). That’s more carbs than I eat in a month! 4 cramp attacks spanning from midnight to 6am!

      I could kiss you for opening my eyes to this. The correlation is obvious when looking at my food/symptoms log(which I was about to stop using since I have great health now, except the cramps, which I didn’t think would be dietarily caused!) Back to consistent low carb for me. (and possibly a sliver of soap in the socks on nights I try something a little cary).

  13. ks

    I was taking Mirapex for restless leg syndrome for several years and felt I was starting to need it more or it was working less, when I lost my doctor and had to reduce my medicines until I could get another.
    That’s when I discovered I was addicted to the Mirapex. It took me 6 months to wean myself off if it. In the meantime I tried home remedies including soap under the sheet. Ivory didn’t work, neither did my usual fancy glycerin or Avon.
    Somewhere I read about French-milled soap and it worked. Fancy French or English soaps (Crabtree & Evelyn type) seem to work best.
    I have been 4 years without Mirapex with no restless leg–unless the soap slips below the edge of the bed.

  14. Barbara

    I just started using soap under my sheets (about a month) read about it on PP and so far except for once it has worked. I would wake up during the night in pain so bad I cried like a baby, I would do the mustard thing (take a teaspoon of mustard) and it worked in a matter of a minutes, the pain was gone…After I read about the soap effect I thought hmmmm…mustard or soap… I am sold on the soap. I use the Dove Pink Bar. So far it has been great!

  15. Mike

    Someone left a message on here about experimenting with glycerine (Walmart, $3.88 a jar in the first aid dept.). So I gave it a try and it works like a charm for me. Though it is a bit messy, I don’t mind putting up with it for the benefits it provides. Within 5 minutes or less all cramping is gone for the night.
    The “root” of the problem is not enough water & salt throughout the day. A half teaspoon of salt and two and a half quarts of water each day will solve the problem for good. I had been on this regimen for some time and then stopped after a hospitalization. The leg cramps started again after a few months went by. Tried the soap, it worked, then the glycerine and it worked as well. Finally I remembered about the salt and water and started back up on the routine and within two days the cramps disappeared completely. As long as I keep up with the salt & water, I don’t have any cramps at night.

  16. fkb

    I began having severe leg and foot cramps again in spite of having a bar of soap under the sheets. Then I changed to a fresh bar and the cramps subsided. So I guess you do need to “refresh” the soap every few months. By the way I use Irish Spring only because it’s the brand we use in our house.

  17. BAS

    Try putting Ivory soap under the fitted sheet and see if that helps at night. I locate the Ivory between knee and foot area of the bed. It has helped for me.

  18. J.R.

    I have restless leg syndrome and have tried many medications and other hints. Is there anything new that might help me ?

  19. EL

    A couple of years ago I was on vacation and had done a good bit of walking up and down steep streets. When I went to bed that evening I started experiencing severe leg cramps. After trying to rub them out for about 1/2 hour I remembered that I had packed a bar of Ivory soap. I had never used it for this purpose, but I figured I had nothing to lose so I put the bar of Ivory soap at the bottom of the bed and within about 3 minutes the leg cramps were gone!!!
    I now keep a bar of Ivory soap at the foot of my bed and always take a bar with me when I travel.

  20. bas

    I have used Ivory bar soap for about 5 years, after reading an article about using it for leg cramps and restless legs. Do not recall the source of the article. It works great for me. I change it about twice a year.

  21. Emmy

    I am an RN “sworn” to believe in modern medicine! But I also have excruciating inner thigh cramps, at time. Since I am also a true believer in The People’s Pharmacy, I tried the soap trick – with any old soap that was in the cabinet – and now swear by it.
    Usually I have a bar of glycerine soap, but have used others. Lately, if I feel the tiniest twitch start up, I place the bar of soap directly on the area – it either stops the progression to a full-blown cramp, or lessons it so considerably that I fall asleep. I always have a bar on the nightstand. YAY!

  22. JMJ

    Dove soap works wonders for me! The other day, I had gone for a run, and was taking a shower afterward. While standing in the shower, my right hamstring began to seize up – a cramp was coming. I was anticipating a few excruciating minutes of pain. Ah! But there was the cake of Dove soap, right in front of me! I held it against the back of that thigh and within two seconds, the cramp had melted away.
    I also keep Dove slivers under the bottom sheet of my bed. Sometimes, at night, I’ll feel a cramp coming on in my lower leg, but it’s because I have wandered over to my husband’s side of the bed. Once I swing that leg over to the soap section, the cramp disappears before it has a chance to take hold and cause pain. I don’t know how this works, but it certainly does work. (I once was visiting my daughter, and developed a horrible leg cramp just after midnight. She’s a liquid soap and bodywash person, so there was no bar soap in her house. I was writhing and groaning so much that she went out to an all-night pharmacy and got me a bar of soap! Problem solved.
    Now, she always has a bar of soap available, just for my overnight visits. And I always travel with a small bar of soap, just in case.) Sounds insane, I know! But if you have leg cramps, and don’t try it, that is equally insane, in my opinion.

  23. Nancy Chamberlain

    I only use Dial when at home. If I forget to take the Dial with me, I have used hotel bars when away with good results. In Europe two years ago I bought an unknown brand in a grocery story and that also worked well. I always avoid “moisturizing bars” for the same reason I avoid using Dove. I carry a small hotel size bar in my pocket when traveling or playing bridge, as I tend to get leg cramps. It also works for those folks who suddenly get a hand cramp…I just hand them my bar and they are always surprised when their cramp stops.

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