Introduction: How to Refill a Foaming Hand-soap Container

Picture of How to Refill a Foaming Hand-soap Container

This is a method to expand the lifespan of your foaming liquid hand soap (and container).

The foaming hand soap containers in question have a little disclaimer on them stating not to refill them with regular hand soap or they will clog. This is indeed true, however I've noticed a lot of people either throwing away the empty plastic container (what a waste!) or refilling it with regular hand soap, after which they just don't work.

The process is incredibly simple - the foaming pump works because it injects a bunch of air into a small amount of soap as it pumps. Most hand soap is too viscous to accept this air, and it just causes problems. Solution? Make a solution! Water down the soap!

Step 1: Choose a Soap

Picture of Choose a Soap

I went with whatever we had around - apple body wash. It's hard to make out in the picture, because of the colour - but I've filled the pump container with about 1/5th soap, then fill to about an inch from the top with water (to prevent overflow when the pump is inserted)

Tip: Add the water slowly, so as to not agitate the soap too much - if it mixes while you're adding water, you will have a hard time getting it to fill without overflowing with suds everywhere.

Step 2: Agitate

Picture of Agitate

This is up to you - freedom for the masses:

Agitate slowly, or violently, however you prefer. Just mix until all the soap is 'dissolved'.

Step 3: You're Finished!

Picture of You're Finished!


Now you're on to using less soap, and wasting less plastic!

Behind the scenes: Soap itself doesn't really clean your hands. Soap merely makes most dirt more happy to mix with water than it is to stick to your hands. Hence why this product is so great. You can start with the foam (already 4:1 mixed with water) and do most of the hand cleaning with that, then simply use a LITTLE tap water to rinse off. Water savings too!

Downside - its more work. Alternately, you could prepare some watered-down hand-soap in a spare 4L jug, and keep that handy to refill your pumps.



Carlos AlbertoG (author)2014-11-29

So are u saying basically that we r being ripped off by the foam soap cos. since it is diluted, watered down soap, which btw, they charge more 4?!

The cost of shipping things depends on two variables: Volume and weight. The "foaming soap refill" stuff is just soap (detergent, really) diluted with water. Remove the extra water and you have both less volume and less weight. So when you buy that refill, you're mostly paying for someone else to ship a larger container that weighs more simply because it has extra water. You're not really being ripped off, but what you're paying extra for is not necessary.

err yep, or rather you pay for the convenience

DawsonEvie (author)2016-07-01

Soap plays very important role in our life. Soap prevent fro m germs.

4 parts warm water into the bottle (warmth aids mixing)

1 part soap into the bottle (soap 2nd prevents foaming)

HelenT18 (author)2016-04-07

1 to 4 ratio of soap (Softsoap) to water was perfect. The trick is to shake it so the soap mixes with the water and becomes uniform. Saving money on every squirt :)

spark master (author)2016-04-04

used the soap from old dispenser water it down to 3 parts water 1 part soap. FABULOUS, cheap cheap cheap

to you and all those who did their version of this instructable, it works great!

jennyjorm (author)2016-01-21

I read somewhere else to use baby wash and then add the water. Love DIY <3

applejuice (author)2008-05-15

I have found that watering down Dr Bronners liquid castile soap works great diluted in an old foam soap dispenser. No SLS, makes the soap go further, and my kids find it much easier to rinse off than conventional hand soap. :)

spark master (author)applejuice2015-10-15

what is SLS?

Sodium laureth sulfate

Sodium laureth sulfate

ed409 (author)applejuice2012-05-16

Yes, I too use Dr Bronners peppermint soap in my foamer. The result is soooooo nice!

MelanieD25 (author)2015-11-10

Thank you for this! I just made it today. My method:

4 parts warm water into the bottle (warmth aids mixing)

1 part soap into the bottle (soap 2nd prevents foaming)

Lid on, then shake vigorously to mix

Works great!

spark master (author)2015-10-15

I know this is an old post but here is my suggestion,

a triple batch , make it in a separate container, make it before you
need it, and shake it up 4 times a day for a few days or until it is
thoroughly mixed. I do this to thin out regular hand soap as it is too
thick and kids just waste it.

I wish I had seen this when it was first done. Off to find a bottle now!

DWRead (author)2015-09-06

Method has the best pump mechanisms. They also sell foaming dishwashing liquid, with a trigger-type pump. The dilute solution cleans better and rinses off easier than regular dishwashing liquid.

gianLuca_leMort (author)2015-08-10

I have had the same foaming hand soap bottle for 3 years - one of the Method brands from Target. I just bought the gallon refill of hand soap and have been using that one refill bottle for just as long - 3 years - because I only have to use so little of the soap to refill the bottle. I mix 1 part soap to 2 parts water. You can even play with the amounts to achieve thicker or thinner foam.

gianLuca_leMort (author)2015-08-10

kdemenz (author)2015-08-05

I should've looked for an instructable before trying my hand at this. Mine came out too thick as I used 1:2 soap to water when I should've used 1:4.

anne.falstaff (author)2015-03-18

Ok. I just bought some refill soap for the Dial foaming hand pump. I refilled it, and now it will not work like it did before. The solution sputters and comes out in squirts; not the smooth foam like before. Is there any way to fix this?

StacyJ4 (author)anne.falstaff2015-06-28

Yea, mine was doing that too so i took out more of the soap and added more water. You have to water it down quite a bit but it works when you mix it with enough water. I had that problem with the refill soap.I had originally thought that the soap would already be in a form that doesn't require water (the instructions on the back didn't say it either) but it started foaming and working just fine when water was added to it. =)

susieapache (author)2014-08-07

i love this it really saves on soap. and for that one comment were all gonna die someday enjoy life.

baiclaer (author)susieapache2014-08-22

I know, I thought - Oh, wait, WHAT? I'm going to die eventually? Thanks for the heads up, MsJan. I was under the impression I would live forever. This sort of changes my plans.

At least I'll have nice smelling foamy soap until my presumably untimely death.

aymans (author)2012-10-08

Nice Instructable! I found using distilled water works best for not clogging up the pump as tap water creates deposits over time.

MsJan (author)2012-08-03

BEWARE...Fragrances can cause cancer and other illnesses. There is not much on the grocery shelf that is not toxic to humans. These big companies are only interested in taking our money and not keeping us healthy. Do your research before using toxic products. I now make my own hand soap using glycerin. They look better than what you see at store and cost less also and I feel so clean I almost squeek. I give these away for gifts and now my kids expect me to send them to them all the time. Body Wash is also toxic. The scents are not natural but made with chemicals. Try going Organic when possible. When you make choices to wear these toxic products you not only make the choice for yourself but for all those around you. I already have became very ill due to people wearing perfume so I know now how it effects us.

frollard (author)MsJan2012-08-03

Please provide evidence of these open ended statements, or an alternative recipe that works in a foaming soap container. Preferably both.

MsJan (author)frollard2012-08-04

I have stopped using the foam but if I really thought that is what I needed than I would stop in at whole foods or a health store to find out what they had. Whole Foods can answer so many questions. They have a trained girl at mine that can help with so so many questions.

frollard (author)MsJan2012-08-03

*not saying I don't believe you, I'm allergic to most fragrances, but I am skeptical of any unsubstantiated claims, especially when so brash.

MsJan (author)frollard2012-08-04

If I have not became so so ill from these I would not be trying to warn others. Stay Healthy.....

escapefromyonkers (author)2012-05-13

off topic but asked in forums couple times can anyone direct to to an ible on making a scent solution to use to refill those glass glade scent plug ins? i should measure the EL usage today with a killiwatt, i think it should be small.

if I recall they are about 0.5-1 watts...being electric they have to write it on the outside of the box.

As for refilling the chemical, its nasty stuff, not a clue what is actually in there.

frollard (author)2008-07-04

I think anti-bacterial soap will cause us all to die...from the super-flu. (see: antibiotic resistance) Also, as said below, if your soap is growing nasties in it, you're doing it wrong. A lot of people are suggesting 3:1 and 4:1 ratios. For least clogging, I've found about 10:1 to be great.

tyler durden (author)frollard2008-07-04

Flu is caused by viruses, not bacteria. Antibacterial soaps use detergents that dissolve the cell walls of the bacteria. Unless the bacteria evolve a completely different cell wall, the antibacterial stuff will continue to work. Antibiotics work by interfereing with protein synthesis or other mechanisms that ultimately prevent bacteria from reproducing faster than your immune system can clear them. They can evolve mechanisms that either prevent the antibiotic from working (in the case of penicillin resistance) or eliminatingor modifying the target molecules. Antimicrobial soaps DO lead to skin problems if used frequently.

frollard (author)tyler durden2008-07-06

It's adverts like lysol - 99.99% killed - that means .01% survive. That .01% eventually regrow (rather quickly) and are more likely to spawn resistant strains -not that all of them will, but some will. I must agree with you though, the ingredients are definitely bad for US, as well as our water treatment facilities/the environment.

most people do not follow the directions for disinfectants. Lysol will kill certain bacteria in 15 seconds if the area is already clean and removed of any bacteria laden material,ie body fluids.However there are bacteria that i have dealt with that lysol will kill,but the surface has to stay wet for 10 minutes with the disinfectant before the bacteria are killed. I just read that Listeria will live on frozen food in your freezer for months.Some bacteria will live for weeks on household surfaces like light switches and such. Those are the ones that i believe need the 10 minute wet solution,i think chlorine 10 to 1 is the disinfectant mix, and pretty sure that household bleach is strong enough. i noticed in home depot that there were 2 different strength clhorox, one was 1% stronger and labeled something like disinfecting or such.
The alcohol gels do not kill a lot of bacteria, that is why there are so many hospital acquired infections ,c-diff being a big one, that could be avoided by simple hand washing. ( proper). Alcohol gels also state on the packaging that the product should be rubbed until it is gone, the drying of hands with a paper towel defeats the purpose, but a clean a paper towel will remove bacteria by friction, so it is definitively better than nothing.i want to find out how to clean store bought leafy veg like spinich ,kale for juicing. i know there is a % of H2O2 that will do it,hopefully as a quick dip.
the glove in food courts mandate is similar to the helmet and bicycle internet wars. There used to be a great food safety list that i cant find, it had all these tidbits by the pathogen,food safety people

Lots of good information;

my favourite is the food employees who wear the gloves between handling cash (with the gloves on) and going back too food prep with the same gloves.

or the improper handwashing of "my hands are wet now - that is good enough"

Is it a coincidence that a guy named Tyler Durden is on a forum discussing soap? Just wondering...

gk1651 (author)2012-05-12

I've often wondered how this could be done. I love the foamy soap and not wasting the bottles. Yay!

bmohr (author)2012-05-11

Very nice. I've tried this in the past, but never seemed to get the ratio right. Now with the extra knowledge, it's time to try again. A tip on the agitation. Sometimes I would put a marble or ball bearing in the bottom of the container to help with the mixing. I guess a small shell or two might even work better.


frollard (author)bmohr2012-05-11

Great tips -- the trick is it can't be too viscous; so less is more!

PurpleHel (author)2012-03-19

If you put the water in first and then add the soap, it foams up a lot less in my experience. You have to be more careful with leaving the right amount of room for the soap tho.

frollard (author)PurpleHel2012-03-19

It's not too bad so long as you don't add water from a tap that aerates the input -- nice slow pour and it works great :)

dchall8 (author)2007-06-10

I like it. You didn't really get into the economics of this, but the foaming soap refill costs about the same per ounce as the same scent of the non-foaming soap. So when you mix your own, you get about 4x as many handwashings for the money and the same soap scent. I've also used Dawn dishwashing liquid with pretty good results. I mix the soap in a separate container so the foam can settle out. I put about 3 ounces of the hottest water I can into the container first. Then I put the soap in and agitate that until it seems to be mixed but not foamy. Then I slowly fill the container with hot water trying not to generate foam. My process with the hot water might be extra trouble. There is one problem you might watch out for. My first foaming soap dispenser seems to collect soap inside the translucent top. That might be part of the problem with why the plunger isn't working right. I've disassembled and reassembled several times to drain it. If you decide to disassemble your plunger for any reason, THERE IS A TINY STEEL BALL inside. If you lose that critical part, you can recycle or find other uses for the useless plunger parts. Also when reassembling, push on the large plastic cup until it snaps into place. Another possible problem is this. After refilling with a different soap (I used Dawn dishwashing soap in a hand soap plunger), the plunger doesn't seem to move as easily. I switched to refilling with the official brand of foamy soap refill and it works better. I've also tried Wal-Mart's Equate brand of foamy soap refill with good results. I'm trying different things with different plungers and have not really duplicated the problem I had with the first one.

frollard (author)dchall82007-06-11

One thing you can do if the plunger gets a bit sticky, use a little more water, and add some glycerine (available from the pharmacy), only a half teaspoon or so should do the trick. "When you refill that way is the foam really soft like a brand new foam pump, or is it just like thos bubbles you get when you clean dishes :-\ ?" No, it comes out like shaving cream.

loveangel94 (author)frollard2012-01-28

I just stumbled across your site. I had a foam soap dispenser and wanted to use some liquid hand soap that my son bought me for Christmas in it. I have seen the dispensers in the catalogs that will let you do that but wanted to see if my foam dispenser from the store would work. It did but not very well. I read your tips here and tried them and now I have a foam dispenser that works with liquid hand soap. Thanks for the wonderful tips. My son is always buying me liquid hand soaps as a gift and love the foam soap. It sure beats paying the price of the foam soap refill. Also I can use other soaps as well. I love the scents you can get with the liquid hand soaps in the different stores especially at Christmas time. :)

frollard (author)loveangel942012-02-03

Glad you liked it! Enjoy your newly awesome(r) toy!

ucanBanerd (author)2010-12-04

Thanks for spreading this around, I think buying the refill for these is a waste of money!!! I also use foaming soap dispensers to dilute the face wash i use tha't too strong for my sensitive skin. Also then you can make your hand soap whatever scent you want!!

apinkpony (author)ucanBanerd2011-11-20

Great idea suggesting reusing them for foaming face wash... (have you seen the new bottles than cost $10+ that are made to put your own water/soap combo in? Kidding me? This is so much cheaper!)

inquisitive (author)2008-07-03

I like to add a shot of rubbing alcohol and mix it all up.

Punkguyta (author)inquisitive2008-07-12

Rubbing alcohol FTW! 99% or 70%??

inquisitive (author)Punkguyta2008-07-13

Either, but if diluting the solution I tend to prefer the 90% is what I purchase; however, the friction and soap removing offending dirt will do the trick anyway. Hand sanitizers are predominantly isopropryl alcohol based with a couple things to make it seem more pleasant. I keep a small mister bottle of isopropryl alcohol at my cubicle for quick cleanups, first aid, and wrinkle remover.

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