Picture of How to Refill a foaming hand-soap container
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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
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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.

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.

kdemenz29 days ago
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.falstaff5 months ago

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?

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. =)

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?!

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

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.

aymans2 years ago
Nice Instructable! I found using distilled water works best for not clogging up the pump as tap water creates deposits over time.
MsJan3 years ago
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)  MsJan3 years ago
Please provide evidence of these open ended statements, or an alternative recipe that works in a foaming soap container. Preferably both.
MsJan frollard3 years ago
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)  MsJan3 years ago
*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 frollard3 years ago
If I have not became so so ill from these I would not be trying to warn others. Stay Healthy.....
applejuice7 years ago
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. :)
Yes, I too use Dr Bronners peppermint soap in my foamer. The result is soooooo nice!
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.
frollard (author)  escapefromyonkers3 years ago
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) 7 years ago
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.
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 durden7 years ago
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
frollard (author)  escapefromyonkers3 years ago
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...
gk16513 years ago
I've often wondered how this could be done. I love the foamy soap and not wasting the bottles. Yay!
bmohr3 years ago
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)  bmohr3 years ago
Great tips -- the trick is it can't be too viscous; so less is more!
PurpleHel3 years ago
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)  PurpleHel3 years ago
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 :)
dchall88 years ago
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)  dchall88 years ago
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.
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)  loveangel943 years ago
Glad you liked it! Enjoy your newly awesome(r) toy!
ucanBanerd4 years ago
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!!
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!)
inquisitive7 years ago
I like to add a shot of rubbing alcohol and mix it all up.
Rubbing alcohol FTW! 99% or 70%??
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.
Doesn't bleach kill everything? I wonder what would happen if you added a little bleach to the soap. Well, besides messing up your hands as the skin cells die.
acer73 mbear7 years ago
It doesn't exactly kill the skin cells unless you soak your hands in there. But it does really dry them out. So you wash your hand to get exsess junk off then you rub some oily lotion back on them.
mbear acer737 years ago
A Ha! So if you mix a shot of bleach into this stuff, it'll kill all the nasties (scientific term) and leave your hands alone. Good to know.
ekerkow mbear4 years ago
Just washing your hands with plain soap will get them as clean as washing with harsh chemicals. This is a fact that has been demonstrated by peer-reviewed scientific studies. Most of the cleaning action when you wash your hands is the mechanical action- rubbing your hands together and the water carrying dirt etc away- rather than any chemical action. Soap is nice to add for the degreasing effect. Unless you or someone you are in close contact with has a serious immunity problem, regular soap is all you should need.
JasonQ ekerkow3 years ago
Just chiming in here to totally agree with you. Much of soap's cleaning action is in fact mechanical, though soap itself does denature the outer membranes of germ cells, thereby destroying them. Hot water is a good idea too.
gbisaga3 years ago
You, sir, are a genius! This works great. I used about 4:1 (Method foaming soap dispenser) and it now works again. Thanks for posting.
frollard (author)  gbisaga3 years ago
Thanks for commenting, its the little things that make life better :)
jwggmn3 years ago
Rubbing alcohol is ok as far as I know...I use it as a non-toxic general bathroom cleaner (but don't drink it, lol)...in the kitchen I generally use vinegar (which you can - moderately)...
jwggmn3 years ago
Anti-bacterial's in soaps (or most anything else) are not only ineffective but are terrible for the environment; they get in the water and can kill most anything that grows! Please keep this in mind...
strout4 years ago
Thanks for the tip. I figured diluting it would probably work, but I didn't want to ruin my dispenser experimenting! I will probably use my sample size hotel soaps (that I always collect but rarely use) and add some vinegar to ensure bacteria fighting power. For those trying to go all natural, Castille soap (which I had an hard time finding when I was shopping for materials to make my own cleaning products but eventually located at a natural foods market) would be the eco-friendly route.
kzoosoapguy4 years ago
You for sure don't want to add any rubbing alcohol. What you guys are missing is that you are still not even using real soap. When you buy most store bought "soaps" you are just getting chemicals that act like soap but will really dry out your skin due to the lack of glycerin. What you need is some refills made with real handmade soap which contains the type of moisturizers you need. I never understand why people don't learn about things they put in or on their body. We are putting up a new line of "refill only" foaming soaps at http://www.handmadesoapbar.com This way you can save money on not paying for the bottle, which in most cases is the most expensive part of buying more soap
FoamSoap4 years ago
We supply foam soap pumps with empty bottles.  Users of theis site can take 10% off with your first order.

Enter coupon code: " instructables " at checkout.


Thank you. Kevin
janwinje4 years ago
Thanks for the foaming soap idea, I should've known that! To ease your minds about bacteria, I bet a tablespoon of white vinegar added to the mix will solve that problem.
wetnap5 years ago
Yea i've been doing this for a while, it wastes far less soap as most of the regular dispensers dispense a ridiculous amount of soap that coats your hands in a thick layer of goo, meant mostly to hasten purchase of more soap, its not economical, or environmental, and i find that it takes longer to wash off the goo and leaves more residue on your hands. i love these new foaming dispensers, brilliant idea.
The instructions are perfect!! The measurements don't have to be exact. An approximate 4:1 ratio works fine. I recently purchased clear foaming dispenser bottles from eBay after my fancy liquid soap dispenser broke. Bed, Bath, and Beyond doesn't even carry a foaming dispenser bottle. And I didn't want anything to mount on the wall. So, following the directions, I now have a foaming soap dispenser. Since the liquid soap I have in the house was the large commercial size, it may be over a year before I have to purchase more liquid soap!!! To those who commented that refilling a foam dispensing bottle is more work then it's worth, I have one word -- LAZY! I followed the instructions & was done in less than a minute.
frollard (author)  momof2inflbaking5 years ago
Thanks for the comments! It's true -- dead simple!
Great instructable, but "more work"? Really? It would be harder for me to find somewhere to store a 4L container.

Pour, fill, shake, done. Twenty seconds, max. I'd probably take more time walking down the aisle to get a new dispenser. ;)
frollard (author)  FooGlacticon5 years ago
Comparing the options of putting a little soap in a container and some water then shaking, to just buying a new one...yeah its 'more' - marginally. :D

Antibacterial-soap is BS. All antibacterial agents take time to kill the bugs, a lot more time than the soap will be on your hands. I don't care if the soap kills bugs in the drain, do you?
The problem is that the antibacterial crap will go to the waste treatmebt plant, and kill the bacteria that is eating your poop, lol no, there is no bacteria eating your poop, it gets seperated, then burned/buried BUT there is bacteria that breaks down Amonia in your urine, and killing it isn't that good
Actually your wrong on one fact there, there is a bacteria that breaks down your poop, it breaks down the solids then the dead microorganisms are sent to a landfil (I think)

Source:My dad works in water/waste water
What better place for resistant bacteria to evolve than in a sewer? Not too cold, lots of different kinds of antibiotics, and plenty to eat.
Bacteria doesn't have enough time to evolve, it would take countless generations of bacteria it CAN happen but the chances of it happening are low
Given bacteria's short lifespan and fairly high attrition from all the antibiotics, I don't think it would be very unlikely for at least a mild resistance to develop. In places where sewage is baked and turned into fertilizer, it wouldn't matter much, but it's not uncommon for sewage to just be pumped out to sea.
that's pretty rare in the US but in places like India, ya
Kaiven7 years ago
sweet. could you make anything else foam with this?
sleeepy2 Kaiven5 years ago
I'd like to try a ketchup foam....
MichaelW6 years ago
It works! Thanks.
frollard (author)  MichaelW6 years ago
You're welcome, glad you gained from it!
soundjamz7 years ago
The sad part of it all is that the manufacturers have found yet another way to rip off the consumer. They put one fourth the amount of soap in three fourths H20, change the dispenser slightly and then charge 4 times as much for the finished product. You do the math, it really sucks.
frollard (author)  soundjamz7 years ago
I really think the product they sell (the runny foam soap) is a stronger soap solution, BUT, it is runnier, with less thickening agents...
I am a biotechnologist and work with bacteria daily. A dilution like you are talking about (1:4 with water) is not going to turn your soap dispenser into a dangerous petri dish. I think this is a great idea. As for the preservatives that are added to soaps, most are added to preserve the color, vicosity, or scent. They have no effect on the germ killing properties of the soap.
Thornburg7 years ago
Awesome! Now I don't have to keep throwing away these great things.
I have been doing this myself for quite a while and have tried several liquid soaps with varying success. When i started using body wash I hit the jackpot. I use a 3 to 1 ratio of water to body wash and get fantastic results with an occasional clog. I think I might try 4 to 1 like amed01 does.
Kelani8 years ago
I've been doing this for quite awhile, and it kinda works, but obviously, never as good as the original foaming soap. The reason for that is, the foaming soap has a slightly different formula than regular soap. Specifically, it has more foaming ingredients (like sodium lauryl sulfate / sodium laureth sulfate) and less actual "soap". If you want to do this in bulk with the same results as the real thing, don't mind the extra step, or spending a few more bucks, you can buy a gallon of the SLS from any chemical supplier that sells to individuals and add a squirt to each refill.
bcr8ve Kelani7 years ago
Kelani, many people who have problems with commercial soaps are sensitive to SLS. Adding more of this product to a foaming soap could cause skin problems such as itching, dry skin or cracking. :-(
Kelani bcr8ve7 years ago
bcr8ve: You're right, and tweaking the mix in a public/commercial dispenser to save cash would definitely not be a good idea. Thanks for pointing that out. Let me clarify my comment, though.. By "bulk", I meant personal use, i.e. knowing I don't have any heightened sensitivity to SLS, I could do it at home, if I had the time and energy to worry about that sort of thing. :)
Cool, I used to buy thos big 2gal of foam soap refill, but now i am goint to be buying a large-offbrand watermelon regular soap pump to delute it into foam stuff! 1 Question tho. 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 :-\ ?
I've been using a 1:4 ratio of handsoap to water in a bottle that looks just like the one in the picture above (I fill it just under 1 inch with soap, then add water). The suds it produces are really thick and let me add this: if this foaming soap trick can clean the daily grease & grime that an 8-year-old collects during the course of the day, it can clean almost anything! :)
amed018 years ago
This is a great way to save a few dollars...i've been refilling my foaming handsoap like this for some time now, as well as the dish soap too. I wonder if this would work with shampoo? I'll have to wait until one of my handsoap bottles runs out to try it.
Oh! yeah this DOES work with shampoo, but if you do that buy an actual foam shampoo pump (bigger), and do the same you can get them at the dollar store