Fix a Disposable Foam Pump

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Introduction: Fix a Disposable Foam Pump

I love those foaming soap pumps, but I saw several problems after I refilled them a couple of times.

  • The pump clogs
  • The top sticks in the down position
  • The foam spurts out in a loose, wet consistency that is half stream and half froth

I can buy disposable foaming soap (think "Dial" or "Softsoap") for about $3, or I can buy empty refillable bottles (think "Oxo" or "mDesign") for about $10.

I've seen lots of guides that simply tell you to run water through it and re-use, tada! Errrr, no. Anyone who's trying to fix one of these has already done this. I've taken apart many of these, and I finally got it down from one end to the other.

Step 1: Anatomy of a Foam Pump Top

Here are the guts of a pump top, clockwise from left.

  1. Soap straw
  2. Pump spring
  3. Plunger
  4. Pump nozzle
  5. Screw-on bottle closure
  6. Foam mixing chamber
  7. Gasket for screw-on bottle closure
  8. Bead stopper for soap liquid

Step 2: How the Guts Come Apart (and Fit Together)

Be careful when you pull the pump top apart. It's all held together with friction, so pull firmly with steady pressure.

Work over a clean empty sink, over a sieve and close the drain. The little round bead is essential and will definitely drop into the sink and be lost to the drain forever. Game over.

Here's how the bead sits, inside the mixing chamber, and against the end of the spring, as shown in both the exploded view and the in-use view. You won't be able to reach the column where the bead goes. You may have to line it up and drop it in a few times, but you'll get it. If it's dry you can try a piece of tape, lower it into position, and scrub the bead off so it will drop into position.

Step 3: The Pesky Bead

I have lost the bead (read previous step "lost to the drain. Game over").

I have also gotten very lucky to find a round-headed pin in my sewing materials whose top fit perfectly when snipped off the pin. If the pump sticks in the down position, clean all the pieces well. It's not likely that the spring has worn out, it's that something is causing friction or adhesion. Get it all pulled apart and clean all surfaces until clean as new.

Step 4: Clogs and Lack of Foam

Here's where you will see most clogs and poor foam consistency.

It took me awhile to realize there is a cylinder that hides inside the pump top, and holds the answer to how the foam is made. See it deep inside the pump top? You may have to coax it out gently with a pin (grab the edge and pry it out), tweezers, or forceps. Once you get it out, note that there are 2 mesh surfaces, one on each end of the cylinder.

Step 5:

I've seen 2 problems here at the cylinder. One or both mesh ends can get clogged with soap globs or contaminants. Just wash it clean gently with warm water and a toothbrush.

The other problem is when one or both mesh ends are torn. The plastic mesh is fused on with heat, but we don't need heat to do the repair. Find some sheer fabric curtains at the thrift store. It's polyester and comes in all sorts of colors, usually costing less than $5 per pair. Here I'm using pink.

Step 6: Replacing the Mesh

Cut a postage-stamp sized piece of the curtain sheer. I like to run a lighter flame across the edges so it doesn't fray, but it's not really necessary. If you do this make sure you are very careful and take precautions such a working over a sink away from anything flammable.

When it's ready, stick the mesh on the end(s) needed and push the cylinder back into position. It goes in large end first. It's hard to make the mesh stay wrapped around the cylinder end on the smaller outer end. Fortunately, this is not necessary. You can just slap it over the opening and it will push into place when you put all the pieces back together.

Step 7: Reassemble

If you forgot how the pieces go, here's your cheatsheet.

  1. Soap straw
  2. Pump spring
  3. Plunger
  4. Pump nozzle
  5. Screw-on bottle closure
  6. Foam mixing chamber
  7. Gasket for screw-on bottle closure
  8. Bead stopper for soap liquid

Insert the straw (1) into the bottom of the mixing champber (6). Put the gasket (7) on top of the bottle opening and insert the foam mixing chamber (6) into the bottle so that it sits on the gasket (7). Drop the bead (8) into the center the mixing chamber (6). Insert the pump spring (2) behind the bead (8). Add the plunger (3) cup side down to the top of the spring (2). On top of all this, add the bottle closure (5). And finally, on top of all this, add the nozzle (4).

Step 8: Enjoy!

Fill the bottle with your favorite thin soapy mix, pump the top until the foam comes out. Enjoy!

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    37 Comments

    0
    BrentA28
    BrentA28

    10 months ago

    absolutely brilliant! had mine apart to clean and back together, but sad it wasn't doing any foam output anymore... had no idea i'd lost the invisible magic bead till reading this and amazingly found it still in the sink just large enough to be caught by the narrow opening of the drain hole cover! thank you for figuring this all out for humanity!!!

    0
    SpitfireGirl
    SpitfireGirl

    Reply 10 months ago

    Wonderful!

    0
    wile.e.coyote40
    wile.e.coyote40

    1 year ago

    My foam mixing chamber slowly fills up with liquid soap after about a week and I can’t figure out why. At first I thought maybe the mesh-covered cylinder was the problem - it had collected lint. But, I have replaced the l mesh-covered cylinder (from another dispenser of the same brand), and the chamber still fills up with soapy water. I have thoroughly cleaned and dried it, but it still fills up with water. I use about 1 part EO liquid soap to about 4 or 5 parts water. Can you tell me how to fix it or prevent the foam mixing chamber from filling with water? Any thoughts or suggestions are welcome.

    0
    SpitfireGirl
    SpitfireGirl

    Reply 1 year ago

    Hi Wile E, I have seen this vexing problem on occassion, and I have not being able to solve it. If anyone has figured it out, please post, thanks!

    0
    wile.e.coyote40
    wile.e.coyote40

    Reply 1 year ago

    I tried an experiment this weekend, and drilled a 1/16" hole in the bottom of the foam mixing chamber, to let the excess soapy water drain out. Bad idea. To anyone reading this, do NOT drill any holes in your foam mixing chamber. My pump now discharges soapy water, not foam. Apparently, the foam mixing chamber must be intact, without any holes, in order to force air into the plunger to make the soap foamy.

    0
    SpitfireGirl
    SpitfireGirl

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks, this is good info.

    0
    silverniteowl
    silverniteowl

    Tip 1 year ago

    I could NOT get the pump separated from the outer screw on collar. Not with pushing sideways against the counter, jamming a cork into the upside down top (dispenser head removed) and pressing hard downward on the collar edge, gripping with pliers etc.. it just WOULDN"T BUDGE!!! And then... then, I grabbed a slender plastic handled spatula, stuffed the handle down along side the inner chamber, pressed it sideways, and, with hardly any effort at all, BOOM IT POPPED RIGHT OUT! Just with that little bit of prying!! WHOO- HOOO!!! After more than an hour of frustrating fails, it's apart!!

    Except now... I can't get the mesh cylinder out of the top of the pump head. It's locked in under a slightly raised ring around the inside. No manner of gripping and pulling at it has worked- not even a sharply toothed metal tweezer arm that I jammed deeply into the side of it and yanked... and with the 90 degree turn in the opening just above it, I don't know what to try and use to get around that corner to push it out...

    I may have to resign myself that this first bottle may be a goner... but I have another 2 in different styles that were on their way to the dump that I can perhaps now mend!

    Thank you for the inspiration to attempt to do this along with the clear explanations and helpful tips!

    0
    wile.e.coyote40
    wile.e.coyote40

    Reply 1 year ago

    The bottles from Whole Foods are like that. The mesh cylinder is kind of snap-locked into the pump nozzle. I removed 2 of them using locking ring forceps, but destroyed the mesh cylinders in the process. I think you have to use enough force to remove the cylinder from the nozzle, but not so much that you deform the cylinder. So far, I’m 0-for-2.

    0
    Jbcst
    Jbcst

    1 year ago

    This is a Klar & Danver ($1 store) pump, that works fine, until I refill it and then the spring sticks down, like after 3 uses. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be constructed the same as yours. I successfully refill my Dial disposable all the time, and it does appear to have the same pieces as yours.
    Just wondering, could you try finding one like I pictured, and see if you can disassemble it? No amount of pulling or unscrewing is getting this further apart than I have done.

    20200817_055146.jpg
    0
    wile.e.coyote40
    wile.e.coyote40

    Reply 1 year ago

    I don’t have a Klar & Danver foaming soap dispenser. But I’ve taken apart 5 different dispensers and those have been basically the same. Yours looks a lot like the ones I have taken apart. For each of mine, the “foam mixing chamber” snaps into the outer collar or “screw-on bottle closure”. I have been able to pry the outer collar off of the foam mixing chamber by holding the foam mixing chamber tightly in one hand, then placing the fingertips of my other hand under the outer edge of the collar and pulling up on the collar. Some collars require a lot of force. If that doesn’t work, see silverniteowl’s comment - insert something like a small spatula handle, spoon handle or popsicle stick between the foam mixing chamber and outer collar, then gently pry the foam mixing chamber away from the collar.

    0
    CopperMagpie
    CopperMagpie

    1 year ago

    Mine does not seem to have any mesh.it is a Beauty 360 (CVS brand) bottle.

    0
    SpitfireGirl
    SpitfireGirl

    Answer 1 year ago

    Looks like you drop the bead into the funnel piece, making sure it goes into the center. Attach the hose to the bottom of the funnel. Insert the top into the funnel so the center piston is against the bead. That should do it. Good luck.

    0
    ShortedOut
    ShortedOut

    1 year ago

    By the way, there have been several comments about not being able to get the pump apart. Mine also---the mixing chamber assembly---did not seem to want to come out of the gasket. I was eventually able to get it apart by pushing hard sideways against the lower part of the mixing chamber above the soap straw. Let it sit out for a while so that's it's dry, and you can hold onto the outside of the gasket and pump spring.

    I did this on the countertop. For me, there was no danger of losing the little bead until you pull the pump spring and plunger mechanism out of the inside. After you do that, when you tip the now-empty pump spring upside down, the bead will fall out. (Hold the cup of the empty pump spring against a paper towel before inverting it.)

    A word of warning: I decided to put the bead in an 8-oz cocktail (lowball) glass for safekeeping. When I dropped it in from about rim height, it bounced almost as high as the rim, then bounced around the inside of the glass like a pinball. Whatever it's made of, it's super bouncy. If you drop it off a counter, it will probably bounce into the next county, and will be impossible to find!

    0
    ShortedOut
    ShortedOut

    1 year ago

    A couple more tips: To remove excess water from inside mixing chamber (which can lead to frothy soap), unscrew and remove pump top (without disassembling), shake off excess soap, then rinse off soap straw and invert the whole mechanism over the sink. While depressing pump top with fingers, blow through the soap straw to expel excess water.

    Another tip I learned after much experimentation. Sometimes the soap would be watery, and other times too thick to pump. It had to do with the soap to water ratio: too much water results in watery, bubbly froth; too much soap results in a mixture that is too thick, and won't pump. When I filled the bottles, I started marking a level line with a Sharpie denoting the top of the added soap. (The water line was always marked at the bottom of the "piston" of the mixing chamber; you don't want the soap to overflow when you screw on the top.) After I achieved the perfect foam consistency, I marked all bottles the same.

    I decided to measure how many tablespoons of soap and water were represented by my fill lines to see what the "ideal" ratio was. It turned out to be 7T soap and 9T water, or 43.75% soap and 56.25% water.** Add the soap to the level line first; slowly add water to second level line. Do not shake; stir thoroughly with a spoon handle.

    **My bottles are 250 mL (8.5 oz). To calculate amount of soap needed for a larger container, count the total number of tablespoons of water to fill container to bottom of mixing chamber; multiply by 0.4375 to give T of soap needed.

    Soap_Container.jpg
    0
    hochness
    hochness

    1 year ago

    Hello, thank you for your instructions! What do you think would cause the soap to be getting into the chamber where air is supposed to be? Could it be the bead is bad?

    0
    SpitfireGirl
    SpitfireGirl

    Reply 1 year ago

    I don't know but that would be a good guess if you've taken it all apart and cleaned thoroughly. Or perhaps it is simply displaced, not seating properly. Sorry I could not be of more help. Perhaps someone else reading this knows.

    0
    Ankur999
    Ankur999

    2 years ago

    Great, my filter of electric foamer stopped working, I ended up torning the mesh inside it while cleaning the clog and after that foam system stopped working lol. I found your article and replaced the mesh filter with sheer cloth and started spitting out foam like a charm. Respect!!

    0
    SpitfireGirl
    SpitfireGirl

    Reply 2 years ago

    Wonderful!

    0
    handymelon
    handymelon

    2 years ago

    After trying several times to clean/fix one of these and been frustrated in my effort, I have followed your instructions and it has WORKED!
    Thank you so much, they are brilliant.