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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    28 Discussions

    0
    CopperMagpie
    CopperMagpie

    17 days ago

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

    0
    SpitfireGirl
    SpitfireGirl

    Answer 3 months 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

    4 months 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

    4 months 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
    1
    Jbcst
    Jbcst

    4 months 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
    hochness
    hochness

    6 months 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 6 months 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.

    1
    Ankur999
    Ankur999

    8 months 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 8 months ago

    Wonderful!

    0
    handymelon
    handymelon

    8 months 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.

    0
    SpitfireGirl
    SpitfireGirl

    Reply 8 months ago

    I'm glad you finally fixed it. You are so welcome!

    0
    mudkraut
    mudkraut

    10 months ago

    Hello, thank you for the clear instructions - I am hoping to clean around the spring, as it gets sticking the 'down' position. I cannot seem to even get into step 1, mine might not come apart via simply friction? I've tried pulling on it several times from different points but it's still stuck all assembled. It's a tiny pump for a travel size essential oil based foaming hand sanitizer.

    IMG_20200304_051843862.jpg
    0
    SpitfireGirl
    SpitfireGirl

    Reply 10 months ago

    Hi there. I took a look at the only one of these I have, and it didn't pull off easily. I found that the clear plastic does twist a little bit apart from the white plastic, confirming they are not adhered together. I held the white part tightly and gently pressed on the corner of the clear barrel part, like I was trying to pry it off. Popped right off. To reinstall it, I simply screwed the top on the bottle and it popped into place. Good luck!

    0
    mudkraut
    mudkraut

    Reply 10 months ago

    I soaked it in very hot water and it loosened it enough to come apart. I really tried every angel before that, but the hot water worked. I pumped hot water through it for awhile and it seems to have worked it out. Thanks for responding!

    0
    NGRao
    NGRao

    1 year ago on Step 8

    This really worked well and I fixed the one in my bathroom. Now I can easily fix any number. Thanks

    0
    SpitfireGirl
    SpitfireGirl

    Reply 1 year ago

    You're welcome!

    0
    Gigglepot
    Gigglepot

    1 year ago

    My issue is the pump gets SUPER hard to push down and then it just starts pumping air INTO the bottle. I can see it coming out of the straw at the bottom of the bottle. Please help, I've thrown out so many of these pumps.

    0
    SpitfireGirl
    SpitfireGirl

    Reply 1 year ago

    It sounds like your mesh is clogged with soap goobers. Try taking the little cylinder out and cleaning off the 2 mesh ends. Good luck!

    0
    Plumloved
    Plumloved

    1 year ago

    Thank you! I had to poke a hole in the filter to remove it.. then used some poly fabric I had to fix it (after completely removing the old screen, and cleaning the other side) I cut a tiny piece and placed it flat on the table, I melted the end of the plastic just a bit and quickly put it face down on the scrap, trim with tiny scissors and good as new!

    I also used a pin head to replace the bead!

    Thank you!