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How to Make Foaming Hand Soap

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How to Make Foaming Hand Soap

Save money – and cut down on plastic waste – by making your own foaming hand soap refill. I’ve been using this recipe to refill my foaming hand soap dispensers for over a decade.

Pretty much since foaming hand soap became a thing.

Because I love foaming soap, but there’s absolutely no way I’m paying someone to mix soap and water together, when I can do that myself in like 2.5 seconds.

And foaming hand soap really is nothing more than liquid soap that’s been diluted in a bunch of water.

So, I just purchase a bag of liquid soap refill and dilute it myself. This way the savings go to me, rather than some big corporation.

Bag of Liquid Hand Soap Refill

One bag of the soap refill I buy is supposed to fill a liquid soap dispenser 2.8 times. Diluted, it makes enough to refill my foaming soap dispensers 17 times! That means five less bags of soap refill that I have to buy, and send to the landfill.

More Reasons to Make and Use Foaming Hand Soap

If you haven’t already made the switch from liquid to foaming hand soaps, here are some more reasons to consider making the switch:

  • Saves water – According to a study conducted by Strategic Research Partners and GOJO Industries Inc., people use 9.7% less water when washing their hands with foaming hand soap
  • Less mess – Foaming hand soap is less likely to drip on the counter, and easier to clean up if it does.
  • Easier/faster to use – It comes out of the bottle pre-lathered, so you don’t have to spend time working up a lather; and since it’s less concentrated than liquid soap, it’s easier to wash off. Both of these features make it easier for kids to use.
  • Gentler on sensitive skin – Since less soap is used each time you wash your hands, your skin is exposed to fewer irritants.
  • Cuts down on manufacturing – Less soap has to be manufactured to create foaming hand soap vs. liquid soap, which means fewer carbon emissions and fewer resources getting used up.
  • Less soap getting into waterways – By using soap in a diluted form, less soap makes its way into the ocean, and biodegradable soaps are able to degrade even faster.

And a final reason to make your own foaming hand soap? It’s ridiculously easy. Try it once, and you’ll never go back to paying someone else to do it for you. Here’s my recipe.

Homemade Foaming Hand Soap

DIY Foaming Hand Soap Recipe

What You’ll Need:

  • Liquid hand soap
  • Water
  • A foaming hand soap dispenser

Gel hand soaps work best in this recipe. Those opaque, creamy hand soaps don’t mix in very well. I would also stay away from any soaps with micro beads or exfoliants, like pumice. They’re likely to jam up the soap pump.

I’ve always just used tap water to make my foaming hand soap. If you have hard water, you might want to use distilled water instead. The extra minerals in your water could clog up your dispenser.

Any foaming hand soap dispenser will do. Reuse an empty store-bought dispenser, or buy a new one. Just don’t try to use this foaming soap in a liquid soap dispenser. It’ll shoot soapy water everywhere. Foaming soap dispensers have a special pump that forces air into the soap as it’s being dispensed. That’s the magic behind foaming soap.

What You Do:

Fill Soap Dispenser One-Quarter of the Way With Liquid Soap

Fill your foaming hand soap dispenser one-quarter of the way with liquid soap.

Fill Soap Dispenser With Water Stopping One Inch From the Top

Fill the rest of the dispenser with hot water from the tap. Stop one inch from the top.

Shake to Combine Liquid Soap and Water

Screw the cap back on your soap dispenser, and shake vigorously to combine the soap and water. Then, stick your soap back by the sink, and go about your day.

You’ll probably need to pump the bottle a few times to get the foaming action started the first time you use it, but after that you should be good to go, until the next refill.

Foaming Hand Soap Dispensers With Labels Removed

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’ve been making my own foaming hand soap refills for over a decade. Until recently, I just refilled empty store-bought dispensers. Here are two such dispensers that I “dressed up” by removing their labels. Very fancy of me.

These dispensers aren’t exactly designed to be used forever, so the pumps eventually break. When that happens, I’ve always just bought another cheap bottle of foaming hand soap. This approach has me buying a bottle once every few years, which I can live with.

Closeup of Foaming Soap Dispenser

That being said, I recently decided to upgrade to a “nicer looking” foaming soap dispenser. This one cost me $5.40 on sale from Target. The selling feature for me – besides the nicer lid – is that it has the foaming soap “recipe” printed on the side. This effectively takes the recipe out of my head and shares it with everyone in my house, so maybe – just maybe – one day I will walk into the bathroom and be surprised to find that a teenager has refilled the soap dispenser. Hey, a mom can dream.

How Much Does It Save to Make Your Own Foaming Hand Soap?

To refill my 13.5 oz. soap dispenser, I use 2 oz. of liquid soap, and fill it the rest of the way with water. At the time of publication, the cheapest non-sale price I was able to find for my preferred liquid soap brand was $5.37 for a 34-oz. bag. This breaks down to $.16 per fl. oz. Crunch the numbers, and that means it costs me $.32, plus the cost of water, each time I refill my dispenser.

And notice I said that’s based off of non-sale prices. I hardly ever buy liquid soap without coupons, a clearance deal or rewards points to sweeten the deal. More often than not, I’m probably making my refill for the price of the tap water.

Frequently Asked Questions About Foaming Hand Soap

How Does Foaming Hand Soap Clean?

Foaming hand soap contains surfactants. These compounds lower the surface tension of water, giving it the ability to lift and bond with the dirt and oil on your hands, so they rinse away easily. Surfactants are so good at what they do, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found no evidence to support the claim that anti-bacterial soap is more effective at removing germs than plain soap. Based on this finding, triclosan, triclocarban and 17 other common anti-bacterial ingredients have been banned from use in soap since 2016.

Can I Use Castile Soap to Make Foaming Hand Soap?

Lots of websites share recipes for foaming hand soap that call for using castile soap, but I don’t recommend it. Castile soap doesn’t contain any surfactants, so the soap and water won’t emulsify (bond together). This means the soap and water will separate frequently – it’s nothing more than a blend of oil and water, after all.

And sure, you could shake the container to mix the ingredients back together every time they separate, like some bloggers tell you to do, but that’s a hassle, and it’s not something you’re likely to get everyone in your household on board with. So, it’s just a matter of time before a big glob of undiluted soap comes through the pump and clogs it, and in the meantime you’re probably going to be washing your hands with less soap than you should.

If you’re a die-hard castile soap fan, and you’re determined to use it in your foaming hand soap, I recommend using two-thirds less soap that this recipe calls for, since castile soap is three times more concentrated than other soaps.

Can I Add Essential Oils or Moisturizing Oils to My Foaming Hand Soap?

If you want to start with unscented liquid soap, and create your own custom blend of foaming hand soap, using essential oils and/or moisturizing oils, you can certainly do that. I just wouldn’t do it with castile soap. For the oils to create an emulsion with the water – and not simply sit on the surface – you need a soap with a surfactant, and castile soap is missing this key ingredient.

Most essential oils need to be diluted to be safe to use on the skin, so I recommend using an essential oil calculator (just do a quick web search) to figure out how many drops you should use in your soap. After you mix up the first batch, look closely at your soap, to make sure the oils have mixed in properly. If they haven’t, I wouldn’t use it.

Keep in mind that adding extra oils to your soap does increase the chance of clogging the pump. You’ll probably just have to do some experiments to figure out what works.

Can I Use Dish Soap to Make My Foaming Hand Soap?

Yes, dish soap will work great in this recipe. And just to be clear, I’m referring to the liquid dish soap that you use to wash dishes in the sink – not the dishwasher detergent that you put in your dishwasher.

Dish soap has added degreasers, like citric oils, so it’ll make an excellent foaming soap for the kitchen. And since it’s diluted, it’ll be a lot easier on your hands, than washing with straight dish soap.

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How to Make Foaming Hand Soap

How to Make Foaming Hand Soap

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Use liquid hand soap and water to make your own foaming hand soap in less than a minute.

  • Total Time: 1 minute
  • Yield: Varies


  • Liquid hand soap
  • Water (tap, or distilled, if you have hard water)


  1. Fill a foaming hand soap dispenser a quarter of the way with liquid soap.
  2. Fill the rest of the dispenser with hot water from the tap. Stop one inch from the top.
  3. Screw the cap back on; and give it a good shake to mix the soap and water.


  • Gel soaps work best. Avoid creamy hand soaps, and any soaps with micro-beads or exfoliants, like pumice. These are likely to jam up the pump.
  • Castile soap is not recommended for this recipe. If you decide to use it, cut the amount of soap by two-thirds to account for its concentrated formula.
  • Add essential oils or moisturizing oils to unscented liquid soap to create your own custom blends. Use an essential oil calculator to get the amounts right. Make sure the oils have mixed into the soap, and are not simply sitting on the surface. Note: Adding oils may clog the pump.
  • Use dish soap to make a foaming soap for your kitchen.

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How to Make Honey Soap

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