DIY Foaming Hand Soap

I’m going to go into this assuming you know foaming soap is a rip off.  You know that, right?  You pay the same, or more for foaming soap and for that you get – less soap.  Here’s how to make your own diy foaming hand soap.

Skip right to the tutorial.

This soap tutorial has been the number one thing people have been coming to my site for since the world changed. I’m not sure why, but I thought since it’s so popular that now would be a good time for us all to revisit it. I’ll be upping my soap game here in the next week or so but for now, here’s how to make DIY foaming hand soap.  

It’s the little things in life that get me all riled up and in a good mood.  Remembering I have leftover pizza in the fridge. Watching squirrels scurrying around trying to find hiding places for their nuts in the fall.. Finding out Home Depot now carries the 2″ galvanized pipe elbows with a double sided, screw in end. You know. The little things.

Foaming soap is one of those little things. I love it. It’s easy. It comes out puffy and lathery without any work on your part at all.

That’s right. I’ll spend 12 hours stacking 2 full, bush cords of wood, but I’m too lazy to lather.

What of it?

The one thing I don’t like about foaming soap dispensers is refill soap for them is harder to find than regular soap and is usually more expensive. Even though you’re getting less soap.  Because 500 ml of regular soap = 500 ml of regular soap.  500 ml of foaming soap is actually only a tiny bit of soap and a bunch of water.

So I figured out how to turn regular liquid hand soap into the sort of soap that will work in a foaming dispenser.

Regular liquid hand soap won’t work in a foaming dispenser because it’s too thick.

So genius me decided I could probably just add water to it to thin it down.

Genius me was right.

Getting the proportions right isn’t even difficult. It’s pretty forgiving. It’s foaming soap, not an atomic bomb.

Can You make Your Own Foaming Hand Soap?

You CAN indeed make your own foaming hand soap. But for the soap to foam you need a special foaming soap dispenser. If you’ve ever bought a foaming soap that’s in a dispenser this technique will work in it.

What Makes Foaming Soap Foam?

The reason the soap foams has nothing to do with the actual soap. It’s the way the soap is dispensed.  Foaming dispensers add air to the soap as you push down on the foaming pump. If you take a look at your foaming soap dispenser you’ll see the soap is held in the main chamber, and then attached to the pump there’s a smaller chamber. It’s that chamber that forces air into the soap as you pump it out.

Is it Better Than Regular Soap?

Aside from the fun of having your soap being pre-foamed for you, foaming soap is actually better in many ways than regular liquid soap.  Here’s how:

  • People use less soap when dispensing it from a foaming dispenser. This makes it more economical and means that foaming soap lasts longer.
  • People use 15% less water to lather with foaming soap so that’s less water use which is environmentally friendly. If you only use water to rinse your hands and don’t add water for the initial hand washing, using foaming soap will save 45% of the water used during traditional hand washing.
  • Using foaming hand soap reduces the amount of soap you use for each hand washing which in turn means you get more hand washes out of each package. This means you’re reducing the amount of packaging used.

How to Make Foaming Soap

  1. Mix 1 part liquid soap with 4 parts water in a foaming soap dispenser.
  2. Slowly mix by gently turning soap dispenser until incorporated.


You can actually use 4 or 5 or 6 parts of water.  The more water you put in the more cost savings you’ll have but the less foamy the soap will be.

You can use any foaming soap dispenser you have. Obviously you can use refill any store bought soap dispenser you have like I’ve done here.  

But if you plan on doing this a lot I’d recommend getting a nice, heavy glass foaming soap dispenser.  You can get 2 glass dispensers for $20 on Amazon.  They’re solid and heavy, so when you’re down to the last bit of soap your dispenser won’t flip over or tip like the lightweight plastic dispensers sometimes (always) do.

To mix the water into the soap you just have to do it slowly and gently. Just tip the container back and forth slowly until the water is incorporated with the soap.


I wasn’t even going to do this tutorial because it’s so logical and so easy but I thought the same thing when I did a post on How to Peel a Peach. I figured everyone knew how to do that to and as it turned out … they didn’t.


If the screw top of your foaming dispenser fits other jars with a screw on lid that are more attractive, then you could attach it to that the same way I did in this billion year old post Pouring spouts and Bottles.

If your foaming dispenser screw top is an odd size then you can just slip the whole thing into a nicer container so it’s hidden. If you can be bothered.  My dispenser actually fits into a black ceramic vase perfectly.  It would have been great if I’d taken a photo of it.  But I didn’t.  Cause I’m not quite as geniusy as we thought just a few paragraphs ago.


DIY Foaming Hand Soap

DIY Foaming Hand Soap

Yield: 1 container of foaming hand soap

Foaming hand soap is just watered down regular soap. Here's how to make it.


  • Liquid hand soap
  • Water


  • Foaming soap dispenser


  1. Add 1 part of liquid soap into soap dispenser.
  2. Pour 4 parts warm water into soap dispenser.
  3. Make sure there's at least 20% air at the top of the dispenser. (in other words don't fill the container completely)
  4. Gently agitate dispenser to emulsify the soap and water.
And that’s it to DIY foaming hand soap. That is all it takes to make me happy. Soap that self lathers and having a brain large enough to figure out how to make it myself.

Which in terms of brain size puts me right up there with your average nut hiding squirrel.


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DIY Foaming Hand Soap


  1. Douglas says:

    Thanks for giving the proportion. I got a good mix by using dish soap and vinegar

    I knew that the foaming soap was thin but never imagined it was that much thinner than the liquid.
    The vinegar makes the soap easier to rinse off.

    • Cathy says:

      That is fascinating Douglas. Just an aside. I was getting maskme. Break outs from masks? Washed them in white vinegar and no more break outs. I’ll bet your way is more hygienic.

  2. Cara R. says:

    I frequently add water to both regular and pump soaps to make them thinner, but it didn’t occur to me that water was the only thing I’d need to turn regular soap INTO pump soap. So simple! Thank you!

  3. Gillian says:

    I’ve been doing this for nearly 10 years and telling people for almost as long. Do you know how many I’ve converted? One. Even when I do it for them the first time. People DO insist on spending more money don’t they?? I hope you’ve reached and converted more.

    A few additional tips….try not to use dish soap. It will work but it tends to gum up the works” also, it needs to be diluted more.

    I have had to replace it twice but, there are five adults using it so, its been massive savings.

    • Karen says:

      I wonder why people wouldn’t do this?? Stupid people. I think I’ve converted a few here. :) ~ karen!

    • Oh my gosh same here! I never buy the foaming soap, just do d a scent I like in body was and dish soap and refill for 6 months!

    • Keith says:

      I have been trying to get many to do this as well. Unfortunately I have found that people are not only stuck in their silly ways at times but even when they can see it works splendidly 😀 they seem to be too lazy to take the time. Amazing but true. Don’t give up trying even though it falls on deaf or just plain sometimes stupid ears.

  4. Ruth Hirsch says:

    Hullo, Karen,

    We love your writing and braining. A hoot. I love your site, and turned my dear neighbor on to it. Tickled her fancy too.

    D’you know you can also make DIY Poo Pourri. Which if you do not have in your house, is absolutely one of the niftiest items. Check it out. Then, make your own…………..

    keep us posted when you do,
    The Other Ruth

    • Karen says:

      I’ve bought Poo Pourri Ruth and did a product review on it (it fared very well by the way) but I didn’t end up trying to make it. I’m sure it’s just essential oils, a carrier oil or something … much like room spray. Maybe I’ll look into making some again. I still have my empty Poo Pourri bottle I could fill! ~ karen

    • Barb A says:

      I saw a handy one that was really expensive.. it was a foam you spray on toilet paper to save on wet wipes.
      Good when camping etc (brand is bi.det I think. )
      If foam wash was made from the nilaqua (old folks/nursing) soap watered down or herbal mix it might be good..
      Our water companies really cross about wet wipes down toilets.

    • Janice Pearce says:

      You can use regular air freshener spray on the water surface in your toilet bowl before you go, has the same effect. Try it!

  5. Mary Jane says:

    Very interesting! i just discovered you today and although I do like the foaming soap tip, even better I love your sense of humor. Fun writing! Thanks

  6. Denise says:

    It mixes faster if you use hot water

    • Karen says:

      True! I should have pointed that out. Thanks Denise. ~ karen!

      • Sharon says:

        Just wondering. Why not put the hot water in first and then the soap? Specific reason? I appreciate the ratio, didn’t know that, but it seems that the soap going into the water might help facilitate mixing. LOL we always have questions don’t we! Thanks and I’m going to bookmark this site.

    • Den Drew says:

      Requesting signup for your email postings.

  7. Lori Ann says:

    I’ve actually done this before. Not because I’m genius like you, but because I am so dang cheap!! The refills were so expensive. It is nice to see your post to corroborate my idea.

  8. peg says:

    i do this for my dish soap . i love the foaming soap for hands too.

  9. Barbie says:

    I guess I have a squirrel brain as well….been doing this for a while now. I like the “no work, lazy type” soap as well! lol

  10. Langela says:

    I’ve been doing this for years. It helps the soap incorporate more quickly if the water is warm or hot. Like you, I’ve always assumed others would say, “Duh!” if I did a tutorial on this, already knowing it. Oh well! I started doing it because the refills were impossible to find, too. Do they really make more selling new dispensers than selling refills?

  11. Okay Karen, live the foamy soapy thing. However, can you do the tutorial on how to add the pin it button, etc. like Bobbie asked as well? I have been trying to figure that out as well. Explain both ways you mentioned, but for people that have had a previous lobotomy. We want to know and I know you can’t go without telling the rest of us how! Love ya and thank you, thank you.

  12. Rondina says:

    I’m out the door for some galvanized pipe elbows with double-sided, screws. Then I’ll make the soap.

  13. Maggie says:

    Sounds like a great way to save some cash while making your bathroom look fabulous!

  14. Julie says:

    i will attempt a bathroom reno but i’m afraid of making my own foaming soap. thanks for this!

  15. Jenny says:

    My husband and I do this! So easy and cost effective. :)

    Now please excuse me while I go shovel the snow we got overnight. D:

  16. Alex says:

    I had no idea you could peel a peach….huh.

  17. Jamie H. says:

    I liked this post – but was actually more interested in learning how YOU would peel a peach…I assumed with a potato peeler (seeing as I like eating fuzzy peaches). Dunking it in hot water!!! Seems nutso, but obviously is the way to go! Thanks for the new info – in both posts :D

    • Shelly Young says:

      I love to make peach pie, and the hot water dunk is exactly how I peel the peaches! Been doing it that way for decades. I just make a little shallow score at the stem end, criss cross style, then dunk the peaches. The scored part causes the peel to lift just a bit, and makes the peaches even easier to peel.

      • Marguerite W. says:

        Hi Karen, Just got in from a squirrel mastermind class & found this site. 😉 I’m loving it.
        The foaming soap recipe is so timely & sensible. I, too, don’t understand why some people don’t take the whopping 5 minutes (or less) to make this for themselves. Oh well, Se la vie. Happy I found you. Thank you for the chuckles & info. New subscriber, here. Best wishes from a fellow genius/not genius. 🌼

  18. Stephanie Hobson says:

    For me, it’s knowing that I have soup in the freezer. One of the most comforting things in the world. lol

    And the foaming soap tutorial is the bomb.

  19. Lynne says:

    Give your empty Bath & Body Works foaming soap dispenser a rinse, fill it with water until all the foam spills out, tip some water out and add a few gulps of liquid soap (the large containers of soap made for refilling). Put the top back on your dispenser and give it a shake to mix. Simple, and I use the moisturizing cream soap.

  20. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Thanks..I like the foaming soap and I will do anything to save money..well..mostly anything..

  21. Leslie says:

    Yay, yay, yay, yay, yay!!!

    I have spent many hours feeling sorry for myself because I can’t find refill bottles of foaming hand soap. With my sensitive skin, I vastly prefer the easy-rinsing properties of the foaming hand soap (read as “I’m too lazy to rise”). Plus that, the little plastic bottles of foaming hand soap are kinda spendy and I hate not being able to reuse them so I just don’t buy new ones (I’ve got a fleet of empty foaming dispensers under my sink).

    It TOTALLY figures that the hand soap industry has figured out how to charge us MORE for the watered-down regular soap.

    Thank you for this “obvious” post. It is going to be helpful at my house.

  22. Lisa says:

    I can’t wait to try this, seems like it may not be a good idea to put the oil in the refill bag as it may start to get rancid before emptying. Has anyone tried it with creamy liquid soap? Also, Karen, I mis-type the word know the same way you did…..every single time I type it…weird.

  23. LazySusan says:

    For those concerned that watering down the soap dilutes the anti-bacterial qualities of the soap, you could wash your hands with plain water and get not much different results as using undiluted anti-bacterial soap, in terms of remaining bacteria on the hands. It’s also been shown that there’s not much difference between washing your hands with regular soap and anti-bacterial soap, in terms of remaining bacteria on the hands. The differences are minute. It’s still better to use soap, just not incredibly better. I’ve been watering down hand soap and shampoo since I was a young woman, following the logic that if I use water to get it to lather, then it needs water to work better for me. The result has been that I use less soap at a lower cost. I don’t seem to have a problem with it getting all over the place when pumping it. It just goes into my hand, which is over the sink. Foaming soap dispensers are something about which I was completely unaware. Completely. Never heard of it before. We live in the country. That’s my excuse. I’ll keep an eye out for a dispenser and try it, since I’m already watering down the soap, anyway. Looks like it would feel nice!

  24. Sue says:

    Well, since you mentioned that you were reluctant to do a post on something that seemed obvious but was actually helpful to a surprising audience, how about a post on how to navigate “Pinterest” – or, is it one of those things that if you’re not intuitive enough to figure it out, you should delete the App from your IPad?
    You can tell me. I can take it!
    Foamy soap. Who knew?

    • Bobbie says:

      Yes, Karen… how does one pin a website when it doesn’t have a pin button? The world wants to know… ;-)
      Nice report on the foamy soap. Dishwashing soap?… well, that’ll work for me. Save some bucks too.

  25. Alice says:

    Umm, Karen, I hate to be picky — but you do know “all riled up” usually means angry, don’t you? That really confused me at the top of your post…

    • Nickelnog says:

      Alice, I was going to post about being mis-led by Karen’s being ‘riled up’ too. I’d put on my sunglasses in anticipation of her potential nuclear ire. But…Pizza in the fridge? Yay! Squirrels and nuts? Aww!
      Wood fire in the middle of the day? I do it all the time! Home Depot now carries the 2″ galvanized pipe elbows with a double sided, screw in end? BEST. NEWS. EVER! How can she be angry about this wonderful stuff? Then I got it .. silly me. -Eileen

    • susan says:

      rile (rīl)
      tr.v. riled, ril·ing, riles
      1. To anger or irritate. See Synonyms at annoy.
      2. To stir up (liquid); roil. See Usage Note at roil.

      Perfect with the second meaning. Never doubt Karen lol! But please tell me, why would anybody WANT foaming soap? It’s found in a lot of washrooms and I never feel that I got all the bathroom germs off my hands with it. I don’t want my soap to foam, I want it to clean!

  26. You can also make a great o e using 1 c distilled water and 1 oz of castile soap plus essential oils for a custom smell more organic soap.

  27. Debbie says:

    I was intrigued with the post and now that I’ve read the comments, I’m excited. I may make my soap smell like wintergreen, one of my favorite scents. Or maybe lemon, or lime, or geranium! I love essential oils! My favorite household cleaner is vinegar with wintergreen or lemon oil. I know lavender is supposed to be calming, but it just isn’t my favorite scent.

    I haven’t read the How to Peel a Peach post, but I do have the book and really enjoy it! It is a fun book.

    Does anyone decorate used pump soap containers? If so, please share.

  28. kari says:

    I am of the population that actually knew how to do this, but it’s the only thing of yours I have know how to do. I am just thrilled that I read the whole post and was reminded of how to cover up the ugly plastic container by slipping it into something more lovely. Thank you for that! You ARE the genius….always!

  29. jainegayer says:

    How did I miss the “How to peel a peach” post?

  30. Ruth says:

    I do the same thing, but – because adding water changes the formula of the soap – I add a bit of peppermint or tea tree essential oil to keep my mind at ease about ‘bacterium breeding potential’. Love it! :-)

    P.S. Between a brief bout of chikungunya and celebrating the fact that the end of the drought has come into view…. I have been rather quiet, but I’m still around.

    • Karen says:

      Welcome back Ruth. I need to knkow what chikungunya is. ~ karen!

      • Ruth says:

        ‘Affectionately’ referred to as ‘Chik-V’ on the island, it is a mosquito-borne virus (so say the ‘experts’) that causes symptoms that appear to mimic chronic arthritis, along with fever, nausea and muscle pain. It’s crowning glory is the itchiness (rash, in some cases) that arrives as it bids you goodbye. (That adieu is relative, since most folk are left with arthritic reminders of chik-v past)

        It showed up in these parts in the latter part of 2013 and has swept the eastern end of the island like you would never believe. Islanders in the west are now doing battle too.

        Fun times…

  31. Melissa in North Carolina says:

    I’m getting so smart reading this blog. I can peel a peach, make foaming soap, know how make my own pizza oven and want chickens all because of you, Karen. Thank you. Have a great day!

  32. Debison says:

    Do not try to fill your foam dispenser with the liquid soaps that have little moisturizing beads in them. I did that once. Just once. It clogs up your pump. And then it’s broken forever. Just use a clear refill. Even dish soap will work.

  33. cathy says:

    i have found that adding the soap to the water keeps it from foaming all over; that said, gentle agitation is key.

    • martina says:

      Yes! Was about to say the same thing. I figured out super quickly that it’s much less annoying to add soap to water instead of water to soap. It prevents crazy foaming unless you’re patient enough to pour the water slowly, which I am not.

  34. Jody says:

    This is THE best news. I love foaming soap. I cannot find foaming hand soap that is fragrance free which I need because of allergies. Stupid fragrance allergy!!!! I’m so going to try this.

    • Jody says:

      I just made foaming soap! Yay for me. I would have replied sooner but I was peeling bark off a maple stump to make into a side table. The top of the stump even has the marks left behind over the years when the tree had been tapped for sap.

  35. Heather says:

    I have actually kept the special pump from one of those expensive foaming soaps with the intention of making a dispenser out of a mason jar. It’s on the list. Thanks for the ratio – once I get around to it I’m all set!

  36. Kipley says:

    I dilute the soap in the big refill bottle, having saved one. Then you just need to fill your soap dispensers. I like foaming soap because it doesn’t drip all over the sink from dispenser to faucet.

  37. judy says:

    I actually had thought of this but put too much soap to water and naturally it didn’t work . I thought of really diluting it more but would it still get my hands clean? Being nicely ADD some other idea begun not completed distracted me. I must say every time I pick up a bar of soap I wonder if I’m getting germs off my hands or adding to my hand germ population. Wash my hands for a…………….long time when that thought occurs. Loved this post-pinned it for the attention of America.

  38. Diane says:

    I do this and I also add a few drops of essential oil to help kill germs and give the soap a nice smell. Whatever helps kill germs and extend the budget works for me.

  39. Su says:

    oh nice…. really… now I gotta go look up the how to peel a peach post….

  40. Wendy says:

    You know? I had this lovely pump lavender foaming soap and have been meaning to look up how to do my own foaming soap and am happy I know how now. Some unscented soap and lavender oil should do the trick right? Thanks Karen. Appreciated. :)

    • Mary Werner says:

      OK This is really brilliant! Clear soap and my favorite scent. I just didn’t want to buy the fragrance oil due to the cost and then only use it once or twice. This justifies the cost and makes me VERY happy. Thanks!

    • Lori B. says:

      I have been exactly doing that for years. I use Dr. Bronner unscented soap and add lavender essential oil or even TeaTree to the soap first so it mixes in the soap, then add the water. Fancy safe soap without the price.

  41. gabrielle says:

    I believe using warm water is just as important as rubbing your hands, which you can do either with a bar of soap or ready-made suds. Now that the cool whether is here in So. Ontario, this gives me time to hold my bar soap in my hands, wait for the gush of warm water, and dream of the fresh peaches we had this year… ah, peaches! The skin is the only thing that keeps the juice from running down your face. Well, that and slurping. Ummmm.

  42. Kat says:

    For once I got to know something before you did Karen. And I really mean for ONCE. Now here is an important note to those who didn’t. Have you ever been to a place that didn’t do it right. EWWW too much water dilutes it and crap no foam and the damn stuff squirts soapy water all over you and the sink and you have to clean it all up before you leave the bathroom so your hosts don’t think your a slob and just left their lovely sink a mess!! So follow Karen’s directions proper or reap the results like I did and stood there in a bathroom wondering how much of their toilet paper from mopping up soapy water I can flush without clogging it and making matters worse.

  43. danni says:

    I like to get the liquid soap refills at a super-fancy unnamed snooty mall French soap place (see? I didn’t name it) and use it like this. Maybe one part soup to five parts water and refill a nice “foaming” soap container. It is waaaaaaay cheaper to get the pouch of refill and it lasts forever. Thanks for doing this one Karen!

  44. Tigersmom says:

    Yikes! I read this post. Then I realized I had no recollection of reading the How to Peel a Peach post which led me to Karen’s Abs and I almost forgot to come back with my come back to this post.

    I want to really like foaming soap but I’m a bit leery of it because I have been told that the friction of rubbing your hands together which creates the foam is what actually gets off the germs. I imagine that you can probably rub the pre-foamed stuff enough to do that, but I don’t like the feeling of doing that much rubbing with the foamed stuff.

    This is starting to sound like I’m over-sharing, but I swear I’m only talking about soap.

    • Kex says:

      Tigersmom –

      Soap works through a chemical process of isolating and sweeping away oils, including any yucky stuff that is attached to them. As you know, you can’t really clean up oil with water, but once the soap isolates the oils, the little soap-oil units can be rinsed off easily.

      So the important things are to make sure the soap is distributed broadly as possible, and then rinsed off completely. It’s not a process of friction at all, except insofar as rubbing your hands together gets the soap into all the little crevices and wrinkles. And then, since the gunk is captured in microglobules of soap, you need to rinse thoroughly.

      The main reason I prefer foaming soap is that it’s easy to rinse. With a lot of brands of hand soap, it seems like some of it gets glazed on and I have to scrub just to get the soap off! (Plus, the scents are too strong and I hate it when my own hands make me sneeze.) I’ve never considered the technical aspect of foaming soap before, but now I suspect it’s at least as good and possibly better than pump hand soap.

      See here for a helpful drawing and much longer explanation.

  45. Anita says:

    I do this! Foaming soap is so nice. I was at a restaurant last week and they had a foaming soap dispenser in the ladies room. Problem was they didn’t dilute the soap when they refilled it so it was really difficult to get the soap out of the bottle. I considered thinning it out for them, but A) there was a line to get in the bathroom (and I didn’t want to walk through a mess in the hallway because I took too long blending in the water!), and B) If I fixed it for them they would never learn how to do it right for themselves.

  46. turbocharger says:

    Be sure to use the clear as opposed to cream-based soaps. This doesn’t work with creamy soaps. Also, don’t shake too vigorously… Trust me on this.

    • Karen says:

      I’ve never used the cream based soap to do this so it could very well be true. Shaking it vigorously? That’s definitely true, lol. ~karen!

  47. Seriously?! It’s that easy?! Woot woot! I can’t sleep tonight. So….guess what I’m going to do? Make foaming soap dispensers. I’ll be as clean as a whistle by the morning.

    You rock out loud!

    Lynne :)

    • Karen says:

      O.K. That’s great! Good. But, you can’t really make the foaming dispenser. It’s just the soap. You need the foaming dispenser to put it in. I may need to go back and reread my post and make that clearer. Squirrel brain. ~ karen!

  48. kate-v says:

    I’ve been wanting to make my own foaming lather with my favorite soap for quite some time. I will try your method this week. Thank you.

  49. Valerie says:

    I am actually glad you did a post about foaming hand soap. All along I thought the foam was created because of the design of the pump on the top. Thank you, much appreciated.

  50. Connie S. says:

    Brillant and economical – LUV it !

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