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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. jainegayer says:

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

  5. 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…

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. Su says:

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

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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!

  22. 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!

      • No worries, you said it right in your post, I was just half asleep. I already have the foaming dispensers in my house, and they are all low on soap. I was feeling guilty that the little expensive dispensing bottles were staring at me. Waiting…waiting .. for soap. Filling them now :)

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. Connie S. says:

    Brillant and economical – LUV it !

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