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Do-It-Yourself: Foaming Hand Soap and Dish Soap

I know many of us are able to get dish soap and body wash at a great price with coupons, but did you know you can stretch these deals even farther by making your own homemade foaming dish soap or homemade foaming hand soap?

Thanks for passing on the link, Erin!

photo by Hygiene Matters

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  1. Brenda says

    This does help stretch hand soap. I’ve made my own for a couple of years now. I use 3 tablespoons of soap with 2/3 cups water. It’s especially nice with small kids learning to wash their hands because you don’t get globs of liquid hand soap all over the sink area when they are hoaning their skills. :)

  2. Haila says

    This = awesome! I have tons of dish soap and body wash, and was just about go get some more foaming hand soap. Love it.

  3. Mandi says

    I’ve seen this suggested before and have considered doing it. Does anyone know if it still really get the job done in terms of cleaning? After doing a long stint in the NICU for my twins, I’m pretty big on the importance of good hand washing. But we go through a ton of soap and I would love to cut back.

    • Joy says

      @Mandi, well, I was wondering the same thing myself, but recently I started using the gobs of bodywash to refill my foaming pumps and I think it is just fine. I mean, bodywash cleans our bodies just fine, why not our hands? I have six children who get VERY dirty and it is working for us!

    • Melissa says

      @Mandi, I’m curious about this as well- we have to be super cautious with my oldest son as well- he was in the NICU for a couple months as well and has some health issues. I know it’s a balance and he needs exposure to things at times, but since we really have to monitor respiratory issues, we’re trying to avoid that for the first couple years until his health has improved.

    • Peyton says

      @Mandi, What is important is the amount of time you spend lathering the soap before rinsing. If you will wash for 20 to 30 seconds before rinsing it will work fine.

  4. Jenn says

    If you’re worried about germs, I remember reading that it’s the friction from rubbing your hands together that really gets your hands clean. Not that you could stop using soap, just that the actual soap used doesn’t play a critical job in the process.

    Also I have one small recommendation for that soap making process. Put the water in first. Otherwise you have a foamy mess. I usually mix my soap in a measuring cup and then pour it into the container.

  5. chris says

    I have done this for several years. I usually use 7th Generation soap and a few drops of essential oil. This concoction is mild for the hands and still degreases the dishes.

  6. Julie C says

    I was making my own foaming soap until a year ago when my kids decided to help me by filling up the soap bottle with water when I wasn’t looking. It was turning into a daily issue so we went to bars of soap.

    BARS of soap are so much cheaper than free soap down the drain. <<>> Life with 7 kids is busier than I ever imagined it would have been but a WONDERFUL busy.

    I do miss the luxury of liquid hand soap and will enjoy it again someday when my little ones have left the nest and I have nothing to do but clip coupons, shop deals and buy the grand kids wonderful gifts.

    • Courtney says

      @Julie C, We switched to bar soap, too, and you are right – it is so much cheaper! I have also noticed that bar soap doesn’t dry out my hands like liquid soap did, so my hands feel better and I’m using less lotion.

  7. says

    Re: germs & dilution…most soaps work b/c soap is a surfactant, so it binds to dirt particles and lowers the surface tension of water.. Add in friction and running water, and you’re good to go. For this reason, I would be very cautious about diluting soap. It’s not something I feel safe doing in my house.

    If you have a vulnerable individual in the household, you may have been recommended to use an antibacterial soap with triclosan. (My grandmother was told this while caring for my grandfather in his dialysis years.) It is *especially* important not to dilute this soap, as the proportion of triclosan will be decreased. However, keep this in mind:



    If you do a search of triclosan on Google Scholar you will find peer-reviewed papers addressing this issue, for ex:

    Formation of chloroform and other chlorinated byproducts by chlorination of triclosan-containing antibacterial productsFind @ Georgia SouthernEM Fiss, KL Rule, PJ Vikesland – Environ. Sci. Technol, 2007 – ACS Publications

    (Triclosan can combine with chlorine in treated water to form chloroform, a carcinogen)

    This is a good review with citations of other literature, and describes how triclosan exposure can lead to bacterial resistance…don’t we all know someone who has dealt with a MRSA infection? If you don’t yet, you will:


    I don’t mean to be negative and I am all for saving money. But I am also a biologist with an interest in endocrinology and clean water. And I won’t let triclosan in my house (to the degree which I am able to control it.) There are alcohol-based hand sanitizers which are effective, and are SAFE.

    Please read this and know that my intention is for everyone to be safe and healthy!!!!

    • nicki says

      “Re: germs & dilution…most soaps work b/c soap is a surfactant, so it binds to dirt particles and lowers the surface tension of water.. Add in friction and running water, and you’re good to go. For this reason, I would be very cautious about diluting soap. It’s not something I feel safe doing in my house. ”

      I agree. Just using less would save money with out watering it down to the point of ineffectivness.

      PS – Is diluting something really “making” anything, as the “recipe” suggests?

    • Jill Hertel says

      The way I look at it you use a liquid soap and cannot do much with the glob in your hand until you run them under some water…foaming soap, while diluted, seems to be more effective and save water as you are able to squirt, scrub and then rinse.

      I have been doing this for years in a household that rarely gets sick.

      Without reading all comments, or even checking the links from the post I will share a bit:

      I use Suave Clarifying Shampoo…on sale, with coupons, diluted with distilled water. Doesn’t get much cheaper than this.

      I recently purchased new bottles (http://www.forsoapmakers.com/table-top-foam-pump-bottle.html; http://www.forsoapmakers.com/table-top-foamer-replacement-pump.html) and love them. They have been worth the cost. I purchased 12, which was cheaper then purchasing 7. The shipping is expensive…any shipping costs I consider expensive. They have the replacement pumps available and they are big so I need to fill them way less then my smaller bottles.

      I also put Dawn in at the kitchen sink and love that as well. I can clean one dish without wasting soap and water and it does it well.

      Instead of measuring each time I make a handy little tool. I took a strip of cardboard and measured the water, marked a line on the cardboard…measured the soap and marked a line and then just use that to fill them up.

  8. michelle says

    I have been reusing the same foaming hand soap pumps at my kitchen & bathroom sink for YEARS! I use Dr Bronners castille soap. One tiny squirt – I mean TINY – in an almost full pump and you’ve got wonderful non-toxic hand soap. It can be used to clean your counters and dishes too! (we also have hand soap available for the kids but I found that to be just as much of a pain as it turns into mass silliness in the bathroom dropping the bar all over the place.. the pump soap is actually better for me because I can just wet a washcloth and wash down the bathroom with what they slopped!)

    • peever says


      I also use Castile soap. I found some at Trader Joe’s for about $2.99 a bottle and stocked up since we don’t have one here and that lasted us a long time. I just fill up a foaming soap bottle pump with about 1/4 soap and 3/4 water and it works great.

      My son has sensitive skin and breaks out with most liquid hand soaps so we’ve had good luck with this since it’s pretty moisturizing and gentle and it’s a lot cheaper too!

    • Emily says

      @michelle, Yeah, I was thinking this foaming container idea would stretch my Dr. Bronners liquid soap. It is much thinner than other commercial liquid soaps because it’s real soap (saponified oils) and as a result by accident I tend to use too much. It is expensive, but like you said a little goes a long way. I would have to try it to believe it that one little squirt goes for a whole bottle, although the label does recommend diluting it for many uses. I have found Dr. Bronners on sale often at Whole Foods and even at some Walgreens which is cool. So, it’s possible to make that dollar stretch even further and still go top quality and natural! I’ll have to check out the real soap at Trader Joe’s too.

  9. Kelly says

    Has anyone found a foaming pump they like that lasts for ahwile? I used to water down my soap with a pump for a couple of years but all the pumps I used would break after several uses and I wondered how much I was really saving when I had to replace the pumps often. I used Bath & Body Works pumps, Dial pumps and a Pampered Chef pump.

  10. amy says

    I do this myself.
    Like many have said, my kids make a huge mess and get way too much soap.
    We tried using a Huggies soap pump that has a blinkie timer on it. works, until they keep pumping to turn the light back on!

    I use a dial foamer- just got a bottle of the dial soap for 66c. So when it was gone I add 50 squirts of regular hand soap ( which is often free or less than $1 after coupons anyway! ) and fill the rest of the dial foamer with HOT water very slowly.
    Shake it up and it is good to go.

    I dont like overusing the triclosan containing soaps anyway because it kills the good bacteria as well as the bad.

    One bottle of regular hand soap lasts about a week – 10 days with my kids. Using the foamer it lasts about 3x as long.

    I have used the pampered chef foamer ( before it was redesigned) and one from Jordan Essentials. Reuse the dial complete ones, the softsoap ones, etc. They all wear out after awhile.

  11. says

    I add a little water and more regular J&J baby wash to a foaming J&J baby wash container and swirl it a little. Within a few pumps it is working fine at creating foaming soap. This is a lot cheaper than buying more foaming soap containers.

  12. says

    I do this as well, and have used different soap pumps. They do wear out after awhile, but I figure I’m still saving money because I don’t have to buy all new pumps so often!

    As to others’ questions of efficacy. . . it seems like you’d have to do one of those tests with a black light to see about how well it is killing the germs.

  13. amy says

    About killing the germs enough, I was just thinking… what is the difference btw using a tiny pump’s worth of the regular vs a couple of pumps of the foaming? It is all soap and water and I don’t thinkthere is a “dosage” amount listed on the bottle.
    Maybe I am crazy, but that was just a thought I had.

    In extreme cases of someone with a compromised immune system, maybe keep it full strength if you are worried. Or have hand sanitizer on standby.

    • says


      Its not so much a dosage issue as it is that the ratio of soap to water is still high enough that the soap will sufficiently break surface tension and bind to dirt & foreign particles.

  14. Christine says

    I use Dr.Woods peppermint castile soap to make foaming hand soap this way. (1/3 soap, the rest water) It’s under $7 for a 32 oz. container on iherb.

  15. says

    Im so glad I read this post. I bought some today from Bath and Body. 4 for $15. I beat myself up all day for spending that money. With this idea. Now I can reuse the bottles. I don’t feel as bad. :)

  16. says

    I was talking to my husband about this last night, and one thing he brought up is that by the nature of using full-strength soap, you may wash longer to get it all off, and washing longer may be better. With the foam soap, it is easier to get it off your hands, so perhaps kids might not scrub as well as they should. We use the foam soap, but this is something I hadn’t thought about.

  17. says

    Another thing my husband brought up is that full-strength is not always better. In the case of alcohol, 70% is the “sweet spot” for killing germs. Having 100% is not better, and in fact may be worse. So diluting the soap isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

  18. Joe Nathan says

    Apparently Dial has changed the formulation for the regular liquid soap. I used to be able to dilute it to use in my foaming dispenser, but now it no longer works. Just dilutes but stays thick, rendering it useless in foaming dispensers. Do they think this is going to make me start buying their foaming product or will it push me to the competition?

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