It’s a sad tale. You’re excited to fill your gorgeous new standard soap pump with Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap. It seems to work just fine, though it does come out a little fast. Then a few days later, when your visiting mother-in-law freshens up in the powder room, you hear a wail. The soap has squirted sideways from the pump, dousing her blouse and narrowly missing her face. The soap had dried in the pump, partially blocking the flow, redirecting the soap into the most unexpected directions and accelerating it to what must have been soap Mach 5.
Here is why we caution against using the Castile Liquid Soap in regular pump dispensers. But never fear. All is not lost.
A foaming pump soap dispenser is a different story entirely and is a super simple way to put your Castile Soap to use sink-side and elsewhere.
A foaming soap dispenser functions differently than a traditional pump dispenser. The apparatus uses a mixture of soap, water, and air. Because the soap is diluted in the bottle and then further mixed with air, it does not coat and block the tubing responsible for the unexpected and undirected jet of soap.
The result is a cloud-like dollop of soft soapy foam that cleans all manner of body parts and then some.
The foam alone is reason enough to use a foaming pump dispenser. It’s just so beautifully soft and feels lovely on the skin. I’d say it’s more fun for kids, but who am I kidding? I love the stuff, too. Beyond mere enjoyment there are some practical benefits to using foaming soap in the bathroom and kitchen too.
- There’s less mess at the sink. No more drips down the side of the bottle or pump and puddles on the counter.
- It dispenses the proper amount of soap for a handwash. Only one or two drops of the undiluted Castile Soap is needed per handwashing, but it is so difficult to get only that amount out of the undiluted bottle. By diluting the soap in the foamer, the equivalent of just a drop or two of soap comes out per dollop.
- It spreads easily over the hands, effectively covering all nooks and crannies. One pump of gloriously fluffy foam still contains enough cleaning power for good hand hygiene.
- It is wallet-friendly, making your bottle of Castile last much longer, since you’re not wasting soap due to overapplication per handwash.
- Foaming soap requires less water to rinse. One study demonstrated that people use between 16% and 45% less water to wash and rinse hands with a foaming soap versus a liquid soap, while still achieving the same cleaning efficacy. That adds up! For a household of four, with each person washing hands 10 times a day, that adds up to a savings of 1100 gallons of water per year.
- Converting the soap to a foam functionally thickens the soap. While there’s no way to thicken Castile Soap naturally, the addition of air gives it that rich texture that keeps it from running between the fingers and dripping uselessly down the drain.
- And most importantly, it avoids the rogue soap jet stream common with putting the soap, even diluted, in traditional soap pumps.
Soap in foaming pumps is not just for hands. I keep foaming pumps at all my sinks. In the bathroom, not only do I use it regularly for hands, but I use it to wash my face, as well as my silicone night guard daily. The feel of that soft foam over my skin is as soothing as it is cleansing. Lately, I’ve been enjoying the Lavender in my bathroom.
In the kitchen, where I generally keep the foamer filled with the Citrus Castile Soap, I’ll use the foam to wash a piece of fruit, some lettuce, or my favorite mug just as often as I’ll use it to wash my hands. In the shower or by the tub, this is a great way to keep kids or even sleepy adults from inadvertently dumping a wanton amount of the Castile on to their bodies for a single shower. It works for hair and body, and it’s even pre-lathered! Talk about simplifying your shower routine!
Making GIY foaming pump soap
Any of the Castile Soap scents work equally well for foaming pumps. Pick your favorite – or combine two scents for a custom scent to fit the season or your mood. Peppermint and Citrus make an unexpectedly bright and peppy combo. Almond blends beautifully with all the scents. Or go with the Unscented, with or without adding essential oils of your choice.
At my house, we keep foaming soap simple. Just soap and water. Maybe a few drops of essential oils if I’m feeling fancy. There are a multitude of DIY foaming hand soap recipes out there calling for additional ingredients. Before you get to mixing in glycerin or aloe or coconut milk or what-have-you, remember that chemistry happens. Soap by its nature binds to oils, and if you put those oils in the solution with the soap, they’re only going to tie up the soap so that it is unavailable for cleaning your hands. Check my post “What Can You Mix with Castile Soap?” for more on mix-ins.
Dilution: One part soap to three parts water.
Once you’ve determined the volume of your solution bottle, divide the volume into fourths. Fill it with one part soap and three of those parts of water. You could use 1 cup soap to 3 cups water (makes 1 qt.), or 1/4 cup soap to 3/4 cup water (makes 1 cup), etc. You can also pre-measure into a measuring cup, then pour into the jar. If you’d like, add a few drops of essential oils to boost or create a custom scent. (Again, the soap will bind to the oils, but the aromatics of the essential oils will remain to scent the mixture.) Screw on the lid and swish gently to mix.
What kind of water should I use?
For a clearer solution, use distilled, R.O. (reverse osmosis), or otherwise filtered water. If you find your solution is cloudy after using tap water, it just means that the water is hard, and the minerals in the water – calcium and magnesium – reacted with the Castile Soap. This happens to be one of the ways you can test to see if your soap is truly a soap or if it is a detergent. Detergents don’t react with hard water. It’s also how you can test to see if you have hard water (use Dr. Bronner’s Castile in your tap water), or even to see if your water softener is working. Whichever way you go, the cloudiness is harmless.
What kind of foaming pump dispenser should I use?
Foaming pumps are really seeing their day in the sun. There is an array of styles, sizes, materials, price points, and colors from which to choose. Glass, plastic, free-standing, wall-mounted, manual, electric.
It comes down to personal preference. If you have a foaming pump dispenser you had bought filled, clean it out and repurpose it with this GIY (Green-It-Yourself) Castile Soap solution.
A friend alerted me to pump tops that fit on standard Mason jars. She made them super-cute by tying twine around the necks and labeling them with chalk stickers. I like the weight of the glass that holds the bottle upright. One problem with plastic foaming pumps is that the pump itself makes a near empty bottle so top-heavy that it often falls over. This doesn’t happen with glass.
However, for safety in the shower where it’s wet and slippery, a plastic foamer is a good choice. The other day, a co-worker was waxing poetical about her touchless, motion-sensor foaming dispenser. That sounds pretty nifty, too.
With less soap per pump than a standard soap pump, do hands still get clean?
That same study I mentioned above—and I am always deeply glad there are fastidious people who study these things—shows that diluted foaming hand soap is equally effective as standard lotion soap at removing bacteria from hands. Brave participants were asked to immerse their hands in a “broth” contaminated with E. coli. After washing hands for 30 seconds (yes, that is 10 more seconds than recommended by the CDC but surely there’s an extra layer of caution given these volunteers just dipped their hands in E. coli), both 0.7 mL of foaming hand soap and 1.1 mL of lotion soap showed equal cleaning efficacy.
Foaming soap dispenser solution shelf life
The shelf life of this solution is 2-3 weeks. If you don’t use the solution up in that amount of time, make it in smaller batches. Our Castile Soap is naturally preserved because of its alkalinity, and we also add Tocopherols (vitamin E) as an antioxidant. Of course, when you dilute the soap, you are diluting the preservative.
Tips for keeping the pump working
When you refill the bottle, take moment to rinse out the tip of the pump where the foam can still build up and cause a blockage. Here are a few other trouble-shooting tips:
- Use the pump regularly. When foam sits in the chamber for a long while, it will dry and cause the pump to clog or stick.
- Follow the dilution. Too much Castile Soap or the addition of other ingredients can cause the pump to “stick”.
- Check to be sure there is no vacuum. If the lid is too, too tight it creates a vacuum. Unscrew the lid ever so slightly to let air in.
Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap is beautifully simple and made with a blend of oils (coconut, olive, palm, jojoba, and hemp seed) that are nourishing to our skin. It cleans hands-face-body gently and excellently. Using it in a foaming pump is one of the 18 and beyond uses of this versatile soap.
Works great as a refill of a WholeFoods foam soap dispenser.
I use a kitchen scale for the ratio: 1 oz soap. 3 oz water. Silly to use measuring cups or spoons.
Can you make foaming soap using the Sugar soap?
Hi Kousha- The Organic Sugar Soap is formulated for a regular pump dispenser. In a foaming pump, the ground Shikakai powder can cause the pump to get sticky or clog up.
Using a rechargeable battery powered foaming soap dispenser is easy and fast. Read the reviews to get the best rated. The standard recommendation for dilution is 1/4 liquid soap to 3/4 water. Measuring the liquids in a separate container for vigorous and thorough mixing has proven necessary to provide consistent and reliable foam.
I use mine in a old bottle that has the foam pump, gift from a niece, it works great. I just turn bottle upside down and run a little water on the pump if it sits too long, but we use ours frequently, so it never dries out.
We have used your soap in a foaming dispenser for years adding a couple drops of Thieves in the winter for disinfecting purposes. One thing we have noticed is the sinks get dull, I assume it’s soap scum? Anyway way to avoid it?
Hi Diane – Glad you’ve been enjoying the foaming soap! Yep, that’s good ‘ol soap scum, which is really just a mineral deposit. It is a sign, though, that you are using a true soap and not a synthetic detergent. You can avoid it by drying the sink after each use, or get rid of it by sprinkling on some baking soda and wipe with a cloth or brush. You can also spray it with a 1:1 vinegar:water solution, let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe it away.
Thank you for this article and tip … I was one of the ones who experienced the clog and then flying soap from my dispenser. This is a God-send, as are all of your products!
I’ve been there, too, Ellen! I learned pretty quick!
I’ve used foaming dispensers for years now. Bought another brand of soap for the dispensers at Grocery Outlet. The original price was $8.99, GOs price $3.99. Once emptied, refilled with them with Bronner’s for what I estimate is around $0.16 per bottle. Like the article says, the foam is a much cleaner way to go. I usually refill them from what’s left over in the shower bottle (diluted 1:3) when it I’m getting ready to make a new batch.
Have them on every sink including the kitchen and washtub in the garage.
Faithful Peppermint Soap User since 1973 (and counting)
I’ve used Tea Tree Castile soap in all of our foam soap dispensers since Covid. I used other scents before. We love it. Wherever I can eliminate buying plastic over and over I do. Thanks for excellent products.
Great article! I was intrigued by your note about using Castile Soap to clean your silicone night guard. Off-topic question, but would you have any recommendation on where to find one? I’ve only seen them offered in plastic. Thanks!
Hi Heather – Thanks! My silicone nightguard was custom made for me by my dentist.
I’ve been making foam soap like this for a couple years. Works great and lasts a long time so cost effective.
You mentioned to divide the container into fourths, do you leave 1/4 left for air? Also what is silicone night guard?
Hi Shannon – Of the four parts, 1 part is the soap and 3 parts are the water. I confess I usually eyeball this amount rather than measuring it precisely, but it works great! My silicone night guard is something I wear nightly on my upper teeth to protect my teeth from my grinding them. Alas, my dentist told me if I didn’t wear it, I’d have nothing but nubs left.
Folks, find someone who uses the Bath & Body Works foaming soap and use their empty dispenser. I’ve been using the same one daily for at least five years with zero issues. Glass may look prettier, but I’d rather have a dispenser that just works!
Hi Kristen – Yes! Repurposing any foaming dispenser is an excellent idea.
Lisa, do you sell these foaming soap dispensers??
Hi Karen – No, we don’t. We’ve contemplating getting into the business of selling the various containers I recommend using (foaming pumps, spray bottles, etc.) but it’s really a whole different realm of products than making soaps and such. The one in the picture is just a mason jar, and then I bought a foaming pump for it online. I think it came as a set of three pumps, and I always have a plethora of mason jars. But there are so many types of foaming pumps these days, you can pick the style you like best.
Can the same be done with the Sugar Soap?
Hi Cindy – I haven’t tried this with the Sugar Soap, but after reading your question, I will be doing that shortly. My thoughts ahead of experimenting though are that the shikakai powder in the Sugar Soap, which makes the Sugar Soap more softening to the skin, is a really fine powder, kind of like cinnamon. I wonder if that could clog the aerating part of the foaming pump. I’ll let you know what I find, or if you want to give it a try first, let me know what you discover.
Does this work equally as well with a standard liquid soap pump?
Does the dilution change?
Hi Julie – No, the Castile soaps do not work well at any dilution in a standard pump. They inevitably coat the inside of the pump, constricting the flow and causing the contents to squirt out at jet speed before getting clogged entirely. I speak from experience here. I’ve only found the foaming pumps to work with the Castile.
Hi. I have a plastic foam type soap dispenser from another brand that was used up. I’ve been adding Dr Bronner soap and water before it gets empty. I just add more soap and water to it. So far so good. My question after reading the info here: Will it ‘go bad’ if I don’t empty the contents at some point?
Hi Marlyn – Theoretically, if any microbes were introduced into the solution (such as from the water) then the solution could go off. Perhaps occasionally go ahead and empty it fully and give it a scrub with a bottle brush before refilling.
Hi Lisa. Would you happen to know the shelf life of Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap? Also, wouldn’t diluting it shorten its shelf life? Once purchased, how quickly do you say it should be completely used up? Thanks.
Hi Jesse – The official shelf life is 3 years, though I’ve known bottles that have been older and still were in good shape. Once the bottle is opened, it should be used up within 2 years. If the soap ever smells or looks off, replace it. Yes, diluting the soap will dilute its self-preserving ability. Dilute amounts that you will use up in a month or so.
I still don’t quite understand the concept around the shelf life of diluting the Castile soap within the use of a foaming hand and body wash. After two to three weeks of being pre-diluted in such a mixture results in…? Is it simply not effective anymore or is it an issue of the scent? I haven’t seemed to notice. Thanks!
Hi Alexander – When you dilute the soap, you dilute the preservation system with is provided by the tocopherols. So after a time, there is the potential that if the diluting water contained any microbes, they could multiply. Since there is such a range of water types to use–municipal, well, distilled, various types of filtered–there is a range of likelihood. The more filtered the water, the longer the dilution will last. I haven’t done a formal microbial study on the dilutions and I always use them up before any problems have arisen, but theoretically, it could happen.
I have been putting some alcohol in with the soap to aid with the preservation. If you see this Lisa, I would love to know your opinion.
Hi Ellen – I do see this! I always love reading comments and chatting with readers. So, alcohol! Interesting idea. Alcohol is antibacterial, but as we all had drilled into us during the past several years, only at a concentration of 70% or higher (for ethanol). If you’re adding less than 70% to the solution, it’s not going to do anything useful other than cut the soap’s ability to foam. As far as preserving this solution with anything extra, I haven’t found that it needs it. What’s your experience?
IMPORTANT: Yes, we use Dr Bronners in our unique refillable squeeze-foam dispenser. Just a series of short, sharp squeezes of the bottle provides an instant cascade of rich micro-bubbles. DO NOT use chlorinated tap water to dilute a premium quality Castile soap like Dr Bronner’s – why contaminate such a clean, chemical free product? …
We use distilled (de-ionized) water at a ratio of 1 part Bronner to 5 parts pure water. This ratio may vary depending on the application. Now shake the solution to mix thoroughly, replace the foamer pump on the bottle and you’re ready to go!
This device works without needing to wet your skin first. Simply spray the foaming lather onto a bath/shower sponge or bamboo cloth/towel. Clean then rinse off with water as normal. Simples!
Thank you, this article is so timely because I just ordered two of those foaming pumps that fit on the mason jars. Will be referencing this info when they arrive. Out of curiosity, can the sugar soaps be used in a foam dispensers as well?
Hi Jes- I’m glad this article found you at just the right time! The Organic Sugar Soap is formulated for a regular pump dispenser. In a foaming pump, the ground Shikakai powder can cause the pump to get sticky.
Glad to see this. I love foaming soap. I got my sister to give me her old foaming soap bottles since foaming soaps came out. I have been using Bronner’s but diluting 50/50, and still gunk builds up, now I will try your recommended 1 part soap to 3 parts water. We have one in the kitchen, one in the shower and two at the bathroom sink. One of the bathroom sink bottles I use unscented and add some thieves oil. The others are different fragrances. Thanks for the information.
I have been using Dr. Bronners soap since the ’70’s. When they came out with the foaming soap dispensers, I figured out the same 1 part soap to 3 part water combination, and I have been using it for many years now and passed it on to others. I always took Dr. Bronners Peppermint for everything when I went camping way back when and i just bought 2 large bottles of rose and of lavender. Nothing else like it, Thank you!
Hi Shannon- Thanks for your support, and for spreading the word!
I love this article. It came at the right time. My wife was just complaining about my foaming soap bottles. She suggested just getting bottles of soap from the supermarket and throwing the bottles away when they are empty, or getting a refill.
The foaming dispensers are battery operated and she gets frustrated when the batteries run out. The advantage of the battery operated dispenser is that I can hang it on the wall. It’s easier to clean the sink when it’s wet. I have 2 manual pumps, and these have to sit on the sink top.
I have been using Dr Bronner Castille soap and SalSuds for many years.
Keep the articles coming. They provide great information.
Excellent! I’m glad this article found you when it did. Thank you for the kind words and encouragement!
Castle soap is the greatest I’ve ever used with Distilled water!
It goes a long way too!
It would be great if Bronner’s sourced and sold a quality foaming pump for its customers. I’ve used Castile soap in foaming dispensers since the pandemic began. In that short time, I’ve replaced dispensers 5 times because they stopped working after a few months — such a waste of resources and money.
Hi Deborah- Every new product begins with an idea! I will pass your suggestion along. In the meantime, I hope some of the tips in the article help to extend the life of your foaming dispensers.
Deborah, are you using tap-water to dilute Dr Bronner’s? With conventional pump foamers a build up of residue will sooner or later cause the foamer mechanism to stick or stop working altogether. This is because tap water contains calcium and magnesium ions & salts which interact with the soap and attach themselves to the various parts of the precision foamer mechanism … not good!
Always use pure water (distilled / de-ionized/ reverse osmosis) to dilute your concentrated Dr Bronner’s.
In the UK, we are teaching our clients how to use Dr Bronner’s using the method described above.
I agree 100%. The Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap in a foamer is the preferred hand soap @ my house. However, so many requests for a good pump need to be addressed. This is what brought me back here today. Thank you Lisa for all the info you share.
Thank you for the tips about using distilled water, Dr Mike Grant! I have been mixing Dr. Bronner’s with tap water to use in my foam dispensers and the pumps indeed gunk up such that they seem like they need oiling. I’m adding distilled water to my shopping list.
I have been doing this for years with foam dispensers that I got in a hair dye kit. They do not make the kits anymore, but I had these dispensers that were only intended for the 1 use. I add a small amount of Dr. Bronners Castile soap to the bottom where there is a convenient line on the container already, and then fill up 3/4s of the way with tap water, this probably is about 1/5 soap to water, but sometimes it’s more or less depending how foamy the water I am adding gets, pouring slowly helps limit that. It is small and plastic, so safe for the bathroom. I also bring it camping, because it works as sudsy soap without a sink that is easy to wipe off with a paper towel, or also works for washing up dishes with minimal water on hand for picnics etc. This allows us to use the Castile soap without wasting it, as it is easy to pour out too much straight out of the bottle. I also have sensitive skin, so the baby formula diluted is nice and gentle without any scent! I also use this same foam as a daily bathroom cleaner. I pump a line across my mirror, and it works like scrubbing bubbles. I clean my chrome with it and on both the mirror and chrome with a quick wet cloth or rinse of water they come out clean and with no residue.
Hi Mal- Thanks for sharing! Castile Soap is one of the most versatile soaps on the planet.
Try adding the water before the soap to your foamer bottle to avoid all the bubbles.
I have just discovered the foaming glass dispenser and I LOVE IT for my unscented Dr Bronner’s soap. I now have it at all sinks at home and introduced to my workplace bathrooms. Soft foamy soap and cost savings. WIN-WIN!!
Where can I get the pretty glass foam soap pump shown?
Hi Ellen- I bought mine online awhile back. There was quite a selection to choose from. And I recently learned that Etsy has some pretty, high quality glass foaming dispensers.
Can you point us to an excellent glass foaming pump dispenser? My searches have turned up lower quality options on Amazon. If not a specific brand, which pumps have you had great experiences with?
Hi Jim- I’ve purchased my dispensers from a variety of online retailers, generally with good success. I recently learned that Etsy carries some high quality glass foaming dispensers. Perhaps give that site a try.
I solved the ‘drying out’ problem on my pump by turning it over after use and using an extra couple drops of water to wash clear the end of the pump.
Hi Bonnie- That sounds like a good tip. Thanks for sharing!
Why a 1:3 ratio? I use far less than that and still get a rich lather. Given the dilutions used for spray bottles, mopping floors, washing cars, etc. still clean very well, 1:3 seems like an awful lot. Any thoughts?
Hi Kristen- My recommendations are only starting points. It sounds like you have a dilution that works for you, so stick with it!
I have done this for years with your soap. Started with empty commercial brand soap dispensers. Finally had to replace them after about 15 yrs. I bought new plastic ones from that big on-line store.
Thanks for sharing, Hilda!
I’ve been doing this for about 3 years and love it! We stayed with some friends who were using Dr. Bronner’s full strength in the hand soap pump, she even said “I know I’m supposed to dilute it…”. I found a foaming soap pump at Walmart and it’s been working great all this time. Once the pandemic started I realized I couldn’t use the foaming pump in our guest bath, since it was hardly being used. But we love it at our sink! I started using it to wash my face too! It does feel so luxurious putting foam on my face and not having to work soap into a foam on my face.
Hi Leah- I’m with you on the feeling of the foam! Luxurious!
I have been doing this for a few years now and it works a treat. I use less soap to water than you recommend but I also have a water softener so a little goes a long way!
Please can you tell me when Sal Suds will be available in the UK again? I am totally lost without it! x
Hi Corinne- If you have a dilution that works for you, stick with it! Mine is just a starting point. I’m so sorry, but we don’t have a timeline for when Sal Suds will return to the U.K. market.
Hi, I’m wondering if you could please recommend a foam pump jar to buy…I’ve been looking for one and there are so many to choose from, many of which claim the pumps stop working after awhile.
I love your soap and would like to follow your lead and use it wisely.
Hi Jill- Unfortunately I don’t have a specific brand to recommend. I’ve bought a few over the years and have had good luck with them. Generally I look for high quality. To help with longevity, ensure they are used regularly and pump clean water through the pump apparatus when refilling.
We buy the clear Dial brand bottles of foaming soap, and pour out the contents straight away. We refill with water up to the middle of the “D” in the Dial lettering on the bottle, then Dr. B’s up to the “fill to here” line. One bottle will last a VERY long time (years and years and years) and is great for kitchen, shower, bath, camper, etc.
Because i like the clear bottles, i throw in a drop of food coloring in a 2 qt bottle of liquid Castile or Sal Suds … i.e. green for peppermint, and blue for Sal Suds. Just ordered some spring Cherry Blossom, so probably red/pink for that! They look very pretty on the counter and we don’t mix up the Sal Suds (dishes, cleaning) vs. hand soap.
P.S. The reason for one drop of food coloring in larger bottle is that it’s perfect color (not too bright) when diluted in smaller, clear glass (or plastic) foam dispenser.
I like my foaming soap. Depending on the dispenser, I usually use a lower ratio of soap to water than you suggested (I use your soap). For those who don’t like foam, I have had success adding glycerin to my Dr Bronner’s Castile soap to keep it from clogging a regular dispenser.
Which pump tops specifically does your friend use for her Mason jars? I frequently experience the pumps becoming non-functional over (sometimes a very short period) of time. Even a thorough cleaning won’t revive them – I’d like to find foaming pump tops that are more durable.
Hi Karena- The dilution can certainly be adjusted to your preference. I’ve bought a couple different lids for my mason jars and they all have worked. I find frequent use, so the soap doesn’t dry out in the chamber, helps keep it working. And if you have hard water, use distilled or R.O. water in your solution, as Castile reacts with the minerals in hard water.
Hi Lisa 🙂 I love making foaming hand soap with your castile soap! Any recommendations on the pumps? Both the whole pump and just tops. I’ve bought so many whole pumps, especially plastic ones for the shower, and they don’t last long. 🙁 I love the silver top you have in the photo. Thanks! 🙂
Hi Joanne- I’ve bought a few different brands of lids over the years – both as a set with the jar and separately. Generally they work well, some better than others. A few tips to keep the pump working: pump soap through the foamer regularly, rinse with clear water in between refills, and use R.O. or distilled water if you have hard water.