Category
Body

Making a Foaming Hand Soap With Castile Soap

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.

Download Now!

Castile Soap Cheat Sheet

Dilute! Dilute! OK! But how much? Print this guide!

DOWNLOAD

Leave a Reply to Jes Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Jes says:

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?

Lisa Bronner says:

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.

Elizabeth says:

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.

Shannon says:

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!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Shannon- Thanks for your support, and for spreading the word!

SC Lee says:

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.

Lisa Bronner says:

Excellent! I’m glad this article found you when it did. Thank you for the kind words and encouragement!

Jackie says:

Castle soap is the greatest I’ve ever used with Distilled water!

It goes a long way too!

Deborah says:

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.

Lisa Bronner says:

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.

Mal says:

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.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Mal- Thanks for sharing! Castile Soap is one of the most versatile soaps on the planet.

Renee says:

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!!

Lisa Bronner says:

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.

Jim says:

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?

Lisa Bronner says:

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.

bonnie says:

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.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Bonnie- That sounds like a good tip. Thanks for sharing!

Kristen says:

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?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kristen- My recommendations are only starting points. It sounds like you have a dilution that works for you, so stick with it!

HILDA says:

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.

Leah says:

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.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Leah- I’m with you on the feeling of the foam! Luxurious!

Corinne says:

Hi,
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

Lisa Bronner says:

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.

Jill says:

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.
Thank you.

Lisa Bronner says:

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.

Brian B. says:

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.

Suz says:

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.

Suz says:

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.

Karena says:

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.

Lisa Bronner says:

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.

Joanne says:

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! 🙂

Lisa Bronner says:

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.

ABOUT / CONTACT

Lisa Bronner

Green means life. “Going Green” is living in such a way to promote vitality and vibrancy in every sphere of life. Grab an idea to make your days healthier, simpler, and more beautiful at their core.

Download Now!

Castile Soap Cheat Sheet

Dilute! Dilute! OK! But how much? Print this guide!

DOWNLOAD