I Switched to Foaming Hand Soap to Save a Little Money—Here’s How to DIY It

published Jan 25, 2023
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DIY foaming hand soap
Credit: Ashley Poskin

Since March of 2020, our family of three has been spending $546.24 each year on liquid hand soap. We started a monthly subscription plan at the height of the pandemic and a magical box has shown up each month since, and we haven’t had to think about running out or adding soap to our shopping list. It’s all been so very convenient. This month, however, as I was fighting to shove the eight bottles of liquid soap onto the sagging wire shelf in our tiny linen closet, things got out of hand and after much screaming at the tiny little closet, I decided the perfectly scented, mildly priced bottles that show up so magically every month needed to start showing up in fewer quantities. 

I considered the inconvenience of the magical box not showing up on my doorstep at all, then did some quick math to see if it was really worth canceling. After reading $546.24 on my calculator, I picked my brain up off the floor and decided yes, absolutely yes, it was worth canceling the order. I really hadn’t stopped to think about how it was adding up financially, or in the sheer quantity of bottles we were recycling each year.

So, in an effort to save some cash and not fill the bin quite so fast, I started researching alternative options. I don’t care if this sounds petty — I’ll go ahead and admit that I am not a fan of refill soap packages. They’re messy and saggy, and I don’t have space for a giant blob of a bag in our already-packed linen closet. Bar soap was never an option to me, because I don’t see how it could ever not be a bacteria breeding ground with a 6-year-old whose fingers are constantly up her nose running around. Another option: foaming hand soap. This one intrigued me because instead of a refill bag, it requires just one container of liquid soap.

Foaming hand soap definitely seemed like my best option, but I was concerned about whether or not it actually worked as well against germs as a full-concentration liquid soap. I read about a study conducted by the American Journal of Infection Control that tested two common brands of hand soap: one liquid and one foaming. The study showed that the bacterial colony count of foaming hand soap did decrease, but didn’t lower as significantly as it did with the liquid hand soap.

When asked about the study, Dr. Guenter Kampf, a hand hygiene expert at the University of Ernst in Germany, noted that “For domestic use it may not make a difference whether a foam or liquid soap is used because cleaning of the hands is the main purpose of washing them.” 

My takeaway? Dr Guenter Kampf didn’t say not to use the foaming soap, so I decided to go for it — with the caveat that I’d bust out the full formula liquid soap when someone in the household got sick. 

So I made my own. I’ve been using it for a while now and I am very pleased. It’s so incredibly easy to make — it’s all about the foaming mechanism on the pump. You can purchase something new like this modern one, or simply reuse a foaming pump bottle like the ones from Bath and Body Works. I stole mine from my mom’s house on a recent visit and took the label off and it looks good as new.

The only other thing you need besides the foaming pump is liquid soap. You can use either dish soap or regular liquid hand soap — it really doesn’t matter. I’ve seen people use everything from Palmolive to the refill packs from Cleancult (the only soap refill containers I don’t mind!). I stuck with my favorite mid-range brand in my favorite scent. You can also use castile soap, and add in a few drops of jojoba oil and essential oils if you prefer to go the natural route.

Credit: Ashley Poskin

Step 1: Fill the bottom of your foam soap container with about 1 inch of liquid soap. Even if you have a larger container, 1 inch of soap will be more than enough.

Credit: Ashley Poskin

Step 2: Turn on a slow stream of water and fill the container, leaving enough room to put the pump back in without overflowing.

Credit: Ashley Poskin

Step 3: Screw the foam pump in place and give the container a little shake.

That’s it! You’re finished! Once the pump is empty just repeat the steps — you’ll be amazed how long that one container of liquid soap will last.