Pump Up The Soap. Pump Up The Soap. Pump Up The Soap. Pump It Up!
March 23, 2013 2:22 PM   Subscribe

How the hell do you get everything out of a bottle that uses a plastic pump dispenser?

Pump Dispensers. I love them because they allow for easy access to vital items such as liquid soap, Purell, moisturizing lotion, olive oil, hairspray, and Windex (to name just a few.) However, one aspect of their design has annoyed the fuck out of me for years. Specifically, what exactly do you do when the volume of the substance being dispensed reaches a level below that of the long stick portion of the dispenser that sits inside the bottle and which the substance is supposed to travel up?

For really liquid items such as hairspray and Windex, I generally go through this bizarre ritual that involves a lot of tilting of the bottle, such that the last remnants of the liquid just barely touch the tip of the stick thingy inside, and then I quickly start pumping to maximize the amount I get. However, half the time I end up spraying myself in the face rather than the intended target because of the direction of the tilt.

For slower moving items such as gels and soaps, I feel my only option is unscrew the dispenser portion itself, tilt the bottle, and then sit there for an eternity while the substance slowly crawls its way to the open end where my anxious hand awaits. And, for REALLY slow moving items like moisturizing lotion… well, I’m just screwed. Turning the bottle upside down and opening as necessary is, of course, an option but it usually involves a precarious balancing act against a wall or shelf and the bottle is easily tipped, thus ruining everything. Plus, when you do open the top using this method, shit just comes flying out the open end, causing a mess and making everyone involved very cross.

At times it’s enough that I just give up, rinse out whatever’s left, and throw it into the recycling bin. But, there again, in the case of liquid soap, there’s often enough left that I’m sitting at the sink for several minutes filling and emptying over and over again until all the soap is gone. Maddening, I tell you!

So – finally - my question, in two parts:

a) Can you offer any tips on quickly and easily accessing the last remaining bits of goodness at the bottom of a plastic pump dispenser bottle without causing a mess?

b) If your answer is to rinse and recycle, how do you minimize suds and save water without leaving residue behind that will piss off the staff at the recycling center? Oh, and can the pump itself be recycled easily, since it’s a combination of plastic pieces AND an internal metal spring in one unit?

Thank you in advance, hive mind, for helping me solve this critical puzzle of our time, and restoring a small piece of my sanity.
posted by Rewind to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
For soap, at least, you can stretch the last bits by adding a little water and shaking. Voila, pre-foamed soap (though you usually have to take the pump part off and just pour it into your hand). I also do this with conditioner.
posted by charmcityblues at 2:26 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Unscrew the top and add a little water for soaps, shampoos, etc. yes, they'll be a little diluted, but they still do the job.
posted by mareli at 2:26 PM on March 23, 2013

Cut it with a little water, give it a vigorous shake, and enjoy your slightly-diluted Product XYZ!
posted by threeants at 2:26 PM on March 23, 2013

Best answer: I open the next container of whatever substance is running out, use the first bit of it, then unscrew both tops and put the nearly-empty bottle mouth-to-mouth on top of the nearly-full one for a day to let the dregs top it off.
posted by carsonb at 2:29 PM on March 23, 2013 [29 favorites]

I do a carsonb on just about everything except foodstuffs.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 2:32 PM on March 23, 2013

Using a funnel is less messy.
posted by brujita at 2:33 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I save all the flip-top dispensers from stuff, then when a pump dispenser stops dispensing, I toss out the pump mechanism, find a flip-top that fits, screw it on, put bottle upside down and usually get about 20% more product out of everything.
posted by tristeza at 2:34 PM on March 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I could *swear* I just recently (in the last several days) saw a tv commercial for cleaning products that had extended the tube in the pump to go all the way to the bottom. Now, of course I can't find it!! At the time I thought why weren't they doing this all along??

In answer to your questions: a) I do the other things mentioned -- diluting with water and continuing to use, marrying with new containers. b) I make an effort to clean, but I'm not really concerned about some soap residue for the recyclers. (I assume whatever process they use burns up the residue??) I don't recycle things that have both metal and plastic. Mixing in this way causes my recycling people to leave me the offending object along with a nasty, shaming note at the curb.
posted by loveyallaround at 2:38 PM on March 23, 2013

what tristeza said. I've had a month of daily use from a conditioner bottle that the pump dispenser gave up on.
posted by scruss at 2:49 PM on March 23, 2013

Best answer: Buy large bottles to refill your pump bottles with and then you don't need to worry about this problem (or buy the products in bulk). You just add more when the pump no longer produces anything.

It is unlikely that the pump itself can be recycled. Theoretically, it could be, but in real world recycling, that may or may not happen. Ask your local waste authority if you must know. Note that in general, plastic bottles are made from virgin plastic and the bottles are "recycled" into products like plastic decking, benches, etc.
posted by ssg at 2:52 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Go to the hobby shop, buy a small piece of tubing that fits on the end of the pump. Stick it on. Take it off for reuse when the bottle is empty.

Or, get one of these to drain the old bottle into the new bottle.
posted by Marky at 2:53 PM on March 23, 2013

I refill the smaller dispensing container with the pump from a larger container that doesn't have a pump. It often takes several refills to completely use all of the product in the larger container. On the last refill, I position the source container over the destination container and let them sit for an hour or so. All of the product will end up in the destination container thanks to gravity.

(Even if larger refill containers with your product aren't sold, you can still transfer the contents of one smaller dispensing container to another smaller dispensing container.)
posted by Brian Puccio at 3:11 PM on March 23, 2013

Not the safest thing in the world, but when a bottle of lotion is almost empty I toss the pump and saw off the top two thirds of the bottle with a serrated knife. Then I still have about a week's worth of lotion that I keep "fresh" by putting a plastic baggie over it like a birdcage cover. Yes, I have a plastic bag I keep and reuse just for this purpose.
posted by fozzie_bear at 3:48 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I also try to buy bulk refills. You can often do this with soap, cleaning products, lotion.
posted by radioamy at 4:00 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't ever think of the bottle as something that can be emptied. Think of it as a bottle that gets continually refilled by product you buy in bulk.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:35 PM on March 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

For lotion (like my big bottle of body lotion) I take the pump off, hold the bottle horizontally, and give the bottle a good couple of thwacks on the counter - so the lotion is collected on the side of the bottle instead of the bottom. As the bottle is laying on its side on the counter, I use the stick part of the pump mechanism to scrape the lotion out of the bottle.

Anything in the shower with a pump top (like my face soap) I leave turned upside down in the wire hanging shelf in my shower with the pump dangling through the gap in the wire. When I need to use it, I just screw off the pump top and let the soap drip out. It doesn't take a lot of time for it to drip out since its already collected at the top of the bottle.

For cleaning products, I use carsonb's method of emptying the older stuff into the newer bottle when there's room.
posted by youngergirl44 at 5:40 PM on March 23, 2013

I too use refillable bottles/bulk refill when possible. (One of my favorites is these little fizzy glass cleaner/all-purpose cleaner tabs that you dissolve in a spray bottle full of water.)

Other things I do:

Dilute/rinse out the bottle (especially with hair products, since I'm using them in the shower and there's a lot of water involved anyhow)

Cut off the end of the bottle and scoop out the dregs with my hand (especially for my expensive moisturizer than comes in a plastic end-sealed tube)

Turn the bottle upside down onto a washcloth (for soap) or into the laundry basket (for laundry detergent) well in advance of when I actually plan to wash anything

With windex, I would just dump the windex onto my rag and then wipe
posted by mskyle at 6:40 PM on March 23, 2013

For lotion, I use a knife to hack the bottle in half when it's almost empty and dip in my fingers to scoop out the dregs. I either use them straight from the hacked bottle (maybe trim the edge first to adjust the height of the sides, for easier access), or scoop them into a travel-sized container.

To keep the dregs from drying out while you use them up, you can turn the top half of the bottle into a giant lid. Trim both sides of the cut bottle neatly with scissors, remove & discard the pump, slap a piece of tape over the little pump hole to cover it, then invert the top half into the bottom half (like a funnel) to make a makeshift lid.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:19 PM on March 24, 2013

I have one of these Drip-It things that I use for things like shampoo that will flow out on their own. For thick lotions, I usually put the almost-empty bottle in the microwave for about 15 seconds or so; that will enable you to pour it right out into something else. It will thicken up again when it cools. Be careful to heat it up just enough to get it out as those bottles soften up when they get warm.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 6:41 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I buy refills that come in larger sizes without the pumps and just top it up and keep going. For things like windex etc that I can't find refills for in the US I just tip the bit that left into the new bottle, I might have to use the new bottle a few times to make room.

Buy a funnel if you want to pour the liquids, slower moving and otherwise, without a mess. It also makes it way easier to prop up things like conditioner bottles and lotions to decant it into another container as you can more easily balance one container on another and lean it against the wall with out all the futzing at lining things up.
posted by wwax at 10:03 AM on March 25, 2013

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