Can non-foamy liquid hand soap work in a foaming dispenser?
April 7, 2008 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to use regular liquid hand soap with one of those foaming soap dispensers?

I really like foaming dispensers because the soap pumps out pre-lathered for you, but it would be nice to be able to use any liquid hand soap you want. I've never tried replacing the less viscous foaming soap with thicker regular hand soap, but I assume that there is a reason why the foaming stuff is more fluid.

Would adding water serve to make regular liquid hand soap more fluid (and therefore work well with a foaming dispenser), or is that just going to make the soap foam up in the bottle?
posted by schmoppa to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I've tried it a million ways and couldn't get it to work. Finally, someone told me that the foaming soaps have some special ingredient that makes them, uh, foam. But if you figure out a way, let me know. All I made was a series of soapy messes.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:38 PM on April 7, 2008

I have diluted regular Dial (well, actually, the store-brand knockoff) antibacterial about 1:1 with water, then put that in the foam dispenser thing. It seems to work okay.

One hallmark of the scientific method is its emphasis on replicability. I would encourage you to perform a similar study, in order to see if you duplicate my findings.
posted by box at 2:43 PM on April 7, 2008

(Also, I'm pretty sure that almost all soaps have foaming agents (surfactants, I think they're called) in them.)
posted by box at 2:45 PM on April 7, 2008

As a former procyberathlete, I used to worry about playing matches with equipment that wasn't mine. Anyway, to make a long story short, I've learned the following:
- biofilms adversely eventually affect mouse buttons, balls and pads
- foamy soap works better than regular soap at removing palm salsa
- hand sanitizers, while handy and quick, dry out hands too much resulting in poor mouse control
- hospital-grade non-soap sanitizers, while effective at killing bugs, imparts a terrible flavor to Cheetos and other corn chip snacks
- you can make your own foamy soap from liquid soap as I learned here.

I still compete with other MetaLosers, but stopped washing my hands and started using a trackball. The ball has accreted layers of funk, like a pearl, resulting in ultra-smooth performance. If you're not competing in clan matches, consider not bathing, or at least wearing gloves whilst bathing. Otherwise, give the linked method a try.

Your pal,
posted by herrdoktor at 2:55 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have had no problem re-using foaming hand soap containers by refilling them with regular liquid soap (like Dr. Bronner's) and water in terms of the product result. Use much less soap than you would think--a couple of teaspoons per average-sized container and make sure the solution is well mixed. If you like the foam creamier, use more soap or add a little bath oil. The problem, for me, hasn't been the foamy soap, it has been the fact that the dispenser eventually gets busted after several refills.

Then, my local natural grocery and home goods place started selling refillable foaming soap dispensers, which are much sturdier. It work great and mixes a lot of air into the soap solution.

I couldn't find an online source for the refillable dispenser (I could find them, but not from a source I have personally used) but check your local co-op, Whole Foods, etc. This is the kind of thing that is great to swap into our lives in lieu of use-once items.
posted by rumposinc at 2:59 PM on April 7, 2008

Shazbot. Maybe the funk has affected my typing. I'm too late!

In all seriousness, I've tried the method, and it worked well enough to last through a jumbo-sized bottle of liquid soap. No slime. YMMV.
posted by herrdoktor at 3:00 PM on April 7, 2008

I have the method one. I mix a bit of soap with lots of water. Comes out as foam every time.
posted by necessitas at 3:05 PM on April 7, 2008

Use much less soap than you would think

This is the key. Like 1 part softsoap to 10 parts water.
posted by selfmedicating at 3:41 PM on April 7, 2008

I hadn't tried the water trick... Otherwise it just jams before squirting out a tiny bit and making an awful noise.

I'm not sure I love the idea of 90% diluted soap, though?
posted by fogster at 3:51 PM on April 7, 2008

I've been doing this for years. I mix Dr. Bronners crazy hemp soap about 75% diluted with water, and it works great in any of the foaming soap dispensers. It takes me over a year to go through a whole bottle of Dr. Bronners this way, and my hands smell minty fresh. I have a bottle for the shower, too.
posted by mullingitover at 4:03 PM on April 7, 2008

I have successfully used dish soap (you know, Joy, Dawn, whatever, you name it) diluted about 1 parts soap to 2 parts water in a Dial foaming dispenser for YEARS. I love my foamy soap.
posted by fiercecupcake at 4:06 PM on April 7, 2008

We've been reusing an old Body Shop foaming soap bottle for years, refilling it with Dr. Bronner's and water. It's still going strong. I would agree that the key is a fairly thin liquid soap, diluted with water. Anything will get that dilute, I would think, with enough water.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:00 PM on April 7, 2008

I was looking into this too, it seems like the works get gummed up after a while. Two suggestions I have read (but not yet tried):

1) Add a small bit of glycerin, to make it easier to pump, especially as it ages.

2) The intended foaming refill apparently has a higher relative concentration of "foaming agents," such as sodium lauryl sulfate. When you replace with thinned-out, regular soap, it seems as though the foaming action is lackluster. So you could boost your homemade mix with a ~tiny~ amount of SLS, found relatively inexpensively when marketed as "quilt soap." ("Tiny!," as it is normally used at a concentration of 1 tbsp into a full washing machine.) $7-9 for 8 oz, should go a long way.

3) You would probably get more mileage out of your foam if you used distilled water, or at the least, if the water is not hard water, as "anionic detergents are inactivated by too hard water". I'd imagine this could help mitigate additional bacterial growth too. Question is, are you cutting into your savings at $1-$2 a gallon?
posted by BleachBypass at 6:37 PM on April 7, 2008

I use one with diluted Dr. Bronners, it works really great.
posted by piedmont at 8:14 PM on April 7, 2008

I've gotten this to work with face cleanser as well, and am starting to experiment with adding essential oils and salts and such.
posted by casarkos at 9:49 PM on April 7, 2008

I use it with my dog's (rather expensive) medicated shampoo. I cut it about 1:2 with distilled water and put it in a (separately purchased) foamer. Lasts longer thinned down, and less goes down the drain if it's pre-foamed. She still gets clean and her skin is happy.
posted by foxydot at 6:40 AM on April 8, 2008

I do this all the time, I use 1 part soap to 4 parts tap water (I have pretty soft water where I live). A google for foaming soap recipe yields tons of information.
posted by TedW at 6:45 AM on April 8, 2008

Thirding Dr. Bronner's. We use ours full-strength, but then it does seem to gum up the dispenser. I'll try diluting it next time.
posted by pmbuko at 7:57 AM on April 8, 2008

I love AskMe. I just looked at my brand new bottle of Dr. Bronner's and my nearly empty foaming soap dispenser and thought I'd take a gander over here. Et viola!
posted by kosem at 5:24 PM on August 20, 2008

You guys rock. I saw this thread when it was posted; it was here when I needed it; and sure enough, 1/4 dish soap to 3/4 water works a treat! Thanks!
posted by leahwrenn at 7:49 AM on October 23, 2008

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