Interior Cleaning

How to Make Homemade Foaming Hand Soap

Stop paying retail price for your favorite hand soap. It’s super easy—and takes just 5 minutes—to make a high-lather cleanser in your favorite scent.
Deirdre Mundorf Avatar
Woman washes her hands with foamy soap under a running faucet.

Photo: Tom Fenega Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

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Did you know that we use about 10 percent less water when we wash our hands using foaming soap rather than liquid soap? When we stop and think about how times we and the other members of our households lather up, switching soaps can really make a difference in the amount of water consumed—and the amount of your water bill.

Many people prefer washing their hands with foaming soap, too, because of how nicely it lathers and how easily it washes off the hands (which might have something to do with why we use less water when we use foaming soap).

While you can buy premade foaming soap online or at any major supermarket or drugstore, making your own homemade foaming hand soap is actually quite easy, and so much less expensive. With just a few simple ingredients and a foaming soap dispenser, you can have your soap made and ready to use in no time.

Yes, we said “foaming soap dispenser”—and yes, these are different from regular liquid soap dispensers. Foaming dispensers have a special air chamber that pumps air into the soap as it is released. Without this addition of air, foaming soap won’t, well, foam. It will just come out as a liquidy mess. (If you don’t want to buy a foaming soap dispenser, try reusing the empty container from a foaming soap you’ve purchased.)

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Before You Begin

The following foaming soap recipe uses water, liquid castile soap, and essential and carrier oils, but this isn’t the only way to make foaming hand soap. If you’re just looking to stretch the liquid soap you have, you can just mix liquid hand (or even dish soap) with water to make a DIY foaming soap. If you go with this method, use a 4:1 ratio of water to soap. Combine the two ingredients in your foaming soap dispenser and shake the dispenser.

If you’re reusing a foaming soap dispenser, take a few moments to make sure that the bottle is clean before you start. Ensure that the interior is completely rinsed out, and wash the bottle’s exterior and pump to eliminate any germs that may have accumulated.

This recipe will fill a 12-ounce foaming hand soap dispenser. 

RELATED: The Best Hand Soaps for a Healthy Home

5 Steps to Making Foaming Hand Soap

Step 1: Add water to the dispenser.

Woman making foaming hand soap adds water to the dispenser.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

Fill the foaming soap dispenser approximately two-thirds to three-fourths full with water (8 to 9 ounces of water). Don’t add too much water, because you need room for the other ingredients.

Step 2: Add 2 tablespoons of castile soap.

Woman making foaming hand soap adds castile soap to the bottle.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

Add 2 tablespoons of castile soap to the water in the dispenser. Castile soap is made from plant-based oils—typically olive oil, but sometimes castor, coconut, or almond oil—and doesn’t have any synthetic ingredients or animal fats. It is naturally biodegradable and nontoxic.

Step 3: Add 10 drops of essential oil.

Woman adds drops of essential oil drops to foaming hand soap dispenser.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

Add 10 drops of essential oil to the foaming soap dispenser. This can be 10 drops of a single essential oil, or five drops each of two different scents. A few of our favorite scent combinations include:

Some essential oils, like tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, or lemongrass oil, smell nice and are also antimicrobial. If you’re sensitive to fragrances, you may want to skip this step.

RELATED: The Best Soap Dispensers for the Bathroom or Kitchen

Step 4: Add up to 1 teaspoon of carrier oil for moisture.

Woman making foaming hand soap adds carrier oil to recipe.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

Carrier oils, such as jojoba oil, coconut oil, olive oil, or sweet almond oil, make your foaming soap more moisturizing, which can be especially beneficial during cold and dry winter months.

Step 5: Secure the lid and shake the bottle. 

Woman making foaming hand soap shakes bottle once all ingredients are added.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

After adding the water, castile soap, and oils of your choice, close the bottle and secure the top. Shake and turn the dispenser around for 30 seconds to 1 minute to ensure all the ingredients are incorporated. You may need to periodically re-shake the bottle to keep the oils from separating from the water.

RELATED: The Best Hand Sanitizers for Reducing Germs

Final Thoughts

With just water, castile soap, essential oils, and a carrier oil, you can easily make your own foaming hand soap to reduce water waste and save some money. Try using different essential oil blends for each season, or even for each sink in your household. Remember, in order for your soap mixture to foam, you’ll need to use a foaming soap dispenser rather than a soap bottle with a regular pump.