DIY Foaming Hand Soap


How to Make Your Own Foaming Hand Soap for Pennies DIY Foaming Hand Soap

I started making my own foaming hand soap pretty early in my switch to a more natural lifestyle. With concerns over antibacterial ingredients in many hand soaps and potty-training little ones who found the need to wash their hands/arms/the counter with soap a thousand times a day, I needed a healthy and frugal option.

Thankfully, there is a natural, homemade and incredibly simple option that works just as well and doesn’t cost $3.59 a bottle like the foaming versions at the store.

The recipe itself is literally so simple that I now have my six year old refill the bottles and it takes just seconds to make. I keep the few simple ingredients on hand and we never have to buy hand soap or worry about running out…Surprisingly, this foaming version also makes a decent shaving cream in the shower…

Before you begin, you’ll need a foaming hand soap container. I originally ordered this pretty but pricey foam dispenser online before I realized that  there was a much more frugal and inexpensive option: Household Traditions sells an organic foaming hand soap (in a dispenser) for much less than the fancy version and the container can be re-used after the soap is used up. You’ll get a bottle of soap to begin with and a free container at the end…

Once you’ve procured a foaming dispenser of some kind… here is the (incredibly simple) recipe:

4.7 from 15 reviews
DIY Foaming Hand Soap
Prep time
Total time
Incredibly simple, natural and frugal homemade foaming hand soap that cleans without chemicals or antibacterial agents.
Recipe type: Household
  • Water (distilled or boiled is best but not needed if it will be used within a few weeks)
  • Liquid Castille Soap (I get mine here at a discount)
  • ½ tsp liquid oil like olive or almond
  • Essential oils of choice for scent (optional)
  1. Fill the soap dispenser to about 1 inch of the top (leaving room for the bulky foaming pump and the soap to be added).
  2. Add at least 2 tablespoons of liquid castille soap to the water mixture (NOTE: do not add the soap first or it will create bubbles when the water is added.
  3. Add the oil (optional but it helps preserve the life of the dispenser) and any essential oils if you are using them.
  4. Close and lightly swish to mix.
  5. Use as you would any regular foaming soap.
Do you make your own soap already? If not… will you start now? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. Audrey Perry says

    We’re just starting to convert our home over to ‘green’ products and will definitely incorporate this recipe.

  2. epmama651 says

    I’ve been making foaming soap for a couple years. I mix Bronners castille soap with water 1:5 ratio. Trader Joe’s has the best price around for the soap. I used the foaming dispensers from Target (Method) once they are empty. I found buying a dispenser by itself was not worth it.

    • Lee says

      Thanks for the ratios. When you’re making them for gifts, buying the dispenser isn’t a choice. I found them for about $1.70 a bottle.

  3. Laura says

    Wow, looks really cool! Just need to find some good liquid castille soap that won’t cost me an arm and a leg (I live in France). I was wondering what you do for body soap? I’ve been looking for a simple recipe with no Lye, to make at home, but I don’t think I’ve come a cross annything on you site yet :)

    • Kattie Meyer says

      All soap has lye solid soap has sodium hydroxide, liquid soap has potassium hydroxide. Without lye as a catalyst for saponification you cannot make soap. There is no lye present after the saponification process but it is absolutely necessary to turn oils into soap. You won’t find a soap without it.

      • Laura says

        Oh right, well I’m not against Lye at all, but I just don’t think I could go through the whole process of making it (for different reasons)… I was more like wondering what I could use as a substitute for soap. I know people who wash only with honey, others who use sugar scrubs etc…

  4. Aneah Epshteyn says

    Been doing this for years myself as well. I have found that Lemon Myrtle EO is a great all around anti-bacterial add in and to my nose, diluted in soap, it smells like watermelon!

  5. Meghan Schaffer Hamilton says

    I make my own bar soap. I have potassium hydroxide to make liquid soap. My first attempt at that was not good. One of these days I will try it again. We just use bar soap for everything. I use it as shampoo and rinse with cider vinegar. My husband and son don’t bother with the vinegar.

  6. Kelly Smith says

    I went out today and bought 3 glass pump dispensers at Everything’s A Dollar, for $1 each (even cheaper than buying a pump with the soap already in it). Added some orange and patchouli essential oils to mine. Yum!

  7. Andrea Langille says

    I made this a week or so ago -using washed ‘Method’ pumps- and love it! But…the soap is turning pink and I am wondering if that’s normal/ok/safe? I did as above and included Lemongrass EO. Thanks

    • Pearson says

      lemon and plastic not good!! f you use citrus you should use glass. the citrus pulls the toxic material out of the plastic and puts it in your product which you then use to wash your hands with..

      • Charles says

        We recently discovered that if there’s turmeric on our dish sponge, putting bronner’s Sal Suds on the sponge turns that area pink. Sal Suds is their dish soap. As a backpacker I learned that if you use iodine treated water to wash a pot you cooked pasta in, the pasta’s starch would react with the iodine’ turning the water blue.

        Found this:

        Not quite the same but maybe helpful.

  8. diana says

    maybe dumb but i guess im sort of a weirdo about the antibacterial. i guess what im saying is that if the potty training kids dont wipe well and it gets on their hands how does this soap kill the ecoli? thats the only reason i wouldnt make it.. i like hand soap that kills germs well. or does this too?

    • rachel says

      Most-if not all- citrus essential oils have natural antibacterial properties…as well as many other essential oils. So, adding a lemon or wild orange EO would smell nice as well as be beneficial for knocking out germs…

    • Ian Tanner says

      I’m a single dad raising my 10 year old son. We bought SoftSoap Antibacterial from costco. used it for years. Every winter my son’s hands cracked, chapped bright red and painful. His doctor recommended petrolium jelly. We used it and it worked. THEN I READ THE INGREDIENTS on the SoftSoap huge jug from costco. BAD BAD BAD! We started using Doctor Bronners bar soap in the shower and Doctor Bronners liquid Castille soap from Trader Joes in a diluted form for liquid soap. Guess what? NO chapping, cracking redness or pain and NO PETROLEUM JELLY. READ YOUR INGREDIENTS ON ALL YOUR FOOD AND BEAUTY PRODUCTS! DO RESEARCH! MOST OF IT IS TOXIC POISON!!

    • Nancy says

      i know this post is old but wanted to let you know that using antibacterial soap for a long period of time, 3 months or more makes you become immune to it…so it isnt doing any good anyway, all you are doiongis adding chemicals you dont need. Its like taking antibiotics for too long, they stop working and cause harm.

  9. Shannon says

    I make my own liquid Castile soap from a bar and when mixed in the dispenser it is getting gel like. It does not do it in any other dispenser and I have a few. Just the method foaming dispenser – the gel seems to be clogging it. I tried a lesser amout of Castile soap and the same thing. Any suggestions?

    • Shasta says

      I have made my own liquid Castile soap from eco-friendly websites, and mine too gels. I kept mine in large Ball jars and now can’t get it out to put it into dispensers. Not sure why this is – none of the recipes seem to come with that warning or how to reverse the gelling.

    • Theresa says

      I make my own liquid Castile soap and added some to test in a foaming soap dispenser and had no issues, might be that your soap is not this enough for the dispenser, not real sure though.

  10. Melissa says

    Just made this using, Bronners castille peppermint liquid soap, sweet almond oil, and lemon lime essential oil. After a couple of pumps it had dried my hands out terribly. Anyone know what to add – take out to make it less drying. Thanks

    • Randall Rodriguez says

      Not all the people responds equally to olive oil soap.

      I have found that for some people high percentage olive soaps can clean too deeply the skin drying it out.

      I prevent that using 30% olive oil, 25% sunflower, 5% castor and 40% palm, yes, palm… I am from Costa Rica and we have very good laws protecting the workers and environment and the lands have decades with the same palm trees that were planted for rebuilding the economy of agricultural little towns that collapsed after the big banana companies left the country and thousands of unemployed people, in other words no orangutans in danger (we don’ t have them anyway) The castor has to be added after trace and it will be very moisturizing.

      • Stephanie Hammond says

        Thanks for the heads up about Palm Oil in Costa Rica! Congratulations to your country for having a truly sustainable product. As a conscious consumer I’m always on the look out for products grown sustainably. Also, thank you for the additional ingredients to the recipe.

    • Emily Freeman says

      My girls have trouble with the peppermint & citrus soaps making their hands exceptionally dry. I use almond, rose, or lavender Dr. Bronner’s and they haven’t had any more problems. I don’t add the oil either, just the soap & water and it works just fine (used the same dispensers for over a year).

    • Cassie says

      Hi. I have heard that Jojaba Oil is GREAT for eliminating dry skin (hands). I get dry hands so so bad in the winter esp if I have em in water too often. So I’m currently making my first NON TOXIC foam soap! Although I have coconut oil, I realized I need Jojaba oil too to take care of my dry hands:-)

  11. Joy Shank says

    I love this soap recipe but keep having a problem with the dispenser. The pump is not recoiling (you have to pull it back up). I have bought two different foaming soap dispensers and it happened with both within a few days of making this soap. I have 2 little ones and it’s difficult for them to pull the pump back up every time. Any suggestions?

    • Sylvia Molina says

      I have been using this method for a year, I use Dr Bronners peppermint scent and add vitamin e and sometimes coconut oil. I also use the food coloring in liquid to give it color for the different decor. Up to two weeks

        • Nichole says

          it shouldn’t, but it depends on the temp in your home. You could try some Vit E oil instead! Good for the skin and won’t harden.

        • Catherine says

          You could use fractionated coconut oil if you are worried about it hardening. Fractionated CO is liquid at all temps.

  12. April McBride says

    I just made this soap and put it in my handmade mason jar dispenser! This is the creamiest foaming soap I’ve ever used! Thanks a bunch!

  13. Marci Carley Mitchell says

    Your website is awesome! Ran out of foaming hand soap this morning and sure enough, there’s a recipe on here for it! Thanks! Makes me feel that one day I might be free of WalMart! lol

  14. Jessica says

    Can’t wait to try it. Just switching over to more natural products. Love your site. I’ve found tons of useful information.

  15. Ronda Ryan Colavito says

    I’m so excited you posted this. I was thinking about making my own foaming soap and hadn’t gotten around to finding a recipe. If I wanted to use it as body soap, would you recommend adjusting the ingredients at all?

  16. Trish says

    I use Trader Joe’s dish soap and water to make my foaming hand soap. I put about an inch of dish soap in the empty container and fill the rest with water. Give a little shake and done! Sooooo simple and easy!

  17. Tarynn says

    I have been using this recipe for a couple months now and was curious if I should clean the pump of the soap dispenser when I make new batches of soap? And if so, any tips?

    • Sue says

      To clean used container: Wash dispenser well. Rinse with clear vinegar. Rinse again and let drain. The vinegar helps kill any bacteria that may be in the container.

  18. Miss Marjorie says

    Can I use coconut oil instead of almond or olive? Coconut is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and is great for the skin, will not allow dryness. My only concern would be that it hardens. Has anyone tried it? I love wellnessmama! Thank you!

    • rachel says

      You could probably do fractionated coconut oil…it doesn’t solidify at room temp. I added Vit E oil to mine instead of the olive oil and it works well…

  19. Tiffany Rose Reposa says

    Just made two soap pumps of this foaming soap in about two minutes! So easy! I used lavender peppermint for my bathroom and peppermint tea tree for the kitchen.

  20. Stephanie says

    In other research I’ve done for homemade bath and body products, I found that anything made with water or water based ingredients need a preservative added to avoid bacterial growth. Does anyone know?

      • Madeline says

        I made homemade soap years ago from a recipe in a book but it was really thin. This led to using more, not feeling clean, my then toddler making a mess with it, etc. Now I know why.

        And glad I continued reading the posts as I was ready to go out and make it again and just use the soap bottles (not foaming) I have in the bathrooms already. Now I will investigate where I can get the ‘foaming’ variety.


  21. Laura A says

    Sounds pretty simple. I definitely will try this recipe. If it’s organic, good for us! I was a a teen during the “hippy” era when everything we did was toward saving our planet! We started the EPA & many others organizations bettering our world. Just too bad many of us gave up on saving the world, so we went back to making the almighty dollar. Your website is a breath of fresh air. Thanks.

  22. Trish says

    If using a Dr. Bronner’s bar soap for this liquid soap recipe, is it necessary to add a preservative to the finished product to prevent bacteria, etc.?? Or is the preservative already in the Dr. Bronner’s bar soap? Does adding lemon or orange EO provide enough anti-bacterial properties without the use of a preservative. Thanks! I have been making this and wasn’t adding a preservative and wondered about the shelf life.

  23. Fawn says

    I made homemade baby wipes for 6 years and found that adding two or three drops of tea tree and lavender EO’s kept them from mildewing. I assume the same amounts of EO’s in this foaming handsoap recipe would be enough to prevent the growth of bacteria.

  24. Kay says

    I’ve been wanting so much to try this recipe, so a while back I purchased a bottle of Method soap to get the dispenser. Today I made the recipe, and I am flummoxed — this doesn’t look right! I used boiled water, 2 Tbsp Dr. Bronner’s unscented liquid castile soap, 1/2 tsp olive oil, and lavender essential oil, just like the recipe. I followed instructions exactly. But every time I shake up the bottle and let it sit until the next use, it looks like all the yellowish oil has risen to the top. Surely this isn’t right? There was never any mention in the article or any of these comments about having to re-shake the bottle every time before you use it (and that would be a total pain, anyway!), so I don’t understand why mine is doing this. I live in an area with medium to medium-hard water — that doesn’t have anything to do with the ingredients not staying mixed, does it? After having this happen, I went back and re-checked all my ingredients. I noticed it said “at least 2 Tbsp castile soap,” so I added another 1.5 Tbsp of the soap and re-tried it (someone else said they use a ratio of soap to water 1:5), but still the same result – the oil keeps separating each time it’s shaken. It looks kind of gross, too. Any suggestions or ideas?

    • says

      It can do that and I think it does depend somewhat on the water. Next time, you can use less oil if you want, it just keeps the pump from sticking and keeps hands from drying out. Almond oil is clear, so that would be another option that wouldn’t have the color that you don’t like

      • Karen says

        We have been making this great recipe for about a month using Dr. Bronner’s unscented Baby-Mild. We go through a bottle in about 2 weeks, so I didn’t bother to boil the water or use distilled water. We did not add additional oils as the soap already has oils added. We find the soap sinks in the bottle and it has to be shaken each time. Although it doesn’t dry out our hands, it does leave a “tacky” feeling on our hands. Any suggestions?

  25. Maureen says

    Thank you sooooo much!! My 5 yr old daughter was just diagnosed with eczema this week and we were told not to use antibacterial soaps, anything with fragrance or dyes either. I’ve used castille soap for years in cleaning & as a laundry detergent. Just never as a hand soap. I spent 1/2 an hour this morning in Target trying to figure out what hand soap I was going to change her to because everything has either a scent, antibacterial or dye in it. So after a quick web search in the soap aisle I found your site & this recipe & I feel sooo much better now! Thanks!!

    • Alisa says

      You should try modifying your daughter’s diet to try to find the culprit causing her eczema. I stopped eating corn, and 2-3 weeks later noticed that my very bothersome & sometimes very painful eczema that I had suffered with for more than two years had disappeared. I accidentally tested my hypothesis that it was corn by eating some gluten free bread with corn in it, and back it came for about two weeks after avoiding corn again before it healed again. It may not be corn for your daughter, but definitely related to diet! Getting rid of gluten cleared up my relentless acne even during my cycle when it would get the worst. It may actually be a combo of getting rid of the two.

      • Isolusine says

        I agree with the food allergy comment above, has she been tested for food allergies? My son suffered from terrible eczema during his first year of life and it was most likely due to an egg allergy. His allergist said the majority of young children with eczema have an egg allergy. My son’s eczema has been almost totally cleared up since we started avoiding them in his diet. However, I think many kids outgrow that allergy by age 5 so it may be that or something else…just worth a shot. Eczema can be so terrible :(

  26. Nichole says

    I was almost confused reading the instructions. B/c it made it sound like to make it with boiling water means you’re going to let it sit unused for a few months? Is that what you’re saying? If it’s going to be used instantly, don’t use boiling water?

    Where can Bronners castille soap be found? Is it going to be in most health food stores? Also, do you think Vit E oil will work? I already bought a huge bottle of it at target a month ago and figured that might be a nice Clear colored option since the Olive oil color might be an issue (from what other comments say).

    I do need to start making these though b/c we go through a bottle of Bath and Body Works foaming soap in a week (for two people) and it was getting a little too pricey. Plus, in the winters, their soaps give me dermatitis (b/c of the cold already screwing with my hands), and the cheapest soaps in stores that are about a dollar are just meh, full of chemicals. Thanks for this recipe!

  27. Harsh Lath says


    Thanks for the recipe. I believe Castille soap has Lye (which I believe is a chemical), then how come this soap can be called totally natural.

    PS: By the way, great website.

  28. Pam says

    I have made several batches of this, and it is perfect! And I feel so much better that my kids are using something all natural. One questions: I have read in other places that essential oils can do leach the chemicals from plastic containers. Is it safe to use in plastic containers or do I need to use a glass container?

  29. Amber says

    I am allergic to hemp so I cannot use Castille soap. I bought some without realizing it was hemp and made hand soap and my hands broke out in hives. is there anything I can use as a soap, body wash, shampoo, etc because I really don’t want to use the chemical stuff.

  30. Miles says

    Hello everyone!
    I unable to find empty foaming dispensers anywhere near where I live, opted to try something unique- a spray bottle.
    They’re cheap and readily available. This is my recipe for showering soap.
    The recipe:
    1/3c castille soap
    1 tsp olive oil
    1 small drop of Neem oil (great healing oil!)
    10 drops of Tea Tree oil (anti-bacterial+healing)
    4 drops White Flower oil (Chinese antiseptic+topical anisthetic oil-smells ‘pepperminty’)
    4 small drops Friars balsam
    In a medium spray bottle, add the friars balsam and oils to 1/4c warm water and mix about. Then, once thoroughly mixed, add the castille and top up with more warm water. Gingerly mix.
    I rise myself in the shower then spray this on wet skin and it feels great!
    P.S. if you add 2Tbsp of Baking soda to the mixture and change the bottle to a squirt type, then you have a great gardener’s hand soap! Have fun with it!

  31. Rebecca says

    If essential oils shouldn’t be in anything but glass containers, what about the plastic straw from the pump? Thoughts?

    • Miles says

      I’m not sure. It would stand to reason that if these oils are in a nondiluted state, perhaps, but I cannot be sure.

  32. Harsh Lath says

    How do I make soap antibacterial. I read somewhere in comments that Tea tree oil can be added, but just want to confirm

  33. Lisa says

    I made the hand soap using grated Castile bar soap. It seems to clog the foaming pump cause after a day I can’t press it down. Any suggestions?

  34. Kanue says

    I’ve tried making foaming hand soap and used a foaming dispenser, but I feel my product is to thin, any suggestions on how to thicken it up?

  35. christine says

    Thanks! Our soap dispenser has been empty for a week (we had to resort to bar soap which just makes things a mess) because neither my husband nor myself wanted to spend $8 for the bottle that refills our dispenser 2+ times. We already had castille soap and olive oil around. Simple and so much more affordable!

  36. Kate says

    I would like to make a big container of this stuff so that we can just refill the dispensers easily….can you recommend any proportions for water/soap/ essential oils?

  37. Carey says

    Just curious if this HAS to be used with a foaming dispenser? I just want to make a liquid soap to refill the regular dispensers I already have. Thank you!

  38. Michelle DeVore says

    Does anyone know where I can find more decorative of plain Glass foaming soap dispensers? The Mason Jar option doesn’t really go with my home décor.

    I can’t seem to find glass dispensers anywhere?

  39. Leah says

    I love this easy recipe. We just switched to it about a month ago. We go through it quickly in our bathroom (probably because we cloth diaper 2 babies, so with each diaper change= hand wash with soap). I have not added essential oils for scent, but was curious what your thoughts are on adding essential oils to this in a plastic foaming dispenser or if it should actually be in a glass dispenser to prevent leaching of the oils? Any feedback would be appreciated:)

  40. Minh says

    I’m in college and live in a suite with three other girls and we go through a lot of hand soap. I’m really glad that I found this recipe because it looks super easy and affordable to make. I’m just curious if I could add coconut oil to it to make it a moisturizing soap?

  41. Cindy says

    I have tried and tried and tried to make this and many of your other recipes with little luck. The Dr. Bronners liquid makes me itch, badly. I actually prefer Kirk’s Coco Castile ( I just wish it was organic!!). I found a recipe somewhere in the internet explaining how to turn the bar to liquid (which is actually gel-like). 13 ounces of water per ounce of bar soap. Melt the soap. Let sit for 12-24 hours and then use it. I prefer this soap, BUT it just doesn’t always work right…. I really want to be able to make my own everything. I will be trying your recipe for handmade soap. I am hoping that you can please tell me how to turn your bar (and any other bar) to liquid and then figure out how to replace that liquid (watered down bar soap) with the liquid called for in your recipes so that I get a good result. Thank you so much! I love, love, LOVE your site!!!

  42. Jennifer says

    Has anyone had any problems with their pump wheezing? I’ve been using watered down liquid soap from walmart, but just switched today to castile instead and now they’re not working- the pump isn’t stuck, it’s just shooting air out with almost no foam. I took all the parts apart and cleaned them all out- wow- there was mold and gross stuff in there. But now they won’t work. Argh! :)

  43. Claudine says

    I have tried different recipes for hand soap and dish soap. All contained Dr.Broone’s soaps and all leave a greasy layer on the bathroom sink or kitchen sink. Do you have an idea to avoid this?
    Thanks Claudine

  44. Mary says

    I was going to use Lemon Essential Oil (thought it would be a good hand soap in the kitchen), but in the description it states do not use on skin…
    Are there certain essential oils to use for this? I also make lotions and would like to use them for either…Thanks-

  45. Jennifer says

    Hi Katie!
    Thank you so much for all your hard work–I LOVE your blog!! Will you please tell me what size bottle this recipe is for? I scanned the comments and could not find an answer there. Also, do you use citrus essential oils in the plastic foaming bottles? Are they diluted enough so as not to leach chemicals from the plastic? Thank you for your time.

  46. Donna says

    I’ve just recently made my own handsoap with water, jojoba oil and essential oils. I am using a foaming soap bottle, but it seems that it keeps separating. Is this normal?

  47. Linda says

    Someone else asked if you can use grapeseed oil and didn’t receive a response. I would also like to know if grapeseed oil can be used. Thank you!

  48. Elaine says

    Does anyone know of an organic castille soap besides Dr. Bronners? I don’t want the hemp oil that is in Dr. Bronners. Thanks!

  49. Lila says

    Hi there,
    I was wondering if you could use this recipe to make normal pump soap? If I don’t have the foaming pump would it still work ok with a regular pump (obviously without the foaming part).

    Thanks so much, I enjoy your blog.

      • Lila says

        Awesome! I was thinking that maybe the foam pump recipe might be too watery for the regular pump – I will look for the new recipe for liquid hand soap!

        I’m just having trouble locating foam pumps so I thought I would ask!

        Thanks again for all you do – keeps us all inspired!!!


  50. Lori says

    Can Branch Basics be used for the soap? Also, so many posts and concerns about the plastics and essential oils, but I have never found where anyone mentions the fact that the soap dispensers and spray bottles, even though they may be class containers, use plastic tubes and pumps/sprayers. I am no expert by any means, but it seems to me that these would deteriorate much faster in that they are totally surrounded by the liquid than the bottles. And are they all BPA free? Any thoughts?

  51. Retta says

    This is great! My husband is extremely particular about the sudsing of soap. He always complains about the more “natural” soaps/shampoos/detergents I’ve bought or made over the years. I used this recipe to refill a method foaming dispenser, and he didn’t even notice the change this time. We’ll be using this recipe for all if our hand soaps now. Thanks!

  52. Brandyb says

    This is an excellent recipe!!!! I used the castile soap from MRH and Dr Bronners and they both worked GREAT, but I made the mistake of using a cheaper castile (that added ingredients to thicken the soap), and it was awful, watery and didn’t foam. As long as you stick to a GOOD castile, this is fantastic.
    Thanks for the great recipe!

  53. Sarah says

    Grape seed oil as a preservative: not sure about that. Grapefruit seed extract (GSE) is excellent as a natural preservative that we have used for over a year in my son’s cloth baby wipe solution recipe. GSE would even provide some antibacterial properties without the risk of antibacterial resistance that comes along with using the chemical antibacterials. It is a clear liquid and I use 1 drop per 8 oz. foaming dispenser.

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