Homemade Foaming Hand Soap Recipe

Our family goes through a ridiculous amount of hand soap.  It started many years ago when our oldest daughter grew old enough to wash her own hands.  Something about fistfuls of soap, which in turn become fistfuls of bubbles, is really fascinating for children.  They are wet, sticky, and make fabulous messes.


With some patience and training, we were able to teach our little girl to go easier on the soap.  Then our second daughter came along.  She thought soap was even more fun than her older sister.  So we also taught her not to play in the bathroom sink.  And the amount of money we spent on soap reached a reasonable level again.

Shortly after both girls became trustworthy enough to wash their hands without supervision, I opened an in-home daycare.  That was followed by us becoming full-time foster parents.  Soap use reached an all-time high.  I learned quickly that virtually all children like to play in bathroom sink bubbles.  And between food prep, wiping noses, and changing diapers, I was washing my own hands about a million times a day.

We did three things that helped the situation considerably:

  1. We switched to foaming soap.  Kids often feel like they only have enough soap to wash when they have a handful of it.  Foaming soap takes up more space in a hand than traditional liquid soap.  One or two pumps of the foaming dispenser accomplishes the same task as about a dozen pumps from a regular bottle.
  2. We bought a soap dispenser that was not “see through” for the kids bathroom.  I have known many, many children who thought shaking a plastic soap dispenser was awesome because they could watch the bubbles form inside and fill the bottle.  Unfortunately, that often breaks the dispenser.  Replacing soap dispensers gets expensive in a hurry, and if a child cannot see inside the dispenser, they usually forget about those really cool bubbles.  Problem solved.
  3. I figured out how to make my own foaming hand soap.  Foaming hand soap is expensive.  Plus, it is often filled with extra chemicals we really do not need to actually become clean.  By making my own soap with less expensive, safer ingredients, we are doing favors to our budget and hands.


Here is the recipe I use:

  • 5 oz. tap water
  • 3 tablespoons dish detergent (not automatic dishwasher detergent)

Honest to goodness, it is that simple.  I have used distilled water, bottled water, hot water, warm water, and cold water.  Temperature and purity do not matter.  I have used fancy dish detergent, cheap dish detergent, eco-friendly dish detergent, and colorful dish detergent.  They all work.


Simply measure the water and detergent into an existing foaming hand soap dispenser, gently swirl with a butter knife until everything is fully combined, and replace the pump.  It takes about sixty seconds, start to finish.


A new bottle of foaming hand soap costs roughly three dollars on Amazon.  Refill soap jugs are somewhat less, but still expensive.  Three tablespoons of dish detergent is only a few pennies.

Which is good, because we still have a child in the house that is fascinated with soap.  And when I walk into the bathroom to find an empty soap dispenser for the umpteenth time that week, I can be comforted by two things.

  1. My child’s hands are clean.
  2. We will not go broke buying soap.

We are going to have to buy a new soap dispenser, though.  One that is not see-through.  Sometime soon.

Do you have any clever tricks to keep children clean without waste?  Let me know in an email or comment below!