Troubleshooting tips for your foaming pump bottles

Sometimes foaming pump bottles get a little clogged up and ‘sticky’ so here are a few tips to help solve that issue.

〉Follow the recipe – These foaming pumps work by mixing liquid-thin soap (I use castile soap) and air, and turning it into foam. Always follow the correct dilution rates as suggested in my recipes. Note that using extra castile soap will not produce a thicker foam, it will only clog your mechanism faster, causing it to ‘stick’.

〉Don’t use your pump under running water or overfill bottles – If water gets into the air chamber it may cause the pump to fail.

〉Don’t seal the bottle too tightly – This may affect performance, and you’ll start seeing the actual bottle creating suction. Loosen lid and continue using.

〉Keep your pump active – If you don’t use your foaming pump frequently enough, any soap trapped in the mechanism can dry and cause the pump to stick or fail.

〉Try flushing the pump in fresh water – Just remove the pump top and place in a glass of water. Keep pressing until clear water is being dispersed. Then try again with your bottle.

〉Don’t use additives beyond castile soap, essential oils and water – There is a little mesh screen inside your pump that allows the soap and air to mix, creating foam. These holes are so super tiny, and they can clog easily. Therefore, adding thickeners, glitter, micas, powdered colouring etc, will cause your mechanism to fail.

〉Try turning the bottle upside down and pumping – I’ve heard some manufacturers recommend this.

〉As a last resort, pull the pump apart and clean (although I highly recommend you don’t do this!) – In all my years using foaming pump bottles, I have NEVER had to do this. But if you insist, go for it. Note that it takes some force, and will come apart into about 6 pieces, and it’s not easy to put back together. I advise taking multiple photos to assist you during reassembly.

Please only pull your pump mechanism apart if you’re comfortable in doing so, and confident you can put it back together. I take no responsibility for pumps that are damaged due to manual tampering.

Good luck and happy foaming!

Krissy Ballinger

author and passionate advocate for natural living

Krissy envisions a world where people make conscious choices that honour both humanity and the environment. Her mission is to gently guide individuals toward this beautiful way of life. With a background in education and health promotion, she dedicates her time to increasing awareness on common and avoidable toxins, as well as educating individuals on simple ways they can adjust their lifestyles to better serve themselves, and the planet. Natural DIY is Krissy’s speciality, and she has sold over 100,000 copies of her recipe books, including the award-winning “Naturally Inspired – Simple DIY Recipes for Body Care and Cleaning,” “Make & Play – Natural DIY Recipes for Kids,” and “The Lifestyle Edit.”


  1. Hello All,

    I am currently using a Palmolive Foaming handwash bottle and refilled it only one time with some ordinary gel-based liquid (Santoor). i used around 70ml of handwash with rest of water to fill 250ml bottle.
    Now my pump is making foam perfectly but it does not come up to rest position to pump again. i have to manually pull it up to make a pump again.
    i have opened it several times.
    1. Washed whole bottle and parts with hot water,
    2. cleaned top mesh from both sides. (foaming is working.)
    3. cleaned piston and air chamber. tried to lube with Vaseline, Vicks, Machine Oil etc but nothing worked.

    pump still gets stuck on bottom and does not come up automatically.
    tried to increase spring tension to make more push to piston towards upward position but no luck.

    I have seen someone suggesting silicon grease to it. but it isn’t available in local market. Any other suggestions/solutions to make it work are welcome.


    • Hi, my experience with commercial pre-made bottles is that they’re usually not made to be refilled, especially with other concoctions. You might have more luck contacting Palmolive directly perhaps, as it seems you have tried everything I would have tried. Best of luck!

  2. Hi Krissy, I bought an automatic foaming soap dispenser. It worked fine the first time I made the soap. But it has a sensor so between my boys playing with it and it just going off because someone was near by it went quickly. This second time though I don’t know. There was still liquid. I don’t feel like I made it right. It’s very bubbly and liquidy. Not foamy. What am I doing wrong? Is it the pump itself? Is it my mixture? I did the 4-1 of soft soap. Right now it’s foamy on the top liquid on the bottom in the chamber. Thank you.

    • Hey Sam, so it’s definitely a foaming soap dispenser? And when you say 4-1 of soft soap, what recipe did you use? If it is a foaming dispenser you must use a foaming soap recipe (same goes if it is a liquid/gel soap dispenser then it won’t work with a foaming soap recipe). Hope this makes sense!

  3. Have you heard of condensation in the top of a glass foaming soap dispenser? I can’t find this question anywhere. And I’ve tried everything

    • I find condensation will usually happen when the room temperature is different to that of the inside of the bottle. It’s not a big deal, I wouldn’t worry about it.

  4. I used a Dawn powerwash bottle and tried to refill with my own Dawn liquid and water as I’ve seen on several sites. It will spray, but there is no foam. I tried diluting it more but still no foam. Can you tell me what could have happened?

    • Hi Chantall. You can sterilise by washing in hot soapy water and air drying, or swirling some clear alcohol in each one. Be careful selling products (containing water) without preservatives.

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