Easy eco-action: refillable soap dispensers

Refillable reusable soap dispenser are a super easy eco-step that every family can take. It may seem like a small step, but if you think about, this practice can really help reduce a ton of plastic waste.

Consider all the soap containers you have laying around the house:

  • The typical family has two bathrooms, each with a liquid hand soap dispenser, a shampoo bottle or two, a body wash container and some conditioner.
  • Most families also keep a liquid hand soap dispenser in the kitchen as well.
  • You’ve got a bottle of dish soap in the kitchen and maybe another plastic container of soap that you use for cleaning in your pantry.

basic reusable soap dispenser

Now consider a family of four and how much soap gets used each day (or how much should be used each day anyhow). That’s a ton of soap and many plastic dispensers.

Instead of buying new plastic containers of soap, consider making the switch to refillable soap dispensers. In most cases, it’s easy to get started with reusable soap containers. Here’s how:

1. Locate a source for bulk soap products. In Portland, it’s easy to find refillable soaps at most co-ops and natural-minded grocery stores. Stores near me sell shampoo, hand soap, laundry detergent, basic liquid soap and conditioner in bulk. You simply  head to the bulk area, pump soap into your bottle and buy. You get charged by the ounce or pound.

If you don’t live near a store with bulk soap, first call around and see if you can find a place. Check with Whole Foods, as they’re everywhere and do offer bulk soaps most of the time. If that fails, visit a reputable online seller of bulk soap. It’s better to purchase a large bottle and use it to refill small bottles than to buy a bunch of smaller containers.


Some online sellers of bulk soap:

vermont soap co

  • Vermont Soap has several USDA certified organic soaps available in bulk.
  • Dr. Bronner’s offers many bulk choices and their soaps are certified organic and certified Fair Trade.

2. Purchase some reusable soap bottles: You need reusable bottles for when you buy your soap at the store. Most places that offer bulk soap also sell inexpensive reusable containers. You can also use containers you already have around the house or pick up some containers at almost any department-type store.

3. Purchase some reusable soap dispensers: I suggest owning some actual non-plastic dispensers for your soap products. You can use the basic plastic bottles, but if you carry them around to fill and then also use them at home, they often start to wear out. Plus, there are some much more attractive dispensers you can use at home.


  • Use lightweight plastic containers at the store, when you buy soap, because remember, stores charge by weight. One way to save money is to have the store weigh your container before you fill it up – most stores will subtract the bottle weight.
  • Carry a sharpie with you, so you can write what you bought on the container. It’s easy to mix up liquid body soap and detergent.
  • Aim to fill all your containers at once. I find that when I plan to fill up all my soaps at once, I’m less likely to forget my containers at home.
  • Put kids in charge of refilling containers. This is an easy eco-task even young kids can take on.
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