Is your soap dispenser pump not working? Soap dispensers are fairly reliable devices. You push down on the finger pump, soap emerges through the spout, and the pump automatically retracts for the next cycle. But sometimes things get mess up inside the pump. When a pump isn't working, it's usually because it's clogged or the spring is broken. Internal seals may fail in a well-used pump, but they aren't replaceable.

Close-Up Of Woman Hand With Liquid Soap
credit: Birgit Korber / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages
How to Repair a Soap Dispenser

How Does It Work?

The finger pump on a soap dispenser, and on most bottles of soap, shampoo or lotion, for that matter, is a surprisingly elegant device. The spring-loaded piston that you push down with your finger pushes air into the soap reservoir. This creates a vacuum in the reservoir, and when the piston retracts, soap is sucked into it. The next time you push, some of this soap is forced into a small tube that leads to the spout while the rest of it goes back to the reservoir, creating the necessary vacuum in the reservoir to pull in fresh soap.

Soap Dispenser Pump Not Working

The two most common problems on hand pumps are that the pump fails to retract or it fails to dispense soap. Is the soap dispenser pump stuck? If the pump fails to retract, the pump may be locked, so it seems to be stuck. Many soap dispensers lock when you push the pump all the way down and rotate it by 90 degrees. You can unlock the pump by rotating it back to its working position. Or the spring may be broken. The spring fits inside the pump reservoir. To access it, you must be able to unscrew the reservoir from the cap. This is possible on bathroom dispensers, but not on every plastic bottle dispenser.

The pump may appear to be in working operation, but you don't get any soap. This could be because you're out of soap. Sometimes you can zip through the soap faster than expected and not realize you're out. Another potential issue is that the dispenser tube is too short or it's kinked. Dispenser tubes are plastic and easily damaged. All too often, they don't reach to the bottom of the soap container. In some cases, the dispenser tube is blocked. Soap can congeal in the tube, effectively blocking it. To restore pump operation, you need to loosen this blockage.

Clean Out the Pump

Ready to tackle your bathroom or kitchen sink soap dispenser repair? Unscrew the cap from the soap container and remove the dispenser pump assembly. Wipe off the dispenser tube with a paper towel, then immerse the entire assembly, including the pump and the tubes, in warm water. Leave it for 5 minutes. The water dissolves congealed soap. If the pump wasn't dispensing soap, this procedure may fix the issue. If the spring is broken, this procedure cleans the pump and makes it easier to disassemble.

Pump Repair Procedures

If your soap dispenser still isn't working, you may need to do a little more work. Unscrew the pump reservoir from the spout if you can. Inexpensive pumps that come on shampoo and soap bottles are often fused and don't come apart. Separate the reservoir from the spout and remove the spring. Replace the spring with an identical one.

You can also replace the dispenser tube if it's too short or it's kinked. You can usually pull it off of the reservoir tube. You should be able to find a replacement at a hardware store, in the section for plastic tubing. Reassemble the pump and clean it out by pumping hot water through it. Screw it back onto the soap container once you're sure all clogs have dissolved.

If none of these procedures fix your pump, it's probably because the internal seals are compromised. If so, don't bother trying to repair it. Even if you could, it's easier and more reliable to just get a new pump.

Starting with the easiest issues first may make your soap dispenser repair quick and easy. With a little effort, you can salvage your soap dispenser and get things flowing again.