Soap Dispenser Not Working – What To Do?

Soap dispensers are handy little gadgets that virtually eliminate soap residue from building up on surfaces. But what happens when you can't get yours to work? We researched how these kitchen and bathroom accessories function and how to troubleshoot yours best if you can't get it to dispense soap.

If your soap dispenser does not dispense soap, it could be for any number of the following reasons:

  • Pump bottle is broken
  • Pump head is malfunctioning
  • Trigger is depressed
  • Pump is clogged
  • Dead battery (automatic dispenser)
  • Obstructed sensor (automatic dispenser)

Now that you know why your soap dispenser might be clogged, we'll go through how to troubleshoot and repair, step by step, for each issue. You might also be wondering how you make a soap pump pop up, or how to stop a soap dispenser from leaking. For the answers to these questions and more, read ahead in this post.

Automatic dispenser mounted on a wall

Fixing your soap dispenser

Repairing a malfunctioning soap dispenser is easy, as long as you know where to look for the issue. Let's take a closer look at manual and automatic soap dispensers, as each type has its own troubleshooting tips to get your soap pumping with ease.

Manual soap dispensers

Manual soap dispensers are basic, typically with a container (or bottle), tubing, and pump head or trigger. Any of these components could get a clog, so here's how to check and fix the issue.

The pump bottle is broken

We'll cover the worst case scenario first. If your bottle is broken, then all of the soap has likely leaked out of it. If you didn't have much soap left in the bottle when the break occurred, you might not have noticed. The good news is, you will know almost immediately upon inspection if this is the case. The bad news is, you'll need to replace the dispenser.

The pump head is malfunctioning

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A white dispenser inside a bathroom

On rare occasions, you might have a pump head that won't do its job any longer. If any part of this mechanism is broken, you can simply replace it, rather than getting a new dispenser. But since the pump head and its components aren't usually exposed in such a way that they can get damaged, this cause is the least likely reason why your dispenser isn't working.

The trigger is depressed

A soap dispenser will have a spring operated trigger that may occasionally malfunction. This spring might be stuck in the depressed position, so that it won't activate the pump itself. If you're able to take apart the pump head, you'll find this spring. Some models will not let you have access to this mechanism, however. If this is the case, you'll have to replace the dispenser altogether.

The pump is clogged

The pump itself will accumulate debris and semi-dried soap goo over time. This will build up and eventually clog your dispenser. Fixing it takes very little time and is pretty simple.

Remove the pump and place it inside a dish that's full of hot water. Allow it to soak for ten minutes, then begin pumping water with it while it's submerged. Then, expose the head of the pump above water, and begin pumping again. If there are any obstructions, this method will remove them. 

For extra stubborn clogs, use a combination of distilled white vinegar and hot water. The acidity of the vinegar will help clear out your pump.

To view this manual soap dispenser on Amazon, click here.

Automatic soap dispensers

White dispenser mounted on a gray bathroom wall

An automatic soap dispenser includes a few additional components, such as batteries and sensors, that could be malfunctioning for reasons unique to its design. Should the container (or bottle) be intact and full of soap, the problem will usually be from one or two causes.

Dead battery

These handy devices use battery power to automatically dispense the soap onto the palm of your hand. With most models, you'll know the battery is low when you see a flashing red light. This isn't always the case, however. Try changing the existing battery for a brand new one. If this doesn't work, then the issue is probably an obstructed sensor.

Obstructed sensor

Your automatic soap dispenser has a small sensor that will dispense soap when it detects movement. Your hand will set the sensor off, making soap, as if magically, into the palm of your hand.

These sensors are heavy-duty but can still fall victim to the buildup of grime and soap scum. If your battery is fresh, locate the sensor and gently clean it with a soft cloth and some vinegar. This will remove any built-up material that might be keeping your sensor from doing its job.

A hand placed on an automatic soap dispenser

How do you unclog an automatic soap dispenser?

Clogs in your soap dispenser are usually caused by un-dispensed soap slowly building up inside the pump tube or pump head. How can you unclog an automatic dispenser?

Removing the pump head and tubing from the dispenser allows you to clean it properly. Soak these parts in hot water for several minutes, allowing for this unwanted material to loosen. Fill the dispenser with warm water and pump it through. 

Getting soap in an automatic dispenser

If you routinely clean the pump head and tubing when you are adding soap to the dispenser bottle, you can avoid the long term buildup that causes clogs in automatic soap dispensers.

To view this model automatic soap dispenser on Amazon, click here.

How do you prime a soap dispenser pump?

If you have just filled an empty soap dispenser, you'll need to prime the pump before soap will readily flow from the dispenser head. Doing so is quick and easy.

A man pressing a soap dispenser

Priming the pump is the process of removing air that is sucked into it. This happens when you are pumping an empty or nearly empty soap bottle. To prime this air out of the pump, rapidly pump it once you've filled the dispenser with soap. This will move the air out of the soap tube as it fills with soap.

How do you make a soap pump pop up?

When you first open your new soap dispenser, you'll notice that the pump is depressed all the way down. This is to keep the head from being damaged in transit, and to keep any preloaded soap in the bottle from accidentally being pumped out.

A white dispenser mounted on a wall

In order to use the pump, you'll need to get the pump head to pop up into the required position. Gently turning this pump head to one side will unlock it, making the head to pop up into place. You'll then need to prime out any air that might have been trapped in the tubing. To properly prime the dispenser pump, read our method outlined earlier in this post.

How do you stop a soap dispenser from leaking?  

If your dispenser is leaking, it's usually from the tip of the dispenser head. This is normally from soap buildup that keeps the head from properly dispensing all of the liquid soap that you are trying to pump through it.

To solve this problem, disassemble the pump head and thoroughly clean it. Allowing it to soak in hot water will work well, just be sure to pump the hot water through the pump head assembly afterward. Doing so ensures that debris will be removed. Soap has most likely built up inside the head itself and will need to be removed before it will continue to properly function.

A man pressing his soap dispenser placed near the kitchen sink

In Closing

Soap dispensers are reliable devices that serve us well in our homes' kitchens and bathrooms. Still, even the most trustworthy household items will need to be routinely maintained to keep them working up to standard. Most of the causes for a malfunctioning soap dispenser can be easily identified and remedied, with only a few signaling to replace the unit.

Automatic dispenser mounted on a wall

Automatic soap dispensers can malfunction for different reasons than manually operated ones. Dead batteries and obstructed sensors are the most common causes and are easy to fix. Priming a soap dispenser is easy to do, as is making the dispenser head pop up into place on a newly purchased one.

If you found this post on soap dispensers to be helpful, we believe you'll enjoy reading the following posts about bathroom  accessories:

How Much Does A Shower Bench Cost?

15 Awesome Bathroom Towel Rack Ideas

How Much Does It Cost To Install Bathroom Fan?

How To Remove a Bathtub Stopper?

A soap dispenser mounted on the side of a wall entrance, Soap Dispenser Not Working - What To Do?

One comment

  1. None of this worked. My rechargeable unit will not charge (no batteries). Cleaned and unclogged everything. Has been charging 12 hrs. No red light or any movement.

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