Header Image-How to Find the Right Pump for Your Refillable Bottle

I only recommend products that I have own(ed), use(d) and enjoy(ed) unless I state otherwise. This post may contain affiliate links, and I may earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links. Go here to read Bottiful Home, LLC’s complete affiliate referral program policy.

So, you’ve got some liquid soap bottles or old shampoo bottles that you want to refill and reuse.

Or maybe you’ve purchased a bottle and want to replace the pump or cap it came with.

That’s great! Way to reuse what you already have!

The only problem is the pump that comes with the bottle. It may have been useful for whatever came in the bottle originally, but it’s not quite right for your shampoo, conditioner or liquid soap that you want to put in the bottle now.

Or maybe your bottle is great, but it didn’t come with a pump.

No problem.

If it’s a standard size bottle, chances are, there’s a pump that works with it.

But, there are a lot of considerations when choosing an appropriate pump for your refillable bottle. What size do you need? Will it work for lotions or soaps? Are there any construction specifications that you need to be aware of? Does it matter if it’s plastic or metal? And so on.

ANATOMY OF A BOTTLE PUMP

Before we get into the specifics on how to choose the right pump, it’s important to understand a little about how bottle pumps are made, how the pieces work together, and how complex they can really be.

You may think a pump for a refillable bottle is a simple machine, but in fact, it’s quite complex.

Take a look at this photo of one of our most common pumps we use on our refillable shampoo, conditioner and liquid soap bottles.

bottle pump dissection image

Notice there are a lot of small parts that must work in concert with one another to ultimately deliver soap into your hand once you’ve pressed the pump.

Each color in this photo represents a separate piece of the pump.

There’s even a tiny glass ball at the bottom of the interior of the pump that, along with the spring, piston, and stem, helps to regulate the flow of liquids through the mechanism.

For a really great article explaining how lotion pumps work, see What’s Inside a Lotion Pump and How Does it Work? By Jonathon at O.Berk.

Do you see the slim tube inside the spring?

That slim piece of plastic is keeping your shampoo from coming in contact with the spring so it doesn’t become corroded over time.

Pretty cool right?

And the lime green sliver that’s under the top of the closure is the round gasket that fits all the way around the closure to ensure a tight fit and prevent any leaking.

And this is just a sneak peek into the complexity and mechanics of a lotion pump.

So with this knowledge in mind, let’s move on to some of the considerations when purchasing the perfect pump for your refillable bottle.

HOW TO KNOW WHAT PUMPS WILL FIT ONTO YOUR REFILLABLE BOTTLES

A closure (i.e. a pump, fitting or cap for bottles) is typically defined by two measurements: the neck opening dimension and the threading size dimension.

They’re usually defined in millimeters and reported together with a hyphen or forward slash separator.

For example, many of our refillable shampoo, conditioner and liquid soap bottles at Bottiful Home have a neck opening of 24 millimeters and a 410 threading dimension.

That number can be shown as either 24/410 or 24-410.

Any pump or cap with these dimensions will fit onto our bottles with that opening size.

So How Do You Find the Neck Opening and Threading Measurements of Your Refillable Bottle?

First, you need to find the neck opening measurement of the bottle you have or the one(s) you’re looking to purchase.

If you purchased your bottle off the drugstore shelf, you may not know what the opening measurement is.

You can try to measure with a measuring tape, but it needs to be really precise because millimeters are difficult to see precisely, and even one millimeter off will change the pump size needed to fit onto your bottle.

Then you need to get the threading dimension of your bottle.

This one will be tricky if you’re not familiar with common threading dimensions.

Some of the most common threading dimensions for household bottles with small openings are 400, 410 and 415.

You don’t really need to know what the number refers to.

You just need to be able to visualize the difference.

And this image will help you do just that.

visual comparison of different threading measurements

Image from U.S. Plastic article “How Do I Know How to Calculate a Cap & Neck Size?”

You will find this article extremely helpful if you’re interested in learning more about how the threading finish is determined and calculated.

Alternatively, Qorpak has this really great cap measuring tool you can print out on a piece of 8.5×11” piece of paper at home to get the best results.

Another option is to simply contact the manufacturer of the bottle you want to fit with a pump and ask what the neck dimensions and thread finish are.

This is definitely the slowest way to get the information, but probably the most assuredly accurate.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LOTION PUMP AND OTHER TYPES OF PUMPS?

Lotion Pumps

Basically, a lotion pump is designed to handle more viscous liquids than other non-lotion pumps.

If a pump doesn’t specifically say it’s a lotion pump, assume it’s not tough enough to handle highly viscous liquids like hair conditioners and very thick soaps.

Bottle pumps basically work by pushing air into the bottle, and therefore, forcing the product up the dip tube.

A lotion pump is built to push larger volumes of air into the bottle and allow for larger volumes of product to be dispensed.

If you’re trying to find a pump to use on your refillable bottle for the purpose of dispensing shampoos, conditioners, liquid hand soaps and dish soaps, you’re going to want to use a lotion pump.

It will deliver the most consistent results.

Here are some images of typical lotion pumps, but they can be made in many different shapes, colors, dispensing outputs, dip tube lengths and designs.

white lotion pump with ribbed closure
black lotion pump with smooth closure
white lotion pump with silver closure

These particular pumps can be found at SKS Bottle & Packaging.

The black one is very similar to one that we use at Bottiful Home for many of our refillable shower bottles.

SKS Bottle & Packaging has a really expansive selection of bottle pumps for customers who wish to buy in large quantities.

Other types of pumps are airless, foaming and pumps that may look like lotion pumps but don’t function exactly like them.

Airless Pumps

Airless pumps don’t have a dip tube and work by pushing the bottom of the bottle up to force the product out.

They’re really effective, but typically will not dispense much liquid at a time.

This type of pump is normally used for facial treatment creams, foundation makeup and other liquids that only require a small amount at a time.

Here are some examples of airless pumps.

silver airless pump
white airless pump

Again, you can find these airless pumps at SKS Bottle & Packaging.

Noticing a trend yet?

SKS Bottle & Packaging is located in the US and has a really nice assortment of bottles, pumps and packaging supplies, so you’ll see several references to their site in this article.

I’m not being compensated in any way to refer to SKS in this article.

But I’ve purchased and used their products, and they have high quality products and a top-notch service team.

So, check them out and see if they have something that will work for you if you’re looking for wholesale bottles.

Foaming Soap Pumps

Foaming pumps are entirely different than either lotion or airless pumps in that they create a foam when dispensing.

These pumps are not interchangeable with lotion pumps or airless pumps.

Foaming pumps require the liquids to be very thin.

In fact, in order for foaming pumps to work, you basically need to water down your soap about 90% more than regular liquid soap.

Foaming pumps also require a larger bottle opening because of their physical structure.

Their housings are larger to allow for more air to flow into the soap as it’s dispensed, creating bubbles.

So you can’t just put a foaming pump on a typical refillable bottle.

Here are some examples of foaming pumps.

SKS foaming soap pumps

These foaming pumps are also products of SKS Bottle & Packaging.

If you’re in the market for standard foaming soap bottles and pumps, I recommend SKS Bottle & Packaging.

You can buy as few as a dozen of these foaming soap bottles with pumps at wholesale pricing.

At Bottiful Home, we don’t offer foaming soap bottles and pumps yet, as of the writing of this post, but it’s something we’ve got our eyes on for future product development.

Choosing the Right Type of Pump

So, now that you know there are different types of pumps available, you’re closer to finding the right one for your refillable bottle.

If you’re refillable bottle is not designed for a foaming or airless pump, you’ll likely be looking for a lotion pump.

Don’t forget to make sure it says “lotion pump” because there are some pumps that look the same as lotion pumps but don’t have the dispensing capacity for thicker liquids like gel and conditioner.

WHAT IS A DIP TUBE AND HOW DO YOU FIND THE RIGHT ONE?

What is a Dip Tube?

The dip tube on a pump is the long tube that extends from the housing to the bottom of the bottle.

It’s the part of the tube that “dips” into the liquid soap or shampoo.

At Bottiful Home, we sometimes refer to the dip tube as the “straw”.

If you purchase your refillable bottles from a retailer like Bottiful Home, your bottles will come with a dip tube that’s customized to fit your exact bottle size, housing size, and viscosity needs.

close up of lotion pump with labels

But if you’re purchasing your own pump for a bottle that you’re trying to reuse, then you’ll need to make sure the pump you purchase comes with a dip tube that properly fits your purpose.

Getting the Right Dip Tube

Most pumps will come with a dip tube already attached.

So, if the dip tube isn’t what you need, you’ll likely need to find a different pump, especially if you’re only buying a single pump.

If you’re buying in bulk, you will have some more options to change out the dip tube, depending on whether your wholesaler is set up to customize.

Here are the main things you’re looking for in the dip tube:

  1. For the purposes of using your refillable bottle for liquid soaps, shampoos, conditioners and lotions, you’ll want a nice thick dip tube. The thinner ones can get creases or kinks in them and block the flow of liquids.
  2. You’ll also want to make sure the tube is cut at either an angle or upside down “v” cut to allow for better flow. If the tube is cut flat at the bottom, it has a chance of getting blocked by the bottom of the bottle.
  3. The dip tube needs to be the right length for your bottle. To get the right length, measure your bottle from the shoulder to the bottom. Your dip tube should be about that length. You can get it a little longer if you like and just cut it to fit, but shorter won’t work. If the dip tube is too short, it won’t reach all the product in the bottle. Pro tip: If you do need to cut the dip tube, remember to cut at an angle and not straight across. Make the longest part of your tube hit the bottom of the bottle.

OTHER IMPORTANT CHARACTERISTICS OF REPLACEMENT PUMPS FOR LOTION BOTTLES

Spring Placement

Where your spring is placed inside your pump housing can determine both aesthetics and function.

Some pumps have springs that are visible through the housing.

Here’s an example of that.

SKS lotion pump with spring visible

Obviously, you can see the spring, so it affects what your pump looks like if your housing is clear like this one is.

Maybe you don’t care about whether you see the spring.

If not, there’s another consideration.

A visible spring often means the spring comes in contact with your soap, lotion or shampoo as it’s being dispensed.

If you don’t see a spring in your lotion pump, there is still a spring in it.

That’s how the pump head moves up and down.

An invisible spring can be made so it doesn’t come in contact with your contents.

This type of spring placement is often referred to as a “metal-free pathway”.

So why does this matter?

There’s really only one reason.

Even though most lotion pump springs are made of stainless steel, they can often degrade over time with extended exposure to the contents of your refillable bottle.

It’s simple chemistry.

When that happens, the spring can break or you can get rust inside your pump that leaches into your liquid soap.

I highly recommend a metal-free pathway pump for any bottle you plan to use over and over.

Choosing the Right Color, Locking Position and Overall Quality

Lotion Pump Color

Color choice is really just personal preference.

The point here is to realize that color options are available.

So if you have a white bottle, and you want a white pump so it matches, no problem.

You may also be able to find a black pump or a silver pumps that fits your bottle and may change the whole look and be more fitting for your purpose or décor.

The most common colors in lotion pumps are black and white.

But definitely keep in mind you may be able to get something more elegant or appropriate to match your bottle.

You just may have to look a little harder.

The bigger difficulty will be finding lotion pumps you can buy individually or in small lots.

For this, you may need to resort to Amazon.

There are a few sellers offering pumps in small sets for under $10.

Here are a few examples.

28/400 replacement lotion pumps pack of 4 in black

28/410 replacement lotion pumps pack of 2 in white

28/400 replacement lotion pumps pack of 3 in white

I haven’t purchased or tested any of these replacement pumps on Amazon, so I can’t tell you if they’re good quality or not.

You’ll need to fully read the listings and decide for yourself if they’re worth a try.

Now, if you’re looking for pumps in larger quantities, you have a lot more options.

Here are a few of my favorite wholesalers who offer high-quality lotion pumps in the U.S.

SKS Bottle & Packaging

Berlin Packaging

Container and Packaging

Check them out if it’s in your budget to purchase a carton or more of pumps at a time.

Lotion Pump Locking Position

Not all refillable bottle pumps lock.

But, for the ones that do, they either lock in the “up” position or the “down” position.

Locking in the “up” position just means you don’t have to push the pump head down and twist to lock the pump.

Usually, they just lock with a simple twist, in either the clockwise or counterclockwise direction.

Locking in the “down” position is the opposite.

You have to push down the pump and twist it while it’s down to get it to lock.

So why does this matter?

Well, to press the pump down, means to dispense liquid.

So if you’re just trying to lock your pump, you may not like it that you have to dispense to lock. Or you will just have to remember to lock it while it’s already down when you use it.

If you’re not locking and unlocking the pump all the time, it really doesn’t matter much.

For refillable bottles sitting on your counter, you’re probably not locking the pump in between hand-washing.

But if you’re taking your refillable bottles on the road with you for a vacation or business trip, then you’ll want to be able to easily lock the pumps to prevent spilling in transit.

The only way for you to know if you have an up-locking pump or down-locking pump is to inquire of the manufacturer…

Or just purchase it and find out.

There’s no visual cue to tell you this information.

Both types can look exactly the same.

Overall Quality of Lotion Pumps

So how to you find a good quality pump that won’t let you down? There’s no hidden formula here. It’s the same method as any other purchase.

Do your research.

Read reviews.

Ask questions of the manufacturers.

Get samples, if buying a large quantity.

But we warned that a sample isn’t always representative of a bulk purchase, and unless you’re testing the sample for months, you may not be able to tell the quality for a while.

The best approach is to go with a company that has proven customer service to support their products.

Then, no matter what happens with the product, you know you’ll be taken care of.

HOW DOES BOTTIFUL HOME CHOOSE LOTION PUMPS FOR REFILLABLE SHAMPOO, CONDITIONER, BODY WASH, HAND SOAP AND DISH SOAP BOTTLES?

I personally design all Bottiful Home bottles as of the writing of this article. And I took into consideration everything you’ve read in the article.

I purchased from several different manufacturers and wholesalers.

I tested up-closing and down-closing pumps.

I researched the structure of pumps and how they work differently from one another.

I invested in the inventory, information and knowledge necessary to become a semi-expert on different types and functions of pumps.

Suffice it to say, I’ve used a lot of bottle pumps since starting Bottiful Home in 2017.

I’ve even taken them apart and reassembled them to make sure I understand how all the pieces go together, how to repair them if needed and how well they withstand breakage.

And I haven’t stopped there.

I’m constantly researching new pump options, functions and designs.

As I stated in the beginning of this article, bottle pumps can be very complex machines, and finding the perfect fit for a bottle isn’t as simple as it seems.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

But I truly hope I’ve provided the needed information to help you select the right pump for your refillable bottle.

And, as always, we provide the dimensions for our pumps and bottles so you can always be sure what they’ll be compatible with.

Have more questions about refillable bottles or replacement pumps? Leave a comment here, and I’ll respond as thoroughly and quickly as I can.

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