In an era of rising inflation and economic uncertainty, the list of things once considered “first-world” problems gets shorter every day. For example: Pump bottles of lotion that stop working with at least an inch or two of skin-saving goop left at the bottom.
It’s not that you can’t survive without that last bit of lotion. It’s the sneering corporate arrogance of it: Unilever knows damn well their lotion pump bottles are inefficient and they just don’t care. In fact, super-slippery bottle technology exists and yet is not in common use, which I find extremely suspicious.
Sensible people would spare themselves the frustration and simply recycle the bottle, but I’ve never been accused of being sensible, and it seems I’m not alone: The internet has devoted a good chunk of effort to developing various methods for maximizing their lotion-usage. But which of these techniques actually work, and which method is the easiest? Lacking the sense to know better, I recently conducted a range of experiments to determine the answers.
The upside-down storage method
The easiest thing to do when your pump bottle stops working is to harness the fundamental forces of the universe and turn it upside-down, allowing gravity to coax all that invaluable lotion to the top of the bottle. Then you can unscrew the pump and shake it out.
Ease: On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 requires a four-year degree in engineering and 1 is something a toddler could do, this would actually rank at around 3. This is because pump bottles are generally not designed to be placed upside-down, so you’ll need to prop the sucker up somehow. And as you extract lotion from it, the top will get pretty messy.
Effectiveness: On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 represents the lotion magically appearing on your hands and 1 requires you to eat an energy bar before attempting to moisturize, this would rank at a 5. Initially, it works well enough, but at a certain point there will be lotion clinging to the sides of the bottle that you simply cannot get at no matter how much gravity and anger you direct at it.
The cut the bottle method
You could look at this as a brute force attempt, and it involves taking a pair of sharp scissors and cutting that bottle in half, allowing you to either transfer the remaining lotion into another storage container of some sort or simply fit the top back on in order to preserve the stuff as you dip into it.
Ease: A 4. The plastic most pump bottles are made of is pretty thick and strong, so cutting into it can be a chore and you have to be pretty careful not to hurt yourself.
Effectiveness: An 8. Since you’ll have total access to your lotion you can obsessively scrape it out, accessing basically every last dot. The downside is that you will have a torn-up bottle of lotion sitting on your counter for a week, announcing to all your guests that you are an obsessive weirdo.
The squeeze bottle cap method
A surprisingly simple idea is to remove the pump cap and replace it with a squeeze bottle cap salvaged from some other, better-designed product. Combine this with the upside-down method for a much easier way to extract your precious hand cream.
Ease: While nothing could be easier than removing a plastic cap and screwing on a slightly different plastic cap, there is a certain level of difficulty in acquiring the right squeeze cap. I don’t know about you, but in my totally normal and non-serial-killer-vibe house I don’t just have empty squeeze bottles of various diameters lying around, and I’m not going to buy one just for this. Let’s call it a 5.
(You can also buy a Zero Waste Cap or a similar bottle-emptying cap, but there’s a bit more of a monetary investment on these than using some leftover cap from a shampoo bottle.)
Effectiveness: An 8. Yes, it will work and you’ll get most of the lotion you paid for. But it won’t get it all, because the squeeze technique requires a certain volume of lotion to work.
The totally tubular method
The engineers of the world typically opt to extract $0.50 worth of lotion by purchasing $2 worth of supplies and spending thirty minutes of their precious time on a project. This involves buying a length of vinyl tubing slightly larger than the pump shaft and attaching it to the bottom so that it snakes down into the reservoir of lost lotion.
Ease: A 10, because it involves things like measuring the shaft diameter, traveling to a store to purchase supplies, and cutting tubing down. Sure, it can be done, and once you’ve created your super pump you can probably re-use it in similar pump bottles, but you probably won’t feel good about yourself afterward.
Effectiveness: A 5. While this will improve your situation, you’ll eventually find a new level of shallow lotion remnants that even your MacGyvered tubing won’t be able to suck up.
The heat ‘n’ serve method
Place your bottle in a bowl of hot water and let it soak for a bit. This will heat up the lotion inside, which will typically turn more liquid-y, allowing you to easily pour it into an alternative receptacle.
Ease: An 8. You need boiling water to make it work (hot water from the tap might loosen up your lotion a bit, but it won’t liquefy). Then you’ll need to soak the bottle for about 2 minutes. Be warned: Your bottle will probably float, so you’ll need to hold it down so the lotion at the bottom is submerged (or devise a contraption to hold it in place for you). So that’s a lot of steps along with the danger of scalding.
Effectiveness: As close to a 10 as you’ll get. After heating, that lotion will literally pour out of your bottle, and your chances of getting approximately 100 percent of it out are high. Once the lotion cools down it will become viscous again, so this is an effective if cumbersome strategy.
Eventually, space-age nonstick coatings will make all of these techniques unnecessary. Until that glorious future, we’re all stuck performing science experiments at home so that corporate America gets slightly less of our hard-earned cash.