In Discussions, Discussions, Life, Minimalism

How to make your own natural laundry detergent, shampoo and facial cleanser with soap nuts

You’re all gonna think I’m crazy. You really are.

(P.S. Thanks to the few of you who have encouraged me in this craziness, and asked for the recipe on soap nuts.)

WHERE YOU CAN BUY SOAP NUTS

They’re all sold here and go by names like soap berries or soap nuts.

I DIDN’T REALIZE YOU WERE A HIPPIE….

I am also not a hippie but …..now I’m wondering if I fit the criteria. Can hippies wear designer clothing, makeup and look otherwise conventionally “normal”? I am not about to start wearing tie-dye or organic cotton-only items, with Birkenstocks (although they are comfy), and turn my hair into dreadlocks…. Things to ponder for later — What makes a hippie?

Maybe I’m a huppie. Hippie + Yuppie. Is that even possible? Anyway.

FORGET SOAP NUTS, YOU’RE NUTS. OMG. WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS?

Aside from environmental reasons – detergents and shampoos pollute waterways, the plastic in the shampoo bottles, AND in the detergent bottles.. all of this is a good reason to switch, alongside this:

I’ll repeat it again:

  • Chemicals are perfectly fine or so plenty of smarter people than I am say
  • Even water is a chemical
  • Not all natural things are necessarily good for you
  • Natural things are not necessarily a good substitute for chemicals
  • Chemicals save our lives — medicine (antibiotics) being the biggest!
  • Chemicals are good AND bad, but they have proven to be good for most of mankind

I get it.

But I still can’t shake the queasy feeling about sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and its cousins (sodium laureth sulfate) being something not quite good for you rates a 1-3 on the EWG Skin Deep website with the following information:

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Other HIGH concerns: Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs)

Other MODERATE concerns: Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)

Other LOW concerns: Ecotoxicology

Sodium Laureth Sulfate

About SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE: Sodium Laureth Sulfate is and ingredient derived from ethoxylated lauryl alcohol and used as a surfactant; may be contaminated with potentially toxic manufacturing impurities such as 1,4-dioxane.

Other HIGH concerns: Contamination concernsIrritation (skin, eyes, or lungs)

Other MODERATE concerns: Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)

Other LOW concerns: Data gaps

II also can’t shake the feeling that our skin as an organ, absorbs a lot of what we put on it, even for a short period of time.

ENTER: SOAP NUTS!!!!

Soap-Nuts-Natural-Shampoo-Face-Wash-Saponin-How-To-Inside

Photograph I took of the soap nuts (just the shells/husks) I bought

I was sent a sample a long time ago, and I used it in my laundry but as it was on COLD water, I don’t think it released much soap from the soap nuts to do anything. Besides, I don’t even use detergent about 99% of the time (only for greasy stuff), so I couldn’t see the difference anyway. I wondered if I could just make my detergent for laundry.

IT FEELS STICKY & TACKY TO THE TOUCH

I wouldn’t use it for shampoo or for a handwash, it’s VERY drying and it strips all the grease. It’s perfect for laundry.

I would use the soap nuts as they are, if you tend to wash on low heat to very high heat (like for cloth diapers), but if you use cold water, you MAY want to create the detergent out of boiling the soap nuts instead, keep the bottle in the fridge, and use it like a detergent so that it already has the soapy part ready to use.

IT FEELS STICKY & TACKY TO THE TOUCH

It’s like it’s been glazed in honey or something. It’s sticky when you touch it, but not gross. If you buy whole soap nuts, you need to crack them open and remove the seed inside or else it will discolour clothing if you use it as a laundry detergent… or use it as-is like I do because I am lazy and nothing has happened. They mostly sell them as the husks without the seed, so no need to do any cracking. Otherwise, the seed inside adds nothing, so get rid of it and just boil the shells.

IT SMELLS LIKE TAMARIND VINEGAR

When it’s cooking it smells like soap and a very strong, slightly sweet vinegar. I kept smelling it and he became alarmed: Get away from the pot! Stop smelling it! You don’t know if it’s toxic fumes or not! Touché.

IT IS A NATURAL PRODUCT AND IT WILL SPOIL

Soap-Nuts-Natural-Shampoo-Face-Wash-Saponin-How-To-Inside-Side

Photograph I took of my soap nut liquid after I shook it a few times to get that foam

If you don’t keep it in its dry form, in the plastic and tied up, it will spoil. Once you make the soap nut liquid (also called “soap nut tea” in some circles), you will have to immediately put it into a jar and store it in the fridge. You can also can it, seal the jar, and stick it on a shelf if you are handy like that.

USED AS A LAUNDRY DETERGENT

Works great. You can see it soaping up. The hotter the water, the more saponins are released. I rarely use detergents in my laundry anyway, but once in a while, it’s handy to have a little sudsing to release the grease. I also used it on my cloth diapers when I had Baby Bun. With lots of hot water, some soap nuts, EVERYTHING COMES OUT in the wash. It was great. Much better than commercial detergents.

USED AS A SHAMPOO

I tried it, but it was not great. It’s like a coloured water, it got in my eyes, etc. So while I no longer use soap nuts as a hair wash any longer, it is because I discovered shampoo and conditioner bars. They’re much easier to use in the shower, and don’t spoil the way this stuff does. Also, it lathers much better.

USED AS A FACIAL WASH OR HAND WASH

Don’t do it. Just use it for laundry as-is without boiling anything to get the detergent or liquid as shown below, OR boil them and get the liquid to use as a laundry detergent.

OVERALL?

Best method out of all of them for laundry, with the rest being “meh” as you can find other solutions.  Now for the best part — the how-to if you want to make the liquid to use as a shampoo, or whatever else (or maybe just as a laundry ‘detergent’ rather than just using the soap berries as-is:

HOW TO MAKE SOAP NUT LIQUID (RECIPE)

For laundry detergents, you need to put 8 soap nuts to 6 cups of water. For shampoo, you need 15 soap nuts to 3 cups of water (doubled recipe). I tried with less, like 20 soap nuts to 6 cups of water, and it was too mild. It took too much and too long to get the oil out of my hair. A stronger solution was needed.

STEP 1: THROW THEM INTO A POT

Soap-Nuts-Natural-Shampoo-Face-Wash-Saponin-How-To

STEP 2: POUR WATER ONTO THEM

Soap-Nuts-Natural-Shampoo-Face-Wash-Saponin-How-To-Water-2

STEP 3: BOIL THEM ON MEDIUM TO LOW HEAT (UNTIL YOU SEE A LOW BOIL) FOR 30 MINUTES

AFTER ABOUT 1 MINUTE

The water was cold.

Soap-Nuts-Natural-Shampoo-Face-Wash-Saponin-How-To-Boil-1

AFTER ABOUT 3 MINUTES

Soap-Nuts-Natural-Shampoo-Face-Wash-Saponin-How-To-Boil-3

AFTER ABOUT 10 MINUTES

Soap-Nuts-Natural-Shampoo-Face-Wash-Saponin-How-To-Boil-5

AFTER ABOUT 25 MINUTES

Soap-Nuts-Natural-Shampoo-Face-Wash-Saponin-How-To-Boil-6

FINISHED PRODUCT:

Soap-Nuts-Natural-Shampoo-Face-Wash-Saponin-How-To-Inside-Side

And done!

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25 Comments

  1. Suganthi

    You can also try this soapnut shampoo wit some dried amla and shikakai added to it… makes wonder to the hair.

  2. Michele

    I’ve been using soap nuts for about 7 years now ( I’ve lost track!). I would never go back to detergent. Recently I have found the Indian stores near where I live in Brampton are the most reasonable source of soap nuts. They seem to need to be cracked open when you buy them whole ( you can hear the seed inside when you shake them). Has anyone bought them this way as opposed to ready to use? Do you crack them open for effectiveness? Methods?

    1. sherry@savespendsplurge.com

      The stone inside can stain your clothes.. they should be selling them shelled already, but I guess a nutcracker or a large flat stone would work to snap them open.

  3. Irene

    This is very interesting… Where is the best place to get these? I’m looking online but I can’t seem to find suppliers that ship to Canada 🙁

    Have you tried adding xanthun gum as a thickening agent? Even 1 tsp over 500 ml of water will gel the whole lot up. It’s widely available in grocery/health stores for all the gluten free folks out there.

    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Well I use HolyTaste.ca 🙂 they sell soapnuts online and are based in Toronto.

      I don’t even make this liquid any more because I wash everything with hot or warm water (baby sanitation), I put them in a mesh bag and they release saponins without any issues

      They REALLY clean cloth diapers well. Better than any other commercial detergent.

  4. Bridget

    huppie.

    Amazing.

  5. Marianna

    Not so long ago I started to wash my hair with banana, egg and lemon. I was supersize with result – nice looking hair. Happy with my experiment. But I might try your recipe.

    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @Marianna: I have not tried that recipe you’ve mentioned but I have a feeling it won’t work — my hair needs a strong cleansing agent, which soap nuts give.

  6. Elizabeth

    Fell upon your blog a few weeks ago, and since I’ve become a fan. Thanks for all the no-nonsense advice. Where do you buy your soap nuts?

    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @Elizabeth: Thank you kindly Elizabeth!

      You can buy soap nuts at most organic grocery stores, or kind of “hippie” places. Or even online. Just google “Soap nuts”. If you live in the U.S., it’s super easy for you to buy them.

      In Canada, I would try Kensington Market (Essence of Life), they have the cheapest soap nuts in all of Toronto thus far. Grassroots is more expensive, even with 10% off from my LiveGreen Toronto card.

  7. Debt Blag

    OMG, I didn’t make it down to your field tests when I first commented. I am totally amazed by and appreciative of your commitment to this topic 🙂

    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @Debt Blag: *laughing*

      You’re welcome. I’m passionate, to say the least.

  8. PK

    “I will note that I am also eating a lot less oil” – so long as you don’t eliminate fats completely. Note there is a dietary requirement for Fats – Omega 3s are usually the ‘short’ ones (you probably Hit 6 and 9 fine with any modern diet)..

    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @PK: Oh yeah I have walnuts in my diet, avocados.. no worries 🙂

  9. Debt Blag

    I make my own laundry detergent. The savings is about 15 cents per load which amounts to little more than a rounding error since I pay $3 a load to use the laundromat. Still, I like that I know exactly what’s going into the soap since I have skin that’s a little more sensitive than the average person.

    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @Debt Blag: I actually don’t use any laundry detergent. The soap nuts are just for greasy kitchen towels… otherwise, it’s just warm water and agitation to get my clothes clean.

      Others have tried my method, and say they can’t tell the difference. Their clothes just don’t smell like lavender, but they’re just as clean.

  10. cj

    I found myself highly amused and appreciative of all the work you out into this post! Holy Jumping Hoombahs!!! This, I like. When I do the wash (not very often) I use water only, no soap. Shampoo, I use, but my hair is so short, the bottle can last up to 6 months. For my face, I have used water only for the last 8 years and I have fewer blemishes than ever. The trick is that I wash my face about 8 times a day, but it feels marvelous!!!

    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @cj: I try my best. 🙂

      Guys in general seem to have good skin. They don’t need to worry about using a cleanser, the shampoo, nothing. BF is the same way.

      I think it’s something to do with the testosterone being a natural hormone for them, and in women like myself, if we have a bit too much testosterone, our hair is oilier, our faces are greasier, etc.

  11. SarahN @ Livetolist

    I use a solid shampoo bar from Lush. I’m sure it’s not ideal, but it’s a balance for me – I like that it’s no waste (they sell nice metal tins, which I’ve only bought the once). When I first shaved my head, I cut right down on my hair washing frequency, but now that I don’t look like a ‘shaved head’ anymore (I have a pixie style cut), I’m back to daily washing :s But I’ve always been a daily washer, as I hate the oily look, esp with long hair where some is oily and some is dry.

    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @SarahN @ Livetolist: Lush makes me sneeze because of the perfumes. I’m sensitive..

      I do like that they’re no waste!

      My hair can go without washing for about a week without any kind of an oily look where it’s dry and oily on the scalp / crown if I don’t work out or sweat in yoga (which in the summer is now every other day).

      I’ve gone back to washing my hair every other day (after yoga), but in the winter when I don’t do yoga, my hair can go longer.

  12. maz

    Hilarious. Really enjoyed your post. I’m just glad I wasn’t the guinea pig. Thanks for the recipe… I think I stick to the soap nuts for my laundry.
    BTW, if you want the nuts to really foam in the machine, just split them in two before throwing them in the drum ( in a bag or a sock ).

    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @maz: Hot water makes them release more saponin and foam, and you should remove the seed inside before using the husks (it can stain clothes).. 🙂

      I am always willing to give new things a try!

  13. Michelle

    I am quite fascinated by this experiment and I think I might try it on myself. I’ve had a lot of problems with hair loss due to chemicals. Thanks for this post.

    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @Michelle: I’ve just noticed that less hair is disappearing and clogging the drain, I can’t tell you FOR CERTAIN what it’s linked to, I just know I am losing less and I have a feeling it’s the shampoos, my diet, etc.

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