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.)
(BF already thinks I’m nuts but he supports my move to use natural things, he just doesn’t get why anyone even needs long hair or shampoo to begin with, so he doesn’t understand how girls work or think :P)
I am not doing this in an attempt to be frugal, cheap, or what have you…..but I have found the simplest way to wash your hair (REALLY wash it) with only natural ingredients.
WHERE YOU CAN BUY SOAP NUTS
I shop online at Well.ca and cannot recommend them highly enough. I buy EVERYTHING from them online, and they ship within 2 – 3 business days.
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?
FORGET SOAP NUTS, YOU’RE NUTS. OMG.
WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO YOURSELF?
JUST BUY SOME SHAMPOO….
Yes I know. I get it.
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 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 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, like during a shampooing.
Then BF went and heard about how shampoos and soaps absorb about 80% into your skin because your skin is an organ, bla bla bla.
And I knew I had to change.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH OF A REASON, YOU HUPPIE!
Okay, so the second one is that I am not sure my shampoos work any more.
I noticed that my hair was getting greasier and greasier each time I washed it, I had gone from being able to wash it every 3 days down to 2 days.
Third, I’m a bit of a hypochondriac, and fourth, a worrier.
It was also around the time that I started feeling dizzy, nauseous and in general not good, so I wondered if it was time to switch back to trying natural shampoos.
I COULDN’T GO “SHAMPOO-FREE” BEFORE BECAUSE IT LOOKED, AND FELT DISGUSTING AFTER I WASHED MY HAIR
Over the past 5 years, I have tried the gamut of “poo-free” shampoos and cleansing methods, folks.
People swear by these methods but they don’t do jack squat for me.
Here’s a list of everything I did to try and avoid commercial shampoos:
- Only washing with warm water and a wash cloth (Great for boys or v. short hair)
- Washing with baking soda and water, and then rinsing with apple cider vinegar (a big NO to this one, it caused dandruff and it ruins your hair in my opinion; I am hesitant to list this at all)
- Washing with castile soap – Left my hair feeling like an oil slick and was DISGUSTING
- Washing with Savon de Marseilles – Again, oil slick city because of all the oil in the soap
- Washing with “natural” shampoos that had a long list of essential oils – AWFUL experience
The worst was the castile or the natural soaps, it left this slimy FILM on my hair that looked like I dunked my head in a bucket of olive oil. I could FEEL it on my fingers.
I guess the soap being about 75% – 80% olive oil didn’t help. It’s fine for your hands perhaps, but not for your head.
I was so frustrated, I went back to a shampoo that had SLS in it, the only thing that worked that had a surfactant to lift the oil from my head.
Then….. I remembered soap nuts!!
ENTER: SOAP NUTS!!!!
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 own shampoo and facial cleanser from this naturally-occurring surfactant provided in nature, and thought I’d do some research.
Bought a 1KG bag of soap nuts, and came up with some soap nut liquid at the end.
IT IS SERIOUSLY MILD DEPENDING ON THE RECIPE
Think of your regular hand soap.
Now dial that down about 3X if you use it as directed for laundry.
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.
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 BF became alarmed:
Get away from the pot! Stop smelling it! You don’t know if it’s toxic fumes or not!
IT IS REALLY LIKE COLOURED WATER
It feels like you’re just rubbing water on your face or on your scalp.
You will feel like it’s not doing anything, and it probably isn’t the first time around, but by the second or third wash/rub, you will feel that the oil has disappeared.
UPDATE: If you make the recipe stronger and not as mild, you won’t need to spend as much time washing your hair and rubbing it into your scalp (which is what I did).
The milder the recipe (the less soap nuts you use), the more you’ll need and the more time you’ll need. The stronger the recipe, the quicker it works. I almost just rinse it through my hair, do a quick massage of it into my scalp (less than 15 seconds) and it gets all the oil out.
IT IS A NATURAL PRODUCT AND IT WILL SPOIL
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. But I have no idea how to do that stuff, so I just make a batch each time that lasts about 2 weeks and I use the cold liquid in the morning.
Yeah it sucks that it’s cold liquid on my face and cold liquid on my hair, but .. this is the price I am paying for an SLS-free beauty routine.
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.
USED AS A SHAMPOO
This stuff will sting like a mother clucker if you get it in your eyes.
I have no other advice except.. DO NOT GET IT IN YOUR EYES.
It works but you need to be patient and go over sections of you head once, twice, sometimes three times to get all the oil off.
It takes longer than with normal shampoo.
HOW TO USE IT AS A SHAMPOO
I put it in a small milk bottle and I pour the cold liquid (straight from the fridge) onto my hair in sections, and then rub it in, then re-pour more liquid as I need to.
I tilt my head from left to right, working my way from the top of my head to the underside of my head.
It feels like you are rubbing water into your scalp, so it will NOT have a nice, slippery feel (no silicones added), and it will NOT feel like a regular shampoo, but it will not feel as drying or as tough to do as with soap (castile, or otherwise)
You need to lift sections of your hair and rub it into your scalp, then rinse.
Then lift another section, pour and rub more of this cold liquid in your hair, and then rinse.
Keep doing this until you don’t feel any slippery oil on your fingers any longer when you rub your fingers together, and you’ll be ready to rinse out and leave.
UPDATE: NONE OF THE ABOVE APPLIES IN TERMS OF LONGER WASHING TIME
I discovered through experimentation that I could just increase the amount of soap nuts boiled (I went from 15 soap nuts to 20), and I stopped spending more time washing my hair.
The stronger the solution, the less you need to rub your scalp to clean it of oil.
The weaker and gentler the solution, the more you need to use and rub into your scalp.
Now, I just pour the liquid on my scalp in sections:
- left side above the ear
- top of my head
- other side above the ear
- underneath my hair by the nape of my neck
…and then I do a quick massage (3 seconds each section) of this soap nut water into my scalp, and rinse.
My hair comes out 100% super clean. A little too squeaky clean and dry, actually, so then I rub coconut oil (a TINY TINY amount) into my palms and spread it over my hair.
I AM LOSING LESS HAIR
The great thing about using this, is that I’ve noticed that I am losing less hair.
At the end of every shower, I usually end up with a clump to clean out of the drain, but this time it was maybe 5 hairs at the most.
Maybe I am rubbing my scalp less? But before I dialed up the strength, I was rubbing MORE than I am today, so that may not be it.
Whatever it is, I am losing less hair, and everyone said: WTF are you doing to your hair? It looks much fuller and thicker..
I think it’s because I dry it while I sleep (in a bun on top of my head) to give fake volume, but I am now picking out maybe 3 hairs from the drain.
Oftentimes, no hair at all comes off my scalp after shampooing which is what happened yesterday, and it surprised me.
USED AS A FACIAL WASH
Don’t do it. Not worth it.
This really stings. I mean, REALLY stings. (If you haven’t gotten the hint yet, … IT STINGS)
For you contact lens wearers out there, if you have ever felt the sting from taking out your contacts too early from that protein-eating cleansing solution, or put it anywhere but IN the designated cap, you will know what I mean by.. IT STINGS.
It gets into your eyes easily because it’s like water, and then you’ll curse my name and wish you never heard of soap nuts.
“DAMN YOU MOCHIMAC!!”
Just buy a facial wash, or try washing with raw honey (natural, mild surfactant) or just warm water with a wash cloth (if you have really good skin and don’t get pimples or clogged pores).
(Washing with raw honey or warm water doesn’t work for me because I wear makeup, and most of all, my skin clogs very easily, gets oily and has a horrible combination T-zone. I already tried and it was A NO GO.)
USED AS A HAND WASH
Possible but it feels weird, like you’re washing with water. It’s also hard to use or get out of the pump.
You have to wash about 2-3 times before your hands feel grease-free.
Still, not a bad idea. If only I could thicken it somehow, but it doesn’t seem to be worth the trouble, as I can just use castile soap for my hands.
Best method out of all of them for shampoo and laundry, with the rest being “meh” as you can find other solutions.
1KG costs about $25 to buy, but you only use 8-15 soap nuts each time to make a batch of liquid (depending on how strong you want it) that will last about a month worth of shampooing every other day.
Now for the best part — the how-to!
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
STEP 2: POUR WATER ONTO THEM
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.
AFTER ABOUT 3 MINUTES
AFTER ABOUT 10 MINUTES
AFTER ABOUT 25 MINUTES
DIARY OF USING SOAP NUTS ON MYSELF (your resident guinea pig for crazy experiments) FOR:
I tried washing my hair less (again, another oil experiment), and my former hairdresser did this in NYC, and she had AMAZING looking hair.
I can do it. Right..?
Just need to deal with grease for the first 6 weeks until it gets used to not having so much oil being produced.
I’m about to throw in the towel.
My hair is so oily, I have like a hair helmet of oil. I am able to go about 3 full days (72 hours) without having to wash my hair, but the fourth day is near impossible.
(The third day is borderline, as I throw my hair up into a bun.)
It probably doesn’t help that the new soap nut liquid shampoo I have, is SO MILD it is like baby-shampoo mild.
I need to massage my scalp maybe 2-3 times longer to really get the oil off, and if I don’t take the time, my hair is still a bit oily (but much better than before).
I need to make a new batch.
I made a new batch of soap nut liquid, this time with 15 soap nuts to 3 cups of water, and LO AND BEHOLD IT WORKS.
It’s a lot better than the mild version of before (stupid Youtube videos… *shakes fist*..), and I only need to pour about 1/10th of the jug onto my head and rub it into my scalp to remove all the oil.
Before, I was using about 1/2 of the mug of liquid, and it was still not all getting out.
Now to see how it goes for the next month (I suspect: AWESOME.)
I’m down to 3 times a week (every 72 hours) for washing my hair (I still shower daily, I just don’t wash my hair..)
My hair looks a BIT greasy on the third day, but no more oily hair helmet.
I think I’ve reached the limit of every 4 days, or 96 hours, or about twice a week. The last day is a bit greasy (as it was before, on my second day of washing), but the first 3 days are amazing.
I can’t go down to once a week because my hair is too straight and flat (which means it picks up the oil a lot easier than a curly haired girl), and I really don’t want to.
DONE. Washing twice a week (unless I move around a lot and start sweating), works for me.
I’m to the point where I am just going to wash my hair when I feels like it’s on the brink of oilapolooza (yes a real word), rather than forcing it to go more days in between washes.
Also, I increased the soap nut amount to 20 instead of 15 soap nuts which created (for me) the perfect balance of super cleansing liquid so that I rub my scalp a lot less.
I am now down to once a week on the best of times. If I don’t sweat a lot, I can go about once a week.
When my hair FEELS greasy I wash it immediately, even if it isn’t once a week or twice a week. I just wash it because it’s gross and disgusting.
I will note that I am also eating a lot less oil (I don’t add oil to the food I cook now) which might contribute to less oil being generated in my scalp, and the turning point of when I could go longer in between washing my hair was about 6 weeks into “training” my scalp, which worked perfectly.
UPDATE: You can buy soapnuts from Well.ca