Soap Nuts Shampoo

Soap Nuts Shampoo Recipe easy and natural Soap Nuts Shampoo

I’ve written before about how I use soap nuts for laundry, and I’ve gotten several questions since that post about how I also use them for shampoo sometimes.

Finding a natural shampoo that works for your hair type can be difficult. Coconut milk based shampoo works great for some people, and some people do great with the no-poo method (not me!). If neither of those has worked for you, this is another that you can try.

According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

Soap nuts are found in both the eastern and western hemispheres, but are native to India and Nepal. They have recently become a popular environmentally friendly alternative to chemical detergent, and are a gentle option for those with allergies to chemicals in regular detergents. They have traditionally been used as an expectorant, and in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for eczema and psoriasis. Soap nuts contain saponin, a natural detergent. The soap nut shell absorbs water and releases the saponins which circulate as a natural surfactant in the wash water, freeing dirt, grime, and oils from clothing.”

Soap nuts can be used to make a really easy natural shampoo or body wash that is soothing to eczema or psoriasis. Soap nuts shampoo is also incredibly inexpensive to make and completely natural. Tip: If you make a full batch, store in ice cube trays and freeze for individual use sizes or store in a peri bottle in the fridge and just take out when you shower.

If you aren’t up for making it and want a more involved (but still natural) solution, you can buy pre-made Soap Nuts Shampoo.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Soap Nuts Shampoo
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A simple shampoo made from soap nuts that cleans and nourishes hair without chemicals.
Recipe type: Beauty
  • 5 soap nuts (available here)
  • 3 cups of water
  • 5 drops lavender essential oil (optional)
  1. If you have one, place soap nuts in a small muslin bag.
  2. Place in a medium saucepan with 2 cups of the water and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Add 1 cup of water and simmer for 10 more minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and let cook.
  6. Squeeze out the bag until it suds. Rinse with cool water and squeeze in to the pan again.
  7. Store in a glass jar in the fridge until use.
To use: Massage a small amount in to hair and let sit for 5 minutes. Rinse well. Can also be used as a soothing wash for skin, especially in those with eczema and psoriasis.

Have you ever used soap nuts? How did you use them?

Reader Comments

  1. Amber Finkelstein says

    I’m sorry to be obtuse, but do you use the water only, and discard the nuts? I’ve never worked with them (a lot of the concepts you bring up are new to me, but I enjoy reading them because I have a crazy amount of allergies). I often feel like I need instructions meant for a toddler!


  2. Jessi K says

    Be still my heart! I have some of these from MRH and while I haven’t been brave enough yet to completely replace my homemade laundry soap, I am thrilled to find another use for them. Thank you!!!

  3. Anni Wilkko says

    Could this be made into a solid shampoo bar? Would this be good for oily hair? Or would you have some other ideas for oily hair?

  4. Lisa D says

    I also have a basic question. I bought soap nuts but all I received were shells. Is that correct? All the soap qualities are in the shells, not in the nuts themselves?

    • Claire says

      yes, its the shells :) I use 15-20 in 6 cups of water and leave it on low/medium heat and get a dark colour and then store in big bottles, I use a cup in my laundry with some baking powder and essential oils and it smells great and everything is clean, I love it on my hair, so many options for scents!

  5. Justine Byers says

    I love soap nuts! I have recently started using them to wash dishes (a few nuts in a sock with the end tied up and to do my laundry, they do a great job. I tried using them as a shampoo too, with a few drops of tea tree oil, and liked the results. After washing my hair I used the remaining liquid to clean the shower, worked well!

  6. sandra richard says

    How about using this soap nut base as a replacement for the liquid castille soap in your coconut milk based shampoo?

  7. Rachel says

    Finally a natural shampoo that does not make my hair completely unmanageable, greasy-looking and clumpy-feeling! I have tried various no-poo recipes and although lots of baking soda initially worked well for my hair, after my apartment complex got a new water heater, the no-poo just left my hair looking greasy and tangly (It also didn’t work at my mother’s house or at a hotel, so water really matters!). I also tried your coconut milk-castile soap recipe for about two weeks and the results were rather unpleasant (in a totally weird way. I don’t even know how to describe it).
    But this really worked wonderfully. I am super happy.

    • Becky says

      I’ve been trying some different natural shampoo methods and have had bad results as well. About to try soap nuts but I was curious if you use anything to condition at all?

    • Jen A. says

      I have also tried castille soap for shampoo and had some undesirable results. It made my hair feel very filmy and kind of clump together. I immediately washed my hair with conventional shampoo to strip the film off of it. I’ve also tried the no-poo method and had about the same results. But I’m determined to keep trying! I’m about to try this recipe for the first time and have high hopes. Wish me luck!

  8. Kim says

    Hi Katie. First I want to say how much I love your blog and DIY personal care recipes. I also wanted to pass on this information – Indian stores carry soap nuts in a powder form – it’s called “Aritha Powder” and comes in a small box. I’m Indian by birth and visit Indian stores often for my cooking supplies so I’ve come across Aritha Powder but didn’t ever buy any. I’m going to give your recipe a try! Thanks for the inspiration :)

  9. Laura Schulte says

    does it smell very strongly of the nuts? I use them for laundry already and find that the nuts smell horrible. Really wouldn’t want that on my head 24/7

  10. meggs says

    how long would this keep in the fridge? can this be make with whole soapnuts or does it need to be just the shells?

  11. Fride Blindheim says

    I really want to make this for my mum for christmas, but I’d like for it to be a bit thicker than what I suppose your shampoo with this recipe will be.
    Do you think I can use Arrowroot or a similar thickener to get it to be more gel-like? Would it be a good idea to use aloe vera gel in it?

    I’m thinking I’d love to try to make it with aloe gel and arrowroot as additions to this recipe to get it more gel-like, and because I’ve read that aloe vera gel is fantastic for hair. Do you think that’ll be a success?

    • laura says

      i bet you could just cook it down to boil out some of the water to make it concentrated and then add those other ingredients after.

    • Becky says

      I know this comment is from several months ago but I’ve read a lot about flaxseed gel you can make by boiling the flaxseeds and many people use that on their hair with great results, that may be an option for thickening.

  12. Erica says

    I make a liquid out of soap nuts and keep some in the fridge (for cloth diapers) to use within a few days and then freeze the rest in ice cube trays. The liquid will become rancid in the fridge after a week or so.

  13. Chris Sicurella says

    Hi Katie and all, Think I can help with a few of the comments & questions here. The shells (the dried skin & pulp) are what contain saponin. The saponin is the active ingredient in the soap nuts (soap berries). Mountain Rose sell them with their seeds/pits. Think of them like bing cherries. The seeds/pits have no usefulness, and are half their weight. Keep that in mind when shopping. De-seeded are worth much more. Aritha powder has been used for ages in hair care, & offers many benefits. Many won’t enjoy the experience though of either the liquid or powder when used as a shampoo. (I didn’t at all, except I’ll add some powder to the “pre-made” when I want to exfoliate my scalp. It feels really good! Rinse well.) I usually only recommend them as an occasional treatment for hair & scalp. Just doesn’t cut it as a good shampoo where lather is nice. The “pre-made” NaturOli shampoos are a different ballgame. They are all-in-one shampoos & conditioners. Letting the ingredients tell the tale: “100% Complete and Full Ingredient List: Sapindus Mukorossi Aqueous Extract, Aloe barbadensis Gel, Vegetable Glycerin, Lauryl Glucoside, Saponified Olea europaea Oil (Olive Oil Soap), Panax Ginseng Extract, Japanese Green Tea, Olea europaea (Olive) Leaf Extract, Nasturtium officinale (Water Cress) Extract, Hibiscus Leaf Extract, Simmondsia chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Hamamelis virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Olea europaea (Olive) Oil, Cyamopsis Tetragonoloba (Guar) Gum, dl-Panthenol (Provitamin B5), Citric acid.” You can see there’s much more to it than just soap nut liquid or powder. Frankly, the formulas are so good, some may need a few washes to “detox” their hair of old residues. If so, either Argan oil, or NaturOli’s serum are helpful as the hair acclimates to “all natural” hair care. There’s tons of reviews on them that folks can read. They truly do restore a beautiful, natural balance to the hair, and leaves the scalp much healthier, too. – HOPE THIS HELPS A FEW OF YOU!!! Happy upcoming holidays! Chris (Author/SoapNuts.Pro, Founder/NaturOli)

    • NancyLu says

      UPDATE: the MRH soap nuts are now deseeded! I have used both forms & the deseeded seem to be “soapier”. I have washed my dog and horse laudry w/ homemade soap nut detergent and amazed at how clean & fresh it comes out. I am eager to try the shampoo. I am a swimmer so I hope it works. Re: the smell, it is vinegary, but does not leave a vinegar smell after washing.

  14. Jenny Pelletier says

    Hi there! I tried the no poo method (I agree I need the poo!) and the coconut milk shampoo (left my hair snarly and greasy). Would you recommend I try the soap nuts shampoo? I have very fine, thin hair.

    • Lottie Chaney says

      I would definitely say give it a go as iv tried no poo and coconut etc and many more but the soapnuts recipe is by far the best. I added xanthan gum to thicken it so its spreads easier. I love it!

  15. Alice Franke says

    Random yet related question- Is it safe to also put a little baking soda in with these guys when using it for laundry? Just to be extra certain that smells come out? After reading a ton of reviews, I found that to be the most common complaint; smells remaining.

    • Lacy says

      I use vinegar for smells (we have 6 kids 7 and under and usually use cloth diapers, so we are hard on the laundry). I just got my soap nuts to try (out of options due to crazy allergies) but vinegar and borax or washing soda seem to take care of most smells for us. I put 1/4 cup vinegar in a downy ball and will add that much or up to a 1/2 cup for REALLY stinky stuff. Takes care of diaper smells and most others, including the musty-I-forgot-the-laundry-smell. :)

  16. Britni Wige says

    I’ve been using soap nuts to wash my LOs cloth diapers and absolutely love them! You posted above that you can use the solution as a body wash to soothe eczema. This winter has been brutal on my 4 mos old skin. Do you think it’s gentle enough to use on baby? We have been using water only but since I’ve been applying breast milk to her back and legs, I feel like she needs a little more than water to get her clean. I call her my little buttermilk baby lol! Thank you in advance :)

  17. Lottie Chaney says

    I have tried every homemade shampoo recipe going, but for some reason have not come accross using soapnuts! Ive used them cleaning laundry for a few years on and off so I had bag already in my cupboard.

    I used this recipe but added xanthan gum to thicken it up… and I have to say my hair feels amazing!!! Ive washed it a few times now and its considerably less frizzy, softer, shinier and feels so clean. Ive been sk disappointed with previous recipes ive tried but I love this one and so does my family.

    I know I cant use this on my 18 month olds hair as it could get in her eyes… any suggestions of shampoo I could make that is tear free??

  18. Gaby says

    I have a few questions:
    Can you reuse the same nuts more than once? I know that wen you use them to wash clothes you can and i was wondering if it was possible/necesary with this shampoo as well.
    I noticed that a lot of foam remained in the muslin bag even after sqeezing it a few times. Do i need to try harder and get everything out and into my bottle or is the shampoo strong enough even without it?
    For how long can i keep it in the fridge? Can i also store it outside(in the bathroom)? How can i tell it’s gone bad?

  19. Sarah says

    I really like soap nuts! Thanks for the introduction to them for laundry and hair. Somehow I missed the part about putting it in the fridge. The first time I made a single batch. The second time I doubled it and added Apple cider vinegar to clean and condition all at once. I never noticed a rancid smell even though it wasn’t’ t refrigerated. I have short, thin hair with no natural body. My hair has been soft, shiny and very manageable with the soap nut/Apple cider mix. It was very thin so I just used a peri-bottle from a past birth and squeezed it right onto my scalp let it sit while I did other stuff and then rinsed. My older kids have been using it, but it is a bit strong in smell and it does sting a bit too so I don’t use it on my little ones. My husband doesn’t really like it though. No one that uses it has any lasting smell once their hair dries. It is working too for my son who has coarse, curly hair, most shampoo makes his hair either dry and frizzy or greasy. I just love soap nuts and reusable wool dryer balls! Have been telling all my friends. We have nine kids so we do quite a large amount of laundry. Everything comes out with little work-we only change nuts every 5-6 loads. Beets left on a baby bib and white onesie overnight came completely out! Yeah for soap nuts! Thanks again.

  20. Matt Johnson says

    I think soap nuts liquid for the hair is great. The one difficulty I find with it, though, is that it has the consistency of water. I have been considering adding Xanthum gum as a thickener. Also, citric acid is the best preservative to keep it from spoiling.

  21. Christine says

    Has anyone ever got some in your eye, I did and it stings pretty good, is it harmful in anyway, probably a silly question but just checking


  22. Melissa says

    I started using the soap nut shampoo a couple weeks ago and although the first week was great and I loved how soft my hair felt, after the first week my hair started to still look and feel greasy after washing. I used to have problems with dandruff, and that is completely gone and hasn’t come back with the use of this shampoo, but I was wondering if my hair is going through an adjustment phase or if it is normal to have the hair suddenly start being greasy feeling after working great for a week? I need to make a new batch as mine ran out, so maybe it was just that the other stuff was getting old and not working as well? I really hope it starts working again as I really loved the way it make my hair feel when it worked! I am also in love with using them for our laundry! Our clothes are so soft now! Can’t wait to try soap nuts for more things!

Join the Conversation...

Your email address will not be published. Please read the comment policy.

Rate this recipe: