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.
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.
Soap Nuts Shampoo Ingredients
- 5 soap nuts (I got mine here)
- 3 cups of water
- 5 drops lavender essential oil (optional)
Soap Nuts Shampoo Instructions
- If you have one, place soap nuts in a small muslin bag.
- Place in a medium saucepan with 2 cups of the water and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add 1 cup of water and simmer for 10 more minutes.
- Remove from heat and let cook.
- Squeeze out the bag until it suds. Rinse with cool water and squeeze in to the pan again.
- 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? Tell me below!
Discussion (206 Comments)
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 🙂
What is the ratio for powder to water to make a shampoo? Thanks!
Aritha Powder, also known as Soapnut Powder, comes from the fruit of the Soapnut tree. The pulp of the fruit contains a high level of saponins that act as natural foaming agents. This powder can be used to wash delicate fabrics as well as to wash sensitive skin and hair. Add the powder to a facial mix of milk powder and clay to provide delicate cleansing of the skin. Add Aritha Powder to salt scrubs to add cleansing action. Please note that natural soapnuts (Aritha Powder) have a mild odor. This odor does not transfer to your skin, hair or clothing.
As a hair and body wash, Aritha Powder is best used in a tea. Add 1 tablespoon of Aritha Powder to a cup of boiling water. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Cool and strain the tea for use as a hair wash or mild cleanser. Aritha Powder can also be combined with amla, neem and shikakai powders for a more nutritive hair wash. Steep all of the herbs in water, and strain the tea. The tea should be kept refrigerated and used within 4 days or preserved with an anti-bacterial preservative.
thank you Misty! i wan to try the powder rather the nuts and was searching basic simple receipt for shampoo. im also thinking to add essential oils to give it more properties. i was wondering if you know if it is good enough to wash off oily hair mask (e.g. castor and almond oils), maybe 2tb of power for one cup of water
Such a great natural shampoo alternative. My mother used to wash my hair with soapnuts when I was a kid. I’m going to switch back to them because they are really good for hair.
Thanks for the amazing recipe!
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.
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?
I’ve gone back to using bar soap and vinegar rinse. The soap gets out the oils and the vinegar gets out the mineral deposits leaving hair soft and shiny. My hair is no long dry looking like straw. It looks and feels healthier.
What bar soap do you suggest using?
Hand-made natural Cold Process soap from a local craft soap-maker (not made from a “Melt and Pour” kit). Real soap is the ultimate, soothing, cleansing non-drying luxury.
I have thick hair down to my bottom and all I use is soap nuts and an ionic brush. Soap nuts are naturally conditioning. My hair is always soft and manageable with nothing more than the soap nuts and my brush. I also use soap nuts to clean my laundry and I do not need to use any fabric softeners. I also use soap nuts liquid in a spray bottle for general household cleaning and I am very happy with it. I will never buy cleaners or soaps from the grocery store again.
Hi, i was wondering since yiu gave done it for a while and it works..How do you use it in you hair? Do you use the same recipe as this or another way?
We have always used soap nuts to wash our hair growing up in India. We used to soak soap nuts in warm water and my mom used to crush fresh hibiscus leaves in the soap nut water. Hbiscus leaves act as a natural conditioner.
I’d love to hear, how many leaf you use to this shampoo?
You can just use a couple of hibiscus leaves cos i normally make this liquid fresh for everytime I use .. It hardly takes ten minutes for the prep..
Used soap nuts since Christmas, occasionally using bi-carb (never again) and do not use anything else now. I have long wavy hair, best thing has been a natural boar bristle brush every night to move the wax (sebum) down the hair shaft, now have shiny low tangle low hair loss hair 🙂
i am no poo for almost 12 months, im about to use soap nuts, i have always used coconut oil with lavender oil, or argan oil to condtition my hair, i have waist length hair im 58 🙂
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!
Update: I’ve detoxed my hair a few times now with bentonite clay and followed up with coconut milk castille shampoo and had awesome results! It did take a while to detox, but I’m so glad I did! I was determined to be done with conventional shampoos & I have really noticed a difference. I have used Nexxus products for years thinking they were the best thing out there. Little did I know that they were actually making my hair fall out! Since switching to homemade shampoos my hair loss has actually decreased by about 80%. Thank you so much for your awesome recipes!
The coconut/Castile H M shampoo formula needs some “tweaking”…. Is a great kick off place. A lot of guinea pigs and bad hair days later……I’ve added 2 very light wt oils,(Apricot Kernal, Jojoba ) raw honey, rosemary/soap nut infused water (basically cutting the Coconut milk in half 50/50 ratio, and a few other goodies… my hair loves it…I’m selling Sweet Dew~ Shampoo under my 7 Springs Farm company. sevenspringsfarm.biz
Kudos and blessings to Wellness Mama, I love to see people/WOMEN breaking the molds, doing what is healthy and best for themselves and their family!! Marching to a different beat.
Hi, is it okay to put straight essential oil into the soapnut liquid water?
okay I tried and its all good 🙂
How about using this soap nut base as a replacement for the liquid castille soap in your coconut milk based shampoo?
wellness mama, would like to know the answer for this. Can we replace castille soap with soap nuts from the earlier coconut milk shampoo recipe? This is because the coconut milk recipe did not work and i do not want to waste the coconut milk. Pls reply, thanks in advance!
You could try it, but I haven’t, and I don’t know how well it would work.
sandra, have you tried it? how did it work for you?
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!
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?
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!
How long do you leave it one the stove 🙂
Soap nuts are technically berries. Thou the term soap nuts stuck over soap berries.
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?
i think its too watery for a solid
You can use the powder to make shampoo bar. add butters and oils and if you want suds, add some synthetic detergent like sodium cocoyl isethionate. I make natural shampoo bars without the harsh chemicals. Best thing that ever happen to me. No more dry, itchy head from store bought shampoos
I’ve tried soap nuts as a washing up liquid (not the best idea) and body wash, but never thought of using them as shampoo. I’ll be giving this a go 🙂
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!!!
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!
Yep, just the liquid and strain out the nuts…
Hi wellness mama… Thank you so much for this recipe… Can we use ACV did water as a conditioner cos mine is a thin fine hair…thanks in advance
My daughters and I use a rinse of cider vinegar diluted in water . Make sure you rinse it well, but it’s fantastic for all hair types x
Can I use a litle bit of oil wiht the nuts sjampo ?
I have just followed you shampoo recipe. I brought it to a boil and turned it down to simmer. I was unable to keep the cover on due to it wanting to flood. This was true even when I had it very low. I left the top ajar and cooked it for the length of time you state, adding the water after 20 minutes. After the 10 minutes for the 2nd simmering I found close to no liquid left. I had to add more liquid and bring it back to a boil or nothing would be there for me to use. What am I doing wrong? Please let me know how to correct it in the future.
Also is there a way to thicken it to make it more user friendly in the shower?
How often do you shampoo your hair with it?
Thanks for your input.
In my experience you don’t need to cook soapnuts, just put a few in an old shampoo bottle, add hot/warm water to the half way mark and leave to soak for a day or a few days. When you want to wash your hair, top up with warm water so it is comfortable to use. Squirt the whole contents of the bottle over your hair, tipping your head back. Leave it on for a few minutes; you can massage your scalp with fingertips and use flat hands to work it in with a bit more warm water, but don’t muss your hair up too much or you will get tangles. YOUR HAIR AT THIS STAGE WILL FEEL LIKE CRUNCHY STRAW: BUT DON’T GIVE UP – IT WILL FEEL WONDERFUL WHEN YOU HAVE FINISHED. Repeat with more shampoo if this is the first time you have used soap nut shampoo because there will be residues of old shampoo/conditioner to remove. Rinse off, then use an apple cider vinegar rinse (a bit of apple cider vinegar in another old shampoo bottle, topped up with water and squirt through your hair). Comb with a wide tooth comb, then rinse again with clear water. You can use the soap nuts again for your next shampoo, or add more when needed. I have found that thickening soap nut shampoo just means there is thickener to be washed out of your hair. Good luck. When you get used to the routine it is easy.
Hey Stephanie, hope you read this. Great tips! Do you apply the shampoo on dry hair? Also, how many times can you use the nuts this way before they stop working? Cheers!
Reply to Amelie.
Hi, I apply to dry hair and add more water, but you can try applying it to wet hair. As to how many times you can use the nuts, it depends how long they have soaked for – just try it out and see what works best for you. Best wishes, Stephanie
Yes I agree, the used shells can go into the compost with vegetable peelings etc.
I started adding rye flour shampoo (rye flour plus water) to the soap nut liquid ( I use Aritha powder instead of whole nuts) to wash my hair. Does anyone tried it as well and how were the results?
I started experimenting with this combo 3 weeks ago and my hair feels amazing. The rye flour mix just adds that thickening effect that soap nuts lack. I also mix in shikakai powder, egg yolk, and sometimes mustard powder for softening effect.
Hello, I was wondering if you happen to know the ph of this recipe?
I haven’t tested it…
hi for your washing you can get a sock and tie a knot in the top with 5-6 nuts in the sock and wash your clothes and use the sock up to 3-5 time with the same nuts 🙂
Just shake a few broken up soap nuts in an old shampoo bottle with warm water and leave to soak. You can use it the next day refll with warm water/ more soap nut shells as required. All this cooking and big quantities and adding other stuff is unnecessary.
Agreed, I add warm water to the nuts and give it a shake to ensure there is still saponin in the nuts (you’ll get a little foam if they’re still good). Used this since Christmas, brush every night with a bristle brush (loose my curls though) and now use a wooden comb, just about there, shiny hair, healthy scalp – hard work but worth it.
How often do you wash your hair with the soap nuts?
I only wash weekly and only with soap nuts. Hopefully almost there 🙂
Down to washing with soapnuts every nine days, hoping to increase that time by a day a month. My hair is so healthy with a shine I can’t remember before. I have some curl back too 🙂
Although you are correct, many of us greatly enjoy the process itself! 🙂 There’s just something about taking the time to prepare new and healthy recipes and putting love into creating personalized scents and combos for your family! I’m so thankful for this blogger and the many other ones who have trialed and errored their way through the world of homemade cleaning products and were then brave enough to share it with the world!! Thank you for all the hard work and time it must take to do this! <3
Yes, fine. I was just making this remark for the people who were asking if there was a quicker and easier way. I agree that making things is fun but it would be a shame to put people off soapnuts who are too busy to have time for a longer process. 🙂
You could use the nutshells as fertilizer or you can make bracelets, necklaces, or any handcrafts with de nuts…. they also can be used to mix it with the soil.