Soap Nuts – Nature’s Perfect Shampoo and Laundry Soap

In the quest of promoting a more chemical-free lifestyle for my family and reducing the amount of chemicals released into the ecosystem, I have been long on the hunt for something to replace my regular shampoo/conditioner and laundry detergent.  I also wanted to get away from the daily shampoo/conditioner regimen which I felt was drying my hair into straw and making it necessary to apply even more hair products to make it manageable.  I wanted a simple wash-and-go routine that wasn’t expensive.     

During the last few years, I tried many, many non-sulfate natural shampoos….high-end, low-end, drugstore brands, and they either didn’t foam right or clean well, leaving my hair feeling coated with a film or tangling into a mat.  Being a lazy person, I wanted to apply just one product.  All the harsh surfactants in a typical shampoo strip away the natural oils in your hair, making a conditioner a necessity.  So, I tried to skip the shampoo and just go with a conditioner-only routine and not wash my hair more than once a week, in other words, using the unconventional method known as “No Poo”.  Well, let’s just say my husband was avoiding me during this entire experiment.  My hair looked slightly better, less frizzy, but it really smelled bad, and it never felt really clean.  So, I went back to a natural organic shampoo without sulfates, but it still required a rinse of vinegar to smooth down the hair shaft.  Though better looking, it was again a FAIL.  My husband still avoided me, but now I smelled of vinegar, regardless how much I rinsed.  Plus it was a hassle having to mix the vinegar rinse in a separate bottle.

So, I went back to using Whole Foods 365 natural shampoo and conditioner for a while, having no other viable choice.  It wasn’t a bad product, but it didn’t wow me either.    

About 3 years ago, I had read about soap nuts (also called soap berries) being used as a natural laundry soap.  They are the sun-dried fruits of the Sapindus tree.  There are several species of this tree throughout the world, but the ones from India, China, and Nepal (Sapindus Mukorossi and Sapindus Trifoliatus) are the most popular.  The nuts are about the size of large red grapes, about 3/4 inch in diameter and feel gooey or sticky when fresh.  The soap nut is a natural foaming surfactant and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries.  Women in India and China have used them for washing clothes and hair, bathing, just about anything you can clean with soap and water.  It suds up quite well and has no scent.  It is perfect for people with allergies or sensitive skin.  So, I bought the actual soap nuts in the beginning to use as laundry soap.  You put 3 or 4 nuts in a little cotton bag and toss it into your laundry.  It leaves clothes soft, with natural anti-static qualities, so you don’t need a softener.  Some people like to put in a couple drops of essential oil (like lavender) into the wash to fragrance the clothes.  The only bad part of the using soap nuts for laundry was finding the little cotton bag after each load, untying the bag, and replacing the spent nuts.  Did I tell you I was lazy???   I really wanted a liquid soap nut laundry detergent, but none of any quality was available at the time.  

Fast forward to about 4 months ago… I was continuing my search for a natural one-step shampoo and discovered my HG of hair care.  It was a liquid soap nut shampoo!  Of course, you could make your own shampoo by boiling soap nuts in some water, but I wanted something already made for me.  The NaturOli company had recently introduced a liquid soap nut shampoo along with a concentrated liquid laundry soap.  These products sounded perfect for me.  So I ordered the trial bottles of shampoo. 

They come in 2 formulas, Normal-to-Dry and Normal-to-Oily.  I seemed to do equally well on both formulas.  In addition to soap nut concentrates, there are herbal extracts and nourishing carrier oils in the shampoos.  It’s certified organic, chemical free, sulfate free, unscented, and beneficial for hair growth and scalp health.  Though you can use it daily, I only wash my hair every 3rd day, but it stays nice and soft, not turning oily or gross.  I absolutely love the fact that NO conditioner or after-rinse is required after shampooing.  I do apply two squirts of their Moroccan argan oil to my damp hair to give it extra shine.  That stuff is liquid gold, and a little argan oil goes a long way.  Now, my routine is much simpler.  I just wash with NaturOli shampoo, towel dry, run argan oil into my damp hair with my palms and fingers, scrunch my waves with my hands, and I’m done.  I try to avoid using hair dryers and flat irons if possible.  It reduces the chance of frizzy fried hair.

After 4 months of use, my hair is still clean but not stripped, shiny, soft, bouncy and full, tangle free.  I have a lot of hair, but it doesn’t seem to fall out as much.  I’ve read anecdotal accounts of soap nut shampoo reducing hair loss, but don’t know if there are any studies to prove it.  I’ve got too much hair anyway; it’s very long, thick, wavy Asian hair.  My husband has short, thin hair, and he also uses the soap nuts shampoo, as does my kids.  It is so safe, even babies can use it.  But it’s not tear-free, so keep that in mind.    

The key to succeeding with this shampoo is to give it a week or two to remove any buildup your hair currently has, a purge of sorts.  It may look bad (dirty and oily) during this transition period, but hang in there, and your hair will eventually turn around.  Another plus, it doesn’t strip color-treated hair.  You don’t need much either; it foams amazingly well for a natural soap.  Use a quarter-sized dollop for really long hair. 

If you like the shampoos, you may like their other products as well.  I’m using the liquid laundry detergent.  It is taking some getting used to.  You squirt 2 pumps (that’s all) into a typical load.   It’s very concentrated.   It seems to clean just as well as my usual green laundry detergent, but for stains, you may need to spot treat first. 

So, you may be turned off by the seemingly high prices ($19 for 16 oz), but you use less and can wash your hair less frequently, so it lasts the same amount of time as conventional shampoo, plus you are eliminating the need for a separate conditioner.  All-in-all, a good thing for you, your family, and the environment too.     



2 responses to “Soap Nuts – Nature’s Perfect Shampoo and Laundry Soap

  1. I’m looking for a more natural hair care alternative to shampoo. I happen to have the NaturOli liquid soap nuts Extreme 18X on hand and am no longer using it for laundry because – even when I use a full 5ml – my bed sheets smell of body odour after washing them with it.

    I wonder if I dilute the Extreme 18x sufficiently, if it would be safe to use as a shampoo.

    Your suggestions are welcome!

    • Hi, I agree the detergent is not the best for cleaning large loads or very dirty items. I checked the ingredient list and I think you can use it as shampoo. The only things in it are the soaps nuts liquid, vegetable glycerin, olive leaf extract, and food grade preservatives. Nothing in there that could harm your hair or your skin. Try a little bit undiluted the next time you shampoo. The main difference between the laundry detergent and the shampoos is that the shampoo includes the same ingredients PLUS essential oils and extracts especially targeted to improve the health of the scalp and hair. I LOVE the shampoos. Would never give them up. I only wash my hair every 3rd day, and I never use conditioner anymore. I think you could even wash your whole body with it, it’s so gentle and non-drying.

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