Using Soap Nuts for Household Cleaning

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Soap nuts are an effective cleaning agent that grows on trees! If you haven’t heard about soap nuts, learn more here. They are as natural as you can get! They are safe for your family and the environment. No chemicals. No waste. Not only have I found them very useful for cleaning my laundry, but I also have found them to effectively clean my dishes at the sink and in the dishwasher. You can make your own liquid cleaning detergent from raw soap nuts by following these simple steps:

1. Place 12-15 raw soap nuts in a pot with 6 cups of pure filtered water.
2. Bring to a boil and then turn to a simmer for 1 hour.
3. Allow the mixture to cool completely.
4. Strain the nuts from the liquid. Compost the nuts and use the liquid for your housecleaning!

If you make a large batch as described you will want to refrigerate it between uses to preserve it. It is recommended to use within 3-4 days. I store mine in a glass 1/2 gallon jar in the refrigerator. As it is completely natural, it can go bad without preservation. A few ideas for helping to preserve it include: freezing it in ice cube trays, adding essential oils, vegetable glycerin or citric acid. All of which are natural preservatives. Experiment and see what works for you. You will know when it goes bad when it develops a pugnet bad smell. If storing in the refrigerator, make sure to label your product. It looks a lot like apple juice!

Here are all the wonderful housecleaning uses:

All-Purpose Cleaner: Fill a small spray bottle with full strength soap nut liquid (you can dilute it if desired, but I found it to be more effective in full strength). Add a few drops of tea tree oil or lemon essential oil. Use for spraying down countertops and floors and other general cleaning. You can also keep this cleaner by the kitchen sink for dish washing. I like to add 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice for more grease cutting effectiveness. Add white distilled vinegar for more disinfectant jobs.

Windows & Glass: Combine 1 cup of water with 1 Tablespoon soap nut liquid and 1 Tablespoon white vinegar. Place in a spray bottle and spray your surfaces and wipe clean.

For Dishwashers: Fill the dishwasher soap dispenser with soap nuts liquid – about 1/8 cup. Wash as usual. Tip: For extra sparkle, add a half-ounce of vinegar to the rinse dispenser or during the rinse cycle. This works amazingly well! It is in a tight race with my homemade dishwasher detergent/dishwashing soap.

For the Laundry: Use 1/4 cup soap nut liquid in cold or hot water, as desired. I have found using the liquid version is the best way to thoroughly clean your clothes, especially cloth diapers. The raw nuts didn’t seem to agitate enough to clean my diapers thoroughly so I tried making the liquid soap and my problem was solved. Wonderfully clean diapers!

For Steam Cleaning Carpets: According to NaturOli, Soap nuts work exceptionally well in carpet cleaners because they are so low sudsing and odor reducing. Add about a quarter cup of soap nut liquid to hot water in the portable cleaner. Great for urine stains!

You can also purchase the Liquid Extreme 18X version of soap nuts and use that in replacement of the homemade soap nuts liquid above. That is a bit more expensive but definitely makes it easier! You will be able to use a lot less as well because it is a concentrated liquid.

Soap nuts are definitely simplifying my life over here for all their usefulness!

For the best deals on soap nuts, visit NaturOli.

Please note: Passionate Homemaking is an affiliate of NaturOli and will receive a percentage of each purchase made through our links. Thanks for your support!

Stay tuned for our upcoming Natural Housecleaning Carnival this Friday!

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

70 Responses to Using Soap Nuts for Household Cleaning

  1. Nikki January 23, 2012 at 8:30 am #

    Hi :-) Just a couple of questions.

    #1. Do you put a lid on when you boil your soap nuts?

    #2. How much liquid do you have after the hour of simmering

    #3. Can you double this “recipie” ie. 6 cups of water and twice the nuts for and hour (or would it be two hours?)

    We live in a higher altitude and I know that things boil faster here, I don’t seem to have but 3/4 of a regular mason jar of liquid and wanted to make sure that was or wasn’t right.


    • Lindsay January 27, 2012 at 8:37 am #

      1. No, I do not use a lid as it can boil over if you are not careful.
      2. It reduces by about half of what you started with.
      3. Yes, you can certainly make larger batches and just watch till it is again reduced by half.

    • Julie September 4, 2012 at 7:55 am #

      Hi Lindsay,
      I have found a way to not have to waste energy/electricity and super easy is to put the soap nut in a wide mouth thermal container and pour boiling water in it and leave it overnight til the next morning I stained it and put into my pump/spray/jar for use. So simple no more boiling in the pan and worrying about it spilling and having to watch the stove. Plus your thermal container is super clean :)

  2. Esra September 28, 2011 at 12:18 am #

    I am a new started from Turkiye. I actually would like to ask you what is the end use day of 1 batch liquid material? Why do we keep it in refrig. or some make it frozen? Does it degrades?
    I couldn’t find a way to thicken it as well ? Does starch works? Are is it an invitation for bugs?

  3. Danielle September 3, 2010 at 7:38 am #

    If I remember correctly you had issues using soap nuts in the laundry. How has it been for other household cleaning? Any problems?

    Any suggestions for soap scum? I used baking soda this morning, and it worked well on everything but the soap scum.

    • Julie September 4, 2012 at 8:00 am #

      If you got some soapnut without seed… put it in the coffee/spice grinder and make soapnut powder …. add some water to make a paste and put it on a cloth/sponge and it will get the soap scum off right away. no waiting require…. you will be amaze!!!!

  4. Maisarah January 14, 2010 at 6:04 am #

    Hi Lindsay,
    Just wondering if you have to keep the multi-purpose cleaner in the spray bottle in the fridge also?

    • Lindsay January 14, 2010 at 11:32 am #

      No, I add one of the items above recommended as a preservative and it works!

      • Danielle September 3, 2010 at 7:40 am #

        How long will it last w/the preservatives?

  5. Melinda January 11, 2010 at 7:23 am #

    For those worried about the extra step of thawing: you don’t need to thaw frozen soap nut liquid before throwing it in the washing machine or dishwasher. The water (even if it is cold) in the machine will thaw out the frozen cubes by the time the machine is filled. I find it easier tossing in a couple frozen cubes, rather than measuring out the liquid each time, when I do laundry.

  6. Erin January 9, 2010 at 10:08 pm #

    I just made my first batch of liquid soap nuts. I’m trying to decide what to do with it, mostly since it only lasts, as you said a few days to a week. So, if you mix it with a cup of water and some vinegar for a window cleaner, do you really have to use up all that window cleaner in a few days???? I probably would use that much window cleaner in a couple months (I think our windows our clean enough, too :) Anyway, you said they simplify your life, and I am super excited about them, really, I am. I’m just wondering how all of the thawing before a load of laundry or dishes, using it up fast, freezing in containers, storing it in the fridge etc. simplifies. Am I missing a piece of the puzzle? I would just love to stick it in some spray bottles, and not worry about it until my house needs to be cleaned. Maybe what I’m asking for is kind of a schedule, like: Make soap nut liquid twice a month. Immediately clean windows and mirrors. Freeze rest, or something like that. I probably should be able to figure this out on my own… Sorry for the long question.

    • Lindsay January 10, 2010 at 10:28 am #

      I have found the soap nuts liquid actually lasts a long time in the fridge. I have never had it go bad on me. So I wouldn’t worry about it. It can be preserved with adding a vegetable glycerin, or a few drops of essential oils. I don’t freeze it at all. One batch will last me around 3 weeks (with 5 loads of laundry each week) and it has never gone bad. So no fears!

      • Patty January 24, 2011 at 11:18 am #

        I have never added the preservative to the liquid in the past. I will from now on. I have had the liquid go bad in 7-10 day in the refrigerator. It has a strong sour smell. I also will be freezing it in cubes. I was to told that the liquid works best in warm to hot water because that releases the saponins. I have been heating mine for about 30 seconds in the microwave before adding to the washer. If it does work in both cold or hot, I will be making the cubes for sure. Also, I have found on certain clothing I do like a little fabric softner. I don’t find that the clothing is very soft although it is static free.

    • Shannon May 2, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

      I would say – make your batch for the week (a week and a half would mostly be reasonable in my experience). You can also use the liquid with no additives as a body wash in the shower – it works great. Use what you need during the week for showering, dishes, cleaning, and laundry. Then dump the rest into your mop pail to use it up at the end of the week. There’s no waste this way, and far less stress. I am also new to soap nuts liquid, but I’ve tried this for a few weeks, and I just boil down my next batch while mopping the house :) It works very well, and I have absolutely no concerns about the liquid going to waste. I have a big house, kids, and do a lot of laundry – it may be too much for a tiny apartment or something though – you may want a smaller batch for the week in that case. The only cleaner I buy nowadays is toilet bowl stuff – far less bottles everywhere, and I keep my little spritz bottle in the fridge for day to day cleaning (I don’t add anything to it, so I’m more comfortable with it kept cold). Best of luck!

  7. Katherine November 21, 2009 at 12:40 pm #

    I just got a large batch of soap nuts, and I’m excited about saving money and getting chemicals out of the house!
    I am wondering if you’ve come up with any hand soap recipes you’ve liked…I’ve been looking for some time for a cheaper, greener alternative to norm…

    • Lindsay November 23, 2009 at 1:22 pm #

      NO, I have not been able to make my own hand soap recipes with soap nuts…it’s just too liquidy! Trying to figure out a way to thicken it…Anyway, currently, we use and love Mrs. Meyer’s hand soap. Great lavender scent that is fantastic!

      • Katherine November 23, 2009 at 1:43 pm #

        Thanks, I’ll check that out…I wonder if xanthan gum would work?

    • Morgan November 23, 2009 at 3:55 pm #

      I haven’t done it, yet, but if you have a foaming soap pump, I would think the soapnuts would work wonderfully in it! The only concern I would have is whether or not it would last. Since it’s supposed to stay good longer if kept in the refrigerator, I’m not sure if it would stay as long as it would need to if left out on the sink. Hmm…

  8. Yana November 9, 2009 at 4:08 pm #

    Hi Lindsay,

    I boiled soap nuts yesterday for the first time. I kept them simmer for an house as per the instructions above and had the lid on. Was the lid supposed to be off?What I got was very liquid like the water – I could not even use it in the dishwasher because it would leak out before I close the dishwasher door.


    • Lindsay November 9, 2009 at 8:22 pm #

      Sounds like you did it just fine to me. It really does not get thick. Does your dishwasher detergent container not have a cover? It shouldn’t be a problem if it leaks out somewhat. IT still is going into the dishwasher.

    • Morgan November 23, 2009 at 3:52 pm #

      My dishwasher compartment leaks out all the soapnut liquid too. My dishes come out clean, so I assume it’s fine that way. :)

  9. Brook November 7, 2009 at 4:37 pm #

    I just cooked up a batch and it smells kind of pungent already! We’re using it in the dishwasher, the washing machine and the steam cleaner tonight, so we’ll see how it works. :)

    • Lindsay November 8, 2009 at 8:40 am #

      Mine lasted for a good week without any problems.

  10. Tammy Jo October 11, 2009 at 7:02 am #

    Love the soap nuts homemade liquid for our laundry! Thank you for introducing them to me! I also love the homemade linen spray mentioned above! I have been using the liquid with vinegar in the dishwasher now for a few weeks. I have been using vinegar as a rinse for months and love this option. However, I am not loving the liquid soap nuts in this application. I find I have to seriously wash the dishes before puting them in the dishwasher. Which, kinda defeats the purpose. But, I am still using the liquid for the time being because it is simple, econcomic, non-toxic, and I already have it. I am going to try your homeade dishwasher soap. Just curious which you like better and if you are doing anything new?

    • Lindsay October 13, 2009 at 6:39 am #

      My favorite thus far is using the soap nuts liquid in the dishwasher and combining it with the other ingredients in my homemade dishwasher recipe, adding a bit of lemon juice, vinegar, and tea tree to the mix. This seems to be most effective, but again, nothing works as well as commercial detergent. It does definitely simplify things for me, so I don’t stress over it too much. If an item comes out dirty, I just wash it again.

      • Morgan November 23, 2009 at 3:17 pm #

        How much of what do you combine for your dishwasher recipe (using soap nuts)?

        • Lindsay November 24, 2009 at 3:43 pm #

          I don’t have any measurements…I just dump in a 1-2 Tbsp soap nut liquids and a dash of lemon juice.

  11. Morgan October 9, 2009 at 8:00 am #

    I’ve got another question about the soap nuts/the soap nuts liquid. How did you go about straining the liquid? I didn’t figure a colander would be good enough, because it wouldn’t keep the little pieces from going through. So I tried a coffee filter, which took FOREVER. What did you all do?

    • Lindsay October 10, 2009 at 5:59 am #

      No need to strain them Morgan. All’s you have to do is pick out the used soap nut shells. I don’t worry about anything else.

      • Morgan October 10, 2009 at 7:22 am #

        Oh! OK. :) Thanks. I LOVE the soap nuts so far!!!

  12. Morgan September 22, 2009 at 9:36 am #

    Is the vinegar needed to keep any film off dishes when using this recipe for dishwashers? My apartment dishwasher doesn’t have a rinse dispenser and waiting to put in the vinegar for the rinse cycle is near impossible — I always miss it! haha

    • Lindsay September 22, 2009 at 10:23 am #

      I do not use any vinegar in my dishwasher…just the soap nuts liquid and it works great!

    • Tammy Jo Kerney September 23, 2009 at 8:07 am #

      Morgan, I have always just put some vinegar in a cup right side up in the top of my dishwasher. I do this and just start the load. The vinegar cup has residue in it at the the end of the cycles because it faced the wrong way. Thus it needs to be recleaned…but the rest of the load comes out great! My glasses never have residue…sparkling clean!

      • Morgan September 24, 2009 at 8:13 am #

        Thanks Lindsay and Tammy Jo! I just ordered my soap nuts today… I’m so exited to get them and use them for my various household cleaning!!!

  13. Tamara September 12, 2009 at 9:42 pm #

    We live in Hungary and I bought a bag of soap nuts to bring back with us ( a 2 lb bag, which cost about $40 including the shipping) should last us about a year!!! Last week I made soap nuts liquid (in the crockpot–thanks Emily) which is stretching these little beauties even farther! I froze up the liquid we couldn’t use up in 3 days into 1/4 cup portions ( I used a silicon cupcake pan) for laundry and then in ice cube trays I froze up portions for my dishwasher. When it is time to do a load of laundry or dishes, I just defrost the cubes in the microwave. For the dishwasher, I also add about a tsp of lemon juice. My dishes and laundry look beautiful and I’m saving so much money! For me in Hungary the savings has equaled AT LEAST $80 for the year! And it is all-natural! Thank you, God, for creating this!
    PS. My son has eczema and this has been a great alternative to sensitive, hypo-allergenic detergent!

  14. Leanne September 12, 2009 at 10:59 am #

    I wonder if you need to be careful using these if you have a child with severe tree nut allergy….

  15. Melissa September 11, 2009 at 4:32 am #

    I love this post and idea. I followed your directions and have been pleased with the results. Instead of fabric softener I had already been using this “Lavendar Linen Spray”– 1/2 c vodka in a spray bottle with the rest of the bottle filled with water and about 10 drops of lavendar essential oil.

    • Tammy Jo September 25, 2009 at 1:46 pm #

      Melissa, I have so many different size spray bottles. How much water do you add? Do you spray this on a rag and throw in the dryer? Or sprinkle when you iron? How do you use this linen spray?

  16. Mari September 7, 2009 at 11:23 am #

    I bought the soapnut liquid, and have been using it for my laundry a couple of times. I´ve used a teaspoon as it says on the bottle, but it doesn´t seem to get the stains of that well. Don´t know if I´m doing something wrong, or if I should use more?
    Thanks for sharing so many great tips on your blog. It´sgreat!

    • Lindsay September 8, 2009 at 7:20 am #

      Like the instructions suggest, you may need something to use as a stain pre-treater. I use Dawn dishsoap and apply to the stains before washing. It works beautifully! You could also try oxygen bleach, hydrogen peroxide or any regular soap.

      • Amy January 8, 2010 at 12:05 pm #

        Lindsay, what about the greasy spots that are hard to detect and therefore hard to pre-treat? For example, my 16 month old gets raw milk on her shirt, it dries and I don’t remember that it was there and then there’s a grease spot after it comes out of the dryer…
        I’ve been using soap nuts for a long time now and love them! But this problem plagues me. I do use them raw however. Do you think the liquid would solve this?
        And thanks for the Dawn pre-treating tip. I’m gonna try that! :)

        • Lindsay January 8, 2010 at 3:35 pm #

          Unfortunately, once it has gone through the dryer your stain is set. This happens to me occasionally as well and we just live with it. Kids are messy and clothes get stained. I try to soak most of the kid’s clothes immediately for best success in avoiding stains, but it doesn’t always happen.

          • Amy January 13, 2010 at 10:26 am #

            As long as I catch the stain, Dawn is working great for pre-treating! Thanks for the tip!!!

    • Shannon May 2, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

      I use raw soapnuts for laundry most often too. I found that if you’re washing whites, an oxygen booster is a must, I also use the booster on any stains, and I’ve never had a problem – ever. I soak my soapnuts in a glass of hot water for 5 minutes before using, and then just put the water as well as the bag of nuts in the machine on a cold cycle. They seem to work great in my HE machine this way. I hope that helps :)

  17. Thomasin September 3, 2009 at 9:16 am #

    I was one of the recent soap nuts 18x winners and I am SO GLAD I had the chance to sample the power of soap nuts! I’ve ordered the raw nuts so I can try and make my own cleaner and laundry liquid. Thank you for your insights!

  18. Angela September 2, 2009 at 5:29 pm #

    Thanks! one more question…so I boiled it down and must have boiled it too hard b/c I didn’t have much left at the end. How much should I have left approximately after boiling (according to your recipe above)?

    • Lindsay September 3, 2009 at 6:27 am #

      You should have about six cups. I didn’t measure mine afterwards but it looked about the same. Even if you boiled it down more, you are left with a more concentrated mixture, which should stretch farther.

  19. Angela September 2, 2009 at 3:15 pm #

    Is the 1/4 C for the laundry for a HE washer? Would you need more for one that is not HE?

    • Lindsay September 2, 2009 at 4:15 pm #

      No, it works equally well on both HE and standard machines. You can always adjust the quantity as needed.

  20. Jennifer B September 2, 2009 at 10:16 am #

    Have you tried using Soapwort aka Bouncing Bet? It is very similar an grows everywhere in America. It is even something you could grow in your pots! Just curious. :)

    • Gillian September 2, 2009 at 5:45 pm #

      Have you tried it Jennifer? Do you have resources of people useing it as a soap and how they did it? I’d be interested to learn more!

      • Jennifer B October 22, 2009 at 6:24 am #

        I haven’t tried it yet but I plan to next year once my plant is established. I know that museums still use it to clean very old items, it is that gentle!
        Here is a link I found helpful:

        But there are many out there just try searching soapwort recipes :D

        • Lindsay October 23, 2009 at 1:47 pm #

          Just so you are aware. Soapwort is definitely not the same thing as soap nuts. They are in the same family, but soapwort does not have the same amount of sapponin, making it far less effective as a cleaner. It is a related plant (saponaria genus) about the size of a small garden plant. It follows a totally different branch (pun actually not intended). There are numerous species of it. They do contain saponin (as does yucca, agave, and others), but in very small amounts. There are historical references for cleaning uses with its ground flowers and leaves (pretty flowers actually). It’s a horse of another color though.

  21. Jessica September 2, 2009 at 5:53 am #

    Thanks for sharing this. I would like to try making the liquid cleaner for washing diapers and clothes. I was also wondering if you had tried using the liquid as a shampoo?

    • Lindsay September 2, 2009 at 7:15 am #

      I have been experimenting shampoo lately. It is not sudsy at all in the hair and is too liquidy by itself. I tried adding it to my regular shampoo as they suggest but it made it a bit too watery. My next step is to add vegetable glycerin to thicken and preserve and see what happens.

      • Jessi March 21, 2012 at 11:36 am #

        I also tried using the soapnuts liquid as shampoo and found it to liquid. I made a paste “of sorts” with it and baking soda. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great either. I personally like just adding a couple table spoons of baking soda to my regular shampoo.

  22. Christina September 2, 2009 at 4:33 am #

    Which have you found to be less expensive? The homemade dishwasher soap or the soap nuts as a dishwasher soap? BTW I am loving using the 18x sample I got for my laundry. It’s so nice to be able to now have a natural laundry source that isn’t going to cost me an arm and a leg!

    • Lindsay September 2, 2009 at 7:19 am #

      Oh, I would definitely say the soap nut liquids will be the cheaper route, simply because 12-15 raw nuts can stretch so far to make 6 cups of liquid, but I don’t know the exact cost comparison as the prices can vary depending upon what size bag you purchase.

      • Christina September 3, 2009 at 5:08 am #

        Thanks! Can’t wait to try the soap nuts liquid in my dishwasher. The commercial dishwashing detergent is corroding things under the sink where we store it. Yikes!

    • Morgan September 25, 2009 at 7:15 am #

      The cost obviously will vary with the different places you buy your ingredients, but I calculated that the homemade dishwasher soap is about $0.04 per cycle. The soap nuts as a dishwasher soap is about $0.01 per cycle.
      I have not gotten my soap nuts yet (ordered them yesterday), but I am extremely excited to try them out!! :)

  23. Carrie September 2, 2009 at 4:11 am #

    I just got my sample size of both soap nuts and the concentrate and I really love the concentrate! So far everything has come out clean and really soft, almost like I had used Downy! My husband has ridiculously sensitive skin so he will be the real test for me. I just haven’t told him what I have washed with the soap nuts so he can’t really compare until I tell him later. Thanks so much for introducing this product to me!

  24. Fruitfulvine2 September 2, 2009 at 3:20 am #

    Thanks for the soap nut post. I read about it somewhere recently and found out that they do have it somewhere on this island. I’m looking forward to the day I find it. Now with this article I will know how to go about using it. Thanks so much for this.

  25. Heather September 2, 2009 at 3:02 am #

    I just got my first shipment of soap nuts in the mail two days ago and used them yesterday. I love them! We must have extremely soft water because 5 nuts lasted for 6 full loads. The laundry is cleaner than I can remember and smells like it has been line-dried! Thanks so much for your recommendations!
    I do have one question…I received the 18x bottle free (thanks to your promotion) and I don’t know how to dilute it for the dishwasher or for hand-washing soap. Do you know how I could do that?
    Thanks again. The Lord has really used this website to help our family so much. Please keep blogging!

    • Lindsay September 2, 2009 at 7:25 am #

      I used about 1/2 tsp of the 18x straight in my dishwasher, but I would recommend stretching it by adding lemon juice, vinegar, and essential oils for more effectiveness. Try a couple teaspoons diluted with water and those other additions. I don’t think you can go wrong.

      • Heather September 3, 2009 at 2:11 am #

        I used it in the dishwasher and it worked great! We do not have the best dishwasher in the world and I was getting a white residue on my dishes even with using liquid detergent. I used only 1/4 tsp of the 18x and 1/4 tsp lemon juice with 1/2 tsp water. Then I put about a tsp or so of vinegar in the rinse aid. The result was clean residue-free dishes! Thanks again!

  26. Emily @ Under$1000PerMonth September 2, 2009 at 2:52 am #

    I’ve been putting my soap nuts in the crock pot with the water for maybe four hours on high instead of simmering on the stove. The liquid comes out almost thick, so concentrated. I love it!

    • Lindsay September 2, 2009 at 7:25 am #

      Great idea! I wish I had thought of that! I just love blogging because I get so many good ideas from my readers!

  27. Hallee September 2, 2009 at 1:24 am #

    Great ideas!
    I have to try soap nuts for my laundry at least. My 1-year-old reacts to anything, and I’ve been struggling with a diaper rash with him for a couple of months. He stayed with my parents for several days, and wore disposables for the entire time, and it went away. Which leaves me to believe that he’s reacting to the laundry detergent. Since it’s pure detergent I’m at a loss as to what to try next except soap nuts!

    • Jessi March 21, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

      I have been using soap nuts on our cloth diapers for a month or so now and they work very well. I do put between an eighth and a fourth of a cup of bac out in my cold prerinse and let them soak ten to twenty minutes before I start the rinse cycle “I have a toploader” and that seems to help. I did find that you still want to do an extra rinse at the end too. Make sure to take you soapnuts out first. Good luck!