What Is Soap Nut? Everything you Need to Know

Soap nuts in bowl on wooden background closeup

Soap nuts have been used for hundreds of years in India and Nepal as a natural detergent. Soap nuts are not nuts, but are the dried fruit of the Ritha tree (Sapindus mukorossi), also commonly referred to as the Indian Soapberry tree or simply Soap Nut tree. Soap nuts contain natural saponins released when they come into contact with water, creating a natural soaping effect that is perfect for use as an organic detergent and alternative to chemical soaps. In this article, we’ll talk about soap nuts and how to use soap nuts for hair care.

Soap nut is a name given to the dried fruits of the Soap Nut tree (Sapindus mukorossi), also called the Indian Soapberry tree or the Ritha tree. The Soap Nut tree is a deciduous tree that grows in the lower foothills of the Himalayan mountains at altitudes of up to 4,000 ft. It is also native to the western coastal regions of India, including Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Goa.

Soap nut has been used for hundreds of years in India and Nepal as a natural soap for laundry and bathing. The “nuts” or dried berries contain saponins that, when combined with water, create a natural soaping effect. The cleansing properties of this Saponin make soap a valuable nut as a cleanser for hair, skin, and clothing.

It is the outer husks of the soapberry that contain the saponins. Traditionally, the soapberries are picked, the husks removed and then dried in the sun. The shells are then added to water when ready for use, producing a cleansing soaping detergent that is completely organic and 100% natural.

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The great thing about this natural soap alternative is that it contains no toxic ingredients and is entirely eco-friendly—unlike most other soaps. While it is still not recommended to consume internally, soap nut is safe for even the most sensitive skin types and is completely hypoallergenic.

Soap Nut Uses

Soap nut has many uses for hair and skin care.

Soap Nut for Hair

When applied to hair, soap nut acts as a natural soap and cleansing agent. It is both highly effective and gentle on the skin simultaneously. Not only do soap nuts cleanse the hair because of their saponin content, but they also help to nourish the hair and scalp and strengthen hair follicles due to their fatty acid content.

Soap Nut for Skin

Soap nut is also beneficial for skin health—including the skin on your scalp. Because soap nut is rich in fatty acids, it prevents dry skin and helps protect the skin from conditions like eczema and psoriasis. In addition to soap nut shampoo, soap nut can be used as a natural face and body cleanser. Because of its natural and gentle properties, it is excellent for people with sensitive skin or who commonly have allergies to the chemicals and ingredients used in most modern hair care products.

Soap and soap nut products are great soap choices for babies and toddlers because of their mild and gentle cleansing actions. They are also great for mature and aging skin as they have antioxidant effects that help to protect the skin by fighting free radicals and preventing oxidative damage. Soap nuts also help to dry up excess oil in the epidermis, which can help to prevent acne and reduce the appearance of clogged pores.


Soap Nut for Laundry 

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Soap nut can also be used as a natural laundry detergent and has been used for centuries by people in the Himalayan mountain range. Instead of using harmful and harsh chemical detergents, you can use a soap nut-based detergent for washing your clothes. Remember that for the Saponin in soap nut to be activated; it must be combined with warm water. If you are using soap nut as a detergent for cold laundry loads, mix your soap nut concentrate in warm water for a few minutes before adding it to your laundry load.
Soap Nut for Pets

Soap nut is also an ideal soap option for cleaning your pets. It helps to wash the dirt and dander from their hair without harming their skin.

Soap Nuts for Plants

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Some people use soap nuts as a natural pesticide for their plants. Because soap nuts are non-toxic, they can be sprayed on plants without damaging them. However, they can also protect plants from harmful pests like aphids. Some gardeners combine soap nut and neem oil for extra pest protection. Just be sure to wash the soap nut residue from your plants before eating them if you use soap nut as a natural pesticide alternative.

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Soap Nut as a Soap Alternative

Lastly, you can use soap nut or soap nut-based products as an alternative to ordinary hand or dish soap. Anything that you would use soap for, you can use a soap nut product in its place, as it is equally cleansing yet non-toxic to your health. Soap nut is also rich in fatty acids, making it less likely to dry out your hands with repeated use, as many chemical-based soaps will.


How to Use Soap Nut

There are many ways that you can use soap nuts. The simplest and most convenient way is to find a healthy soap nut product from a company you trust. This saves you the time and energy it takes to make your soap nut products. If you’d like to make your soap nut product from home, you can buy soap nuts in bulk and process them into a soap nut liquid concentrate.

To do so:

  • Add five crushed and deseeded soap nuts to a pot with 2 cups water.
  • Bring the water to a boil, turn down the flame and allow it to simmer for 25 minutes.
  • Strain the liquid into a bowl and allow it to cool.
  • Place the soap nuts somewhere safe to dry, as they can be reused a few times to make more soap (keep in mind though they will lose some potency with each reuse).
  • Once the liquid is cool, pour it into a bottle for storage and keep it stored in the refrigerator.

There you have it! Your very own soap nut liquid concentrate. Because soap nuts are a natural soap product, they do not last long on their own. However, a homemade liquid soap nut concentrate can last in the refrigerator for up to a week. This is not very long, but you can add other natural ingredients to help preserve your soap nut longer.

We use soap nut as the primary soaping agent in our Organic Shampoo and Conditioner products. While we do not use any chemical preservatives in our products, we do use several natural and organic herbal extracts that help to increase the shelf life of our products, such as organic flaxseed glycerin, organic Berberis Aristata root extract, organic freeze-dried turmeric juice, and organic amla oil. Our Organic Shampoo and Conditioner also contains multiple strains of probiotics from natural fermentation that help to preserve the shelf life by preventing harmful bacteria from forming.

We have carefully formulated our Organic Shampoo and Conditioner products and synergistically combined the ingredients in them to make truly natural and effective hair care products. These are beneficial for hair and scalp health and can also be used as natural soaping agents for cleansing your face, body, and hands. They provide a cleansing and hydrating action on the skin without using toxic chemicals so commonly found in hair and beauty products today.

Buying a professionally-formulated soap nut product is undoubtedly the most convenient way to use soap nuts and also allows for the most extended shelf-life of soap nut products. However, making a soap nut product on your own can be fun. Having some dried soap nuts in storage can also be handy if you ever need to make your own soap from home.

Are Soap Nuts Reusable?

As mentioned, when making your soap nut products from home, you can reuse the soap nuts several times. You will know it’s time to toss your soap nuts in the compost once the shells become soft and grey.


Soap nuts are the dried berries of the Indian Soapberry tree. The shells of the soap nut contain a natural soap called Saponin. The Saponin is released when the nutshells absorb water, creating a soaping effect.

Saponin is an excellent alternative to chemical detergents because it is 100% natural and biodegradable. It is also hypoallergenic and great for sensitive skin.

Soap nuts have been used as a natural soap for centuries in India and Nepal. They are a safe and effective alternative to harmful chemical soaps. Unfortunately, most soap made from soap nuts has a concise shelf life. Therefore, we use soap nut as the leading soaping agent in our Organic Shampoo and Conditioner and preserve the shelf life of soap nut with other natural herbal extracts and probiotics.

Hair and beauty products are a common source of toxins in today’s world. In addition, they often contain harsh chemical ingredients that harm your health and the environment's health. Now, with our chemical-free soap and nut-based hair products, you can nourish and protect your hair without compromising your or the planet's health.


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7695332/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6567820/

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