After using only baking soda and vinegar for a few months as my hair cleaning regimen, I was starting to have problems with my hair care. There was a slow build up of oil in my hair that I could eliminate, but to do so, it was seriously drying out my scalp and hair with the amount of baking soda I had to use.
It didn't work well at all with my teenage daughter, either, who produces a lot more oil in general, and has exceedingly thick hair that was difficult to penetrate with the baking soda mixture.
So, I went on another researching binge and I found something that works well. My daughter and I have been using this since November and it is AWESOME.
Soapnuts, or soapberries, are the dried drupe from one of 5-12 species from the Sapindus genus (trees or shrubs). These shrubs are high in saponin, which can be extracted by boiling these suckers for a certain period of time and keeping the liquid that remains. Usually, soapnuts are from one variety in India, which has the highest quantity of saponin.
I found some organic soapnuts for sale online and once again, checked out Crunchy Betty. Her technique for extracting the liquid has been working well for me: Betty's technique.
I have harder water, which can lower the effectiveness of this type of soapnut liquid, but it is still working for me. Although I'm glad I listened to her about how quickly this goes bad. I accidentally left some soapnuts liquid out for maybe 4 days and you could already smell it starting to go off, a sour and unpleasant smell, blech.
I've been using the soapnuts liquid in the laundry with a Tablespoon or so of added borax. I've also been using it as our soap around the house, as well as for hand washing dishes. I'm debating to see if a more concentrated liquid might be useful however - the one thing this struggles with is high levels of grease on dishes.
The last thing I've been using this for is shampoo. Crunchy Betty has a great post on the numerous uses of soapnuts. It's pretty awesome to look over. Her soapnuts shampoo did not work for me, however. She recommends using a few Tablespoons of the soapnuts liquid, letting it sit in the hair for about 10 minutes, and then rinsing it out. It's supposed to leave the hair silky and shiny.
When I tried this, there was a buildup in my hair - not oil, but something else. Possibly the soapnuts liquid itself. My hair was clean looking, but it felt almost sticky or gummy. My fingers wouldn't go through my hair without catching and sticking to it. My brush picked up the residue too and was difficult to get through my hair. My daughter had the same problem, so it might be our water, or the soapnuts we are using, but it wasn't going well.
This all changed when I decided to combine my old method with the new one.
Shauna's Soapnuts Shampoo:
1/2 cup soapnuts liquid
1 Tb. baking soda
1-3 Tb. soapnuts liquid
1. Mix the 1/2 cup liquid and baking soda together in the shower and scrub over the scalp and hair.
2. Rinse immediately.
4. Use the 1-3 Tb. of soapnuts liquid as a last rinse, rubbing into the hair and rinsing out right afterward, or try a Tb. of apple cider vinegar in 1 cup water for a last rinse, instead.
5. Adjust baking soda according to oiliness of the hair.
This has left both my and my daughter's hair very shiny and smooth, no residue remaining. I keep running my fingers through my hair when I'm not paying attention, because it feels so neat. We just need to remember to get the soapnuts liquid out of the fridge an hour before the shower or it's quite cold, LOL!
Re: the soapnuts for laundry. While Crunchy Betty recommends 1/8 cup of soapnuts liquid per load, we've been using almost 1/4 cup liquid. I think the harder water, again, is responsible for the extra soap needed.
And one last thing about soapnuts - holy cow is it cheap! I thought it would be like everything else I need to get these days: expensive as all get out. It really wasn't.
I bought 3 pounds of soapnuts for around $33, shipping included. At the rate we are using it, I think this is going to last us for 5 months, 4 at the minimum. Now remember, this is 5 months as our laundry soap, our shampoo, our hand soap, our counter cleaner, and our dish soap (although not in the dish washer, yet). For $33.
Usually, our bill for 5 months is:
Shampoo - $25
Laundry detergent - $35
Dish soap - $15
hand soap - $10
Total - $85
Now? $33. Well, $33 plus $5 for baking soda.
Soapnuts gets a huge thumbs up from me!