Easy Septic Safe Homemade Laundry Detergent

I have a thing for soap nuts. What are soap nuts? A glorious fruit. Confusing I know. They are, in a few words – natures detergent. They come from places like Nepal, so I make sure the ones I buy are fair trade. I’ve used them for about a year now for our laundry, sometimes switching out for regular detergent, and sometimes adding an oxygen booster—but I love these things. 4-5 of them in a muslin cotton bag thrown in the laundry and voila, clean pantaloons.

Lately however I’ve been really trying to pare down, even more than I already do, on the additives, chemicals, etc. It means using up what I already have, but interspersing tests of new items I can make at home to see how they hold up. I’m not someone who cares if someone else uses chemicals in their home, I just prefer to limit them in mine. My hope is that by the end of the summer all of the old chemicals will be used up and I’ll be down to cleaning with the following items:

  • Dr. Bronners
  • Soap Nuts
  • Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Washing Soda
  • Borax (rarely)
  • Essential Oils

My first foray into testing soap nuts outside of their regular laundry use in solid form was to make them into a liquid detergent. Soap nuts work best when you use hot water, and we only use cold. So while they work fine, I wanted to see if there was a difference with the liquid. From what I’ve read, unless you are going to be preserving your liquid (yes, you can pressure can and water bath it), it’s best to make it small batches so it doesn’t spoil. I suppose you could also keep it in your fridge which would help to. (Here’s where I buy my soapnuts, but if you don’t want to make your own liquid they sell it too. )

After reading a couple recipes I decided to make a semi-higher concentrated version, since I know what clothes tend to look like around here especially in the summertime. So here’s the recipe I’m testing

  1. Add 15 soap nuts to 4 cups of water, and boil for 30 minutes until you have two cups of liquid. The full concentration recipe is 12-15 soapnuts in 6 cups of water, boiled for 30 minutes to 3 cups. Add extra water if needed to get to the two cups. Use one to three tablespoons per load.

This sounded easy enough.

My tips:

  • Either use a larger pot, or simmer this, don’t boil. You’ll see bubbles form because it’s a detergent. A rip roaring boil will make the water overflow. Don’t ask how I know this.
  • When you’re done, pour into a measuring cup to ensure you have boiled down far enough (or if too far, add more water back).
  • Place a fine mesh strainer over a glass container to separate the liquid from the soap nut pieces. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a mason jar or a bowl, just try not to use plastic. This mixture is hot and it could potentially melt the plastic, which would either make a mess or release chemicals into your soap nuts. Melted plastic = bad
  • Let cool completely before either capping in a mason jar for future use, or pouring into a dispenser. I used an old salad dressing bottle to hold it as I plan on making this in small batches.

So how does it hold up in laundry? I like it a lot, even more than regular soap nuts. I’ve been known to accidentally throw the muslin bag with soap nuts in the dryer which is a no no with soap nuts as they *should* air dry. Now, with that *should* said, I’ve never really had a problem with the dryer ruining mine unless they were already near the end of their useful life. Since I use cold water though, this liquid works way better.

Verdict? Win! I will be definitely making/using this more. One natural cleaner alternative down (and it’s so so easy).

Happy Greener Living,


Pst – This is a septic safe laundry detergent. I have used the other recipe with grated soap in the past, but stopped once I found out it can be dangerous for septic systems. Even though it may melt on high heat, the soap may re-solidify in your pipes and cause major damage down the line, so I’ve erred on the side of caution and stayed away from it.

Psst- This liquid is also very popular for other general cleaning purposes too from counters to windows, when mixed with vinegar and diluted. I have used neither of these before, but there are tons of recipes out there! If I test it, you’ll be sure to know.