why I love soapwort, and a few soapwort recipes

So I recently purchased a soapwort plant, to grow in the garden and harvest for cleaning purposes. I used to buy the dried roots of this plant online, but haven’t been able to find any in stock of late. So I bought a whole plant. And yesterday I planted it.

This is she:

me soapwort plant

For those of you that haven’t seen my previous mentions of soapwort, soapwort is an old-school herb that grows to about 1m x 1m and produces pinkish-white flowers. The exciting this about it is that its leaves and roots contain a soapy substance called saponin (like the saponin found on some seeds and grains, like quinoa). When the plant is boiled, it releases its saponin into the water and hey! presto! you have liquid detergent.

The soapy water it produces is so mild that you can use it to wash anything and everything, from your hair, face and body, to your dishes, to your most delicate of intimates. The Ancient Greeks used it to wash delicate tapestries. In fact, heirloom quilts and textiles are still washed with soapwort to this day because it is so damn mild. It's known to be fantastic for soothing itchy skin, and for helping to clear acne.

And of course, the beauty of a no-packaging and zero-waste cleansing product thrills me to no end. Yippee.

Anyway, I thought I’d post a few tips on how to grow and use the stuff, in case it’s something you’d like to try.

How to grow the stuff:
The good news is soapwort is a low maintenance plant. It likes a sunny or semi-sunny position, and damp, well composted soil. And it likes to spread its little legs – it’s a creeper, so plant it somewhere with little else growing, or otherwise keep it trimmed.

Once established, it can be propagated by dividing its roots, so technically you shouldn’t ever have to buy another one again. Read about how to do this here.

How to use the stuff:
Soapwort is not edible – its saponin content makes it bitter to taste, and can damage your digestive tract. Just letting you know. Its brilliance lies in its ability to cleanse without drying or damaging. Here’s a few recipes:

Soapwort shampoo
3 tablespoons fresh soapwort (leaves and chopped up roots) or 1 tablespoon dried roots
1 cup water

Add both the soapwort and water to a pot, bring to the boil and then simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, with the lid on. Remove from heat, let the mixture cool and then strain through a muslin cloth. Add a few drops of essential oil to suit your hair type, if you like.

Soapwort liquid detergent (for dishes, clothes etc)
2 heaped cups fresh soapwort or 1 cup dried
1 litre water

Same method as above.

Soapwort skin cleanser
A handful of chopped leaves
1 cup boiling water

Pour the boiling water over the chopped leaves and leave to infuse for 5 minutes, then strain and allow to cool.

These concoctions keep for up to a week in a cool place. You can make up larger quantities and freeze in small batches for convenience.

To be honest, soapwort solutions don't foam up like store-bought detergents and shampoos. They foam up a little, just not a lot. The results are so superb though - I'd never had hair so soft like when I was shampooing with soapwort - that it really doesn't matter. If you like suds, grab yourself a foaming dispenser bottle (you can purchase online) and have yourself some foamy fun.

Where to buy:
I bought my soapwort plant from the Little Veggie Patch Co in Melbourne. You can also buy it online at these nurseries:

Beautanicals Herb Nursery
All Rare Herbs
Nutshell Perennial Nursery and Plant Farm

Oh and soap nuts are same same but different. They aren't grown in Australia, so if you're looking for a local option, soapwort has the one up.

Has anyone tried soapwort cleansers and loved them? 

P.S If you like the sound of this all natural cleanser, it's the sort of thing I focus on in my soon-to-be-released Natural Beauty Guide.


  1. OOH, such a timely post. I've researching alternatives for multiple cleaning jobs and haircare within my home just today. I need to get me some soapwort... Just one question though... I'm a bit concerned about a build up of residue. I know you said it's gentle and my question may be silly though I am curious so I have to ask.
    (Btw, I am very much looking forward to your Beauty guide. I'm chompin' at the bit to go as natural as possible)

    1. I never experienced an issue with soapwort residue on my hair whilst I was using it, and I haven't come across any info suggesting it either, BUT, if it becomes a problem for you can rinse with a bicard soda + water rinse... that does the job at getting soap residue off, so I'd imagine it would work a treat here too. Cheers!

    2. Also, apple cider vinegar is good at getting residue off.

  2. Very interesting! Might have to go get myself one! Looking forward to the Natural Beauty guide too x

  3. Hi Maria - what is the recipe for soapwort facial cleanser using DRIED soapwort? x Mel

  4. In regards to the 'residue' comment. Saponins reduce blood coagulation (clotting) and have a few other internal effects but if any is absorbed through the scalp or skin it would be so minor as to not be a problem. Saponins are in plenty of every day foods including garlic which is one of the main reasons it's recommended for circulation i.e. keep the blood thin for stroke prevention.
    Maria, I really want to get hold of some dried soapwort leaves or root... have you found anywhere stocking it these days?
    Thank you

  5. They have the dried roots at mountain rose herbs

  6. Thank You so much for writing this info ! I am wondering how much of the soapwort liquid would I use per a regular load of laundry ? the same as store bought stuff ?



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