by Texas Homesteader~
I was thrilled to find a soapberry tree growing in our NE Texas property. I found it far back in a remote pasture. The berries on the tree had already turned yellow in those cool autumn days.
As a matter of fact, it was the yellow orbs that attracted my attention to the three. So I took photos of the tree, leaves, bark and the berries and sent them to my extension agent for proper identification.
She reported back that the tree was a Western Soapberry Tree (or Sapindus saponaria ssp. drummondii)
Soapberry Trees Native To Texas
Native Americans and the early settlers used the natural saponin contained in soapberries for a natural cleaning.
I was thrilled to find one of these native trees on our own property. After having it properly identified by my extension agent I promptly gathered the and dried the berries for use.
NOTE: Soapberry trees and their small translucent berries look surprisingly similar to Chinaberry and their slightly larger opaque yellow berries. Make sure you have the tree properly identified before using it for any cleaning purpose.
Ways I’ve Used Soapberries To Clean
I’ve used the soapberries tied in a small muslin bag for an all-natural laundry detergent. It did its job fine I suppose.
But I’d think it would be more suited for lightly-soiled loads such as cloth napkins or sheets. Some people infuse the soapberries in water and use the liquid for laundry soap instead.
But our laundry needs are pretty heavy. I make my own Laundry Soap to clean heavy denim and the rough-n-tough laundry needs we have here on the Homestead. So I don’t typically use soapberries for laundry, but some do.
But where I REALLY found the soapberries shined was in All-Natural Shampoo! I infused about 2-3 berries for each cup of water for several weeks, then strained out the used berry and added a bit of baking soda to make my own zero-waste shampoo. (Soapberry Shampoo Recipe Here)
The photo below is how my hair looked after 2 days of shampooing with my zero-waste homemade soapberry shampoo.
It’s all I’ve used to clean my hair for almost a decade now, and I absolutely love it.
Soapberry Shampoo Doesn’t Foam
Something to keep in mind – commercial shampoos have added all manner of chemicals to make their product foam. And as such, consumers over the years have equated suds with clean.
But suds doesn’t necessarily mean cleaning power. So keep in mind that Soapberry shampoo has very little sudsing action. When you apply it to your hair it just feels like a liquid.
So it feels different than your traditional shampoo. But trust me, it doesn’t take long at all to get used to the difference.
To use my soapberry shampoo I’ll place my infusion & a little baking soda into a repurposed plastic squeeze bottle and store it in the shower. After I wet my hair, a small squirt along each side of my head and a small squirt along the back is all it takes.
I’ll massage it into my scalp with my fingertips and then allow it to stay as I finish my shower. Then I’ll rinse it out thoroughly and I’m done.
It’s my absolute favorite zero-waste personal hygiene move for natural cleaning!
Things To Keep In Mind About Soapberries
Antibacterial? – There are some who say soapberry infusion is antibacterial. I can’t really speak for that since I’m not a chemist. But it stands to reason that as soap it will, well, CLEAN!
Skin Sensitivities – I’ve read that some with sensitive skin may experience irritations. I can’t speak for that either since I’ve never had any problems. Just a gentle, natural clean. But it’s best to proceed carefully when trying any new product.
Drying Soapberries For Storage – Allow the soapberries to completely dry in an out-of-the-way place before sealing them up for storage. Any residual moisture in the berries could make them mold if you seal them up before they’re thoroughly dried.
Infusion Storage? – I’ve read others speak of the need to store actual soapberry infusion in the refrigerator and use it within a week. And that’s not a bad idea – I recommend that!
(shhhhh…. Here’s the real deal – my small 32-oz squeeze bottle of soapberry shampoo stays in the shower until I use it up before refilling it. I freeze the excess soapberry infusion in properly-labeled plastic jars. But the shampoo in my squeeze bottle seems to last just fine in my shower until it’s emptied – usually 2-3 weeks. Use your own best judgement here!)
Here’s the common-sense Soapberry disclaimers
Soapberries are for cleaning ONLY. They’re toxic for humans to eat. RancherMan & I don’t have littles at home anymore but I’d assume you’d use the same precautions with soapberry infusion or soapberries that you would any cleaning product around kids.
Keep the berries put away in a properly-labeled container so no one will have to guess what’s in the container. (Might wanna call it Soap instead of soapberries so kids don’t get confused and think it’s edible?)
Soapberry shampoo works wonderfully for me. But different people have different sensitivities to things touching their skin. So as with using any new product on your skin – go slow until you are certain you don’t have allergies or sensitivities from using it.
And finally – I’m not a chemist, a doctor nor a beautician. I’m just sharing what we do here on the Homestead that works for us.
Use soapberries at your own risk and using whatever precautions work best for you in your circumstances. As always, when in doubt check with your own trusted professionals for guidance.
Want To Read More About Soapberries?
Want To See Our Natural Cleaning Posts?
- Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent
- Why Complicate Cleaning?
- Grandma-Approved Cleaning Techniques
- Laundry-Scent Booster
- Cleaning Blood On Clothing
- Many Magical Uses For Baking Soda
- Make A Natural Air Freshener For Pennies
- How To Clean A Narrow-Neck Jar
- Easily Cleaning Stuck-On Food From Cast Iron
- MYO Citrus-Scented Cleaner
- All-Natural Lavender-Scented Hand Scrub
- MYO All-Natural Carpet Cleaner
- Gentle Homemade Dog Shampoo – 2 Formulas
- Saving Your Fingernails While Cleaning
- Repurposing Mesh Bags For Scrubbing
- How To Use ALL Of Your Spray Cleaner
- The Secret To Streak-Free Glass Cleaning
- MYO All-Natural Wood Cutting Board Conditioner
See All Our Natural Cleaning Posts
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Arbor Day Foundation – Soapberry Trees
Texas A&M University – Soapberry Trees
Texas Invasives – Soapberry Tree vs. Chinaberry
(But your local Extension Agent is your best source for identifying information)
My favorite natural cleaning tip is vinegar. I use it on the floor and counters, especially. We have 2 dogs in the house (most of the time) and the vinegar really seems to get rid of any “doggie” odors.
Vinegar can be a miracle cleaner sometimes, huh Debi? And with doggos it even offers a 1-2 punch. Good luck with the giveaway! ~TxH~
I just recently learned how to use soapberries and I love them! Thanks for the info!
I love soapberries as well Annie. I wanted to make a simple shampoo and had soap NUTS (not soapberries) From what I’m reading, although they’re related, soapberries & soap nuts are different enough that they’re not recommended to use as shampoo. I was disappointed – I had soap nuts but couldn’t find soapberries anywhere. How thrilled I was to have found this tree on our property, and I’ve been making & using soapberry shampoo ever since. ~TxH~
Cleaning tip; I use vinegar & lemon juice in spray bottle mostly for my cleaning and also use as a hair rinse.
Good tips Colleen, thanks for sharing! ~TxH~
I have never heard of an soapberry tree before and how wonderful to have such a tree on your property.
Enjoy your day.
Take care & stay safe.
Thanks so much for the info. Growing up in the Texas Gulf Coast area i know exactly what Tallow (chinaberry) trees are, we had them everywhere in our neighborhood. We definitely don’t have any of those around, if we did they would certainly be gone by now!
What we do have is a lot of wild Texas Persimmon trees that are packed full of fruit this year. If you have any advice or ideas on how to use persimmons I would love to hear it! Although we have learned that the deer love them too…
LOL – yeah, living in Texas I suppose you’re bound to know about those chinaberry trees. They’re beautiful, make no mistake. But… We have wild persimmons here as well. Although our adult daughter loves to enjoy them when she visits, I’ve never been successful getting the very thin, astringent skins off of them for making jelly or even wine. I’ve read you wait until they’re very soft before harvesting so I always adhere to that rul. And the insides are so delicious, amazingly sweet and juicy. But oh the pucker power of that skin if you don’t get every tiny speck of it removed… ~TxH~
It’s amazing how much will come clean just with water, sometimes requiring a bit of soaking or scrubbing. There are lots of ways to add either baking soda or vinegar to enhance the effectiveness.
I won’t subscribe again to take advantage of the point, but would appreciate credit for being a regular.
Agreed – no need to complicate cleaning! And yes, if you’re already a subscriber you have already earned that point. In that spot just note the email you used when you subscribed (the one receiving notifications of our new posts) for verification purposes and you’re good! (I see you’ve been a subscriber since 2014 – THANK YOU!) ~TxH~
I forgot to add my cleaning tip- soak it! Burnt on food? give it a soak. Stained clothes? Soak them for a few hours (if possible)
& for the mechanic’s spouses who are having trouble getting the grease out- add about a half cup of ammonia to the wash water
Great tips Laurinda – thanks for sharing! ~TxH~
I wonder if I planted them, would they grow? Or would my New England winter just kill them off?
Anyway, I’d love to try them on my hair
I wouldn’t count on the berries growing if planted, Laurinda. They’ll strictly be for making soap infusion. (and I’m not sure whether they’ll even grow in NE anyway) But if you win them, you’ll have about 10 cups worth of infusion to use for shampoo or cleaning. ~TxH~
Could you post a pic of your soapberry tree? We have a place in East Texas and i’m always finding new things somewhere on our property. I’d love to know what i’m looking for.
I’ve included a few soapberry-related links at the bottom of this post, including how I identified my Western Soaberry Tree –> ( https://texashomesteader.com/western-soapberry-tree-natural-laundry-detergent/ ) Be sure you don’t mistake the tree for the invasive Chinaberry tree which grows a small yellow orb as well – the berry and the leaves look different so make sure you’re dealing with a Soapberry tree. If you think you may have found one, do the same as I did in the soapberry-identification post I referenced above and submit photos to your extension agent for proper identification. Fingers crossed! Oh, and if you don’t find them but still want one, check with your local independent nursery – sometimes those which carry native Texas plants will have them for sale. Good luck! ~TxH~
I am just starting to research all natural cleaning products and I am enjoying learning.
I’ve learned cleaning doesn’t have to be complicated Marnie. But to be honest – I’m still learning different ways to clean naturally. Seems like a never-ending journey… in a GOOD way. Always keep learning! ~TxH~