Vinegar & Soapnut Household Cleaner

Like many a person eager to go natural, I kicked chemical cleaners out of my home. However, unlike most folks, it was because of side effects. My lungs took a beating every time I attempted to clean the bathroom. Coughing and a very red face were usually the result of bathroom cleaning sprays. I knew I needed to get rid of ’em. 

But what could I do? I couldn’t not clean the showers, toilet, sink and vanity counters, apologizing to my guest: “sorry, but I can’t handle bathroom sprays. Don’t mind the build up in the toilet or sink. And you can see where we always stand in the shower. Step here and there, and you’ll be just fine!”

No way! And the search began! Straight up vinegar did an alright job, but due to our water and use of homemade soaps, after a while it seemed like a losing game. Spraying bathroom surfaces with vinegar, I’d wait a few minutes before wiping clean. And then I’d have to scrub, scrub and scrub! The bathtub took ever so long to do! Spraying a surface then letting it rest a minute before wiping clean helped. But I wanted something I could spray on and wash off, something that would get at the build-up in our bathtub! And finally, I’d had it with vinegar.

There’s had to be something better, somewhere! 

I’ve used soap nut tea as a natural hair shampoo, in my soap bars and particularly for my favorite shampoo bar. I’d attempted to use it as a cleaner, but really? Not practical! Soap nuts naturally contain saponin (a cleaning agent) and while they are great for many things, sources recommend that they be boiled in water to release their properties. The down side? They lose potency in 7-12 days time. Refrigerating helps preserve the saponins, but who wants a germ infested spray bottle in their refrigerator? And who wants to boil a bathroom cleaner for 30-45 minutes before they can use it?


I tried vinegar. I had tried soap nut tea. But then…joy of joys! Why not put my soap nuts in the vinegar and let the vinegar naturally preserve the saponins? Would it work? After my first attempt, I knew I’d found a keeper! The vinegar did indeed preserve the properties of the soap nut for at least 2 months! I attempted to add citrus peels and was even more pleased with the product. It did cut through grease faster. It did a better job than plain ole’ vinegar. A keeper, most definitely!


Vinegar Soap Nut Cleaner

  • 4 C of white vinegar (5% acetic acid)
  • 6-8 whole soap nuts
  • herbs of choice: 1 Tbs herbs or chopped up citrus peel to fill jar

Directions: break soap nuts into smaller pieces and place in the bottom of a spray bottle or place whole in bottom of a glass jar. Pour vinegar over nuts, add herbs or citrus peel if using, cover with lid or bottle top, shake and let set for several hours. Nuts will expand a wee bit and become soft. That’s great! Vinegar is leaching out those saponins!

Cleaner can be used immediately. The longer your soap nuts sit, the stronger your cleaning power will be.

Soap nuts may be left in vinegar for for several days-several months! Or, if you are like me, leave ’em in the spray bottle and dump when its time for a fresh batch. But be certain you break them up into quarters before popping ’em into the bottle! Due to their absorption of liquid, they’ll expand and get stuck!

Want to know if your cleaner has lost its saponins? Give the bottle a good shake. If sudsy bubbles appear you’ve still got full cleaning power!

Is there any odor, you ask? A wee bit. Soap nuts have a earthy smell. If you don’t like it, adding herbs or citrus peel will help. If not, don’t worry! The odor will go away in approx 30 min after cleaning.

Try it out and let me know what you think! Did it work for your household?