DIY, Earth

DIY: How to make a hair cleanser at home #sustainability

In a bid to do away with store bought cosmetics, I have been making things at home out of humble kitchen ingredients. Latest in this series is a hair cleanser that was actually used a lot when I was a kid. I used to hate it as it would sting my eyes. Plus it never had that awesome fragrance that a shampoo used to have. But my mom never cared for my thoughts on this and it was a Sunday ritual in the house.

Today when I make this hair cleanser for myself, I mentally commend my mother for taking out the time to put in this effort. She would make it fresh every Sunday while I have opted to make it once a month and store the rest in the fridge.

Its a pretty easy enough recipe and the resulting liquid is awesome for my hair. I have tried and tested it several times over and now sharing the method to make it. Best part, only three ingredients are required and all are easily available in stores near you.

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hair cleanser- reetha- soapnuts - gooseberry - shampoo- zero waste

Hair Cleanser Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of Soap nuts or aritha or reetha
  • 1 cup of dried Shikakai
  • I cup of dried Amla/ Gooseberry
  • 8 cups Water


  1. De-seed the soap nuts and throw away the seeds in your compost bin.
  2. Soak each ingredient in 2 cups of water in separate containers overnight. This would allow for them to become soft which would further help to release their goodness in the mix.
  3. Empty each soaked ingredient into a heavy bottomed pan and add another 2 cups of water to it.
  4. Bring to a big boil on high flame and then reduce the flame. Boil away for at least 30 minutes with a lid. Keep checking to ensure the mix doesnt boil over. soap nuts shikakai gooseberry
  5. Cool the mix and then start mashing with your hands to release the pulp, similar to how you make tamarind pulp.
  6. Dont throw away the used mix.
  7. Once all of its been mashed and squeezed for maximum pulp, strain it in a muslin cloth to remove any debris.
  8. Store it in clean bottles and refrigerate. You would get about a Litre from this recipe.clear liquid of soapnuts and shikakai
  9. Add the used mix back into the pan and add about a litre of water. Boil, mash and strain in the same way. This will have less potency as the earlier mix and I use it as a dish washing liquid. I also add it to my mopping water along with the Bio Enzyme
  10. The mashed out mix works as an excellent scrub to rub off grime and grease. So use it to clean tiles, counters and gas hob. When done, it can be simply added to the compost bin.

You can easily buy these ingredients in your local grocery stores or use this link to purchase online as well.


  • Some people grind the ingredients and then soak. One can also use store bought powders, but I am always apprehensive of their purity.
  • Soap nuts have saponins in them which allow for saponification or lathering effect of a soap. These are essential to cut through the grease in the hair.
  • Shikakai or Acacia Concinna is a naturally occurring herb which is rich in saponins and antioxidants. Its an alkaloid and balances the acidic effects of the Soapnuts by its soft cleansing action.
  • Amla or Gooseberry is high in Vitamin C content and is used to darken hair while inducing better growth. I have used dried version in my recipe though I have heard of people using fresh ones too. Nowadays its in season and I am going to dry them at home instead of buying from the store.
  • Dont worry if you dont get the exact proportions; a little more or less of either ingredients will not have a huge effect on its potency. Each of these ingredient supplies plenty of vitamins to the hair cleanser that enrich and nourish hair.

So what are you waiting for? Get cracking at making this super easy and green hair cleanser at home. Trust me your hair will thank you for it. Not to mention that the water from this wash can be reused to water plants quite safely. If you do try out this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback on it please.

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14 thoughts on “DIY: How to make a hair cleanser at home #sustainability

  1. this looks pretty easy DIY to do. Tell me in case I buy the pack with all ingredients together, i have to separate them to soak? Or can I soak everything together? I have used reetha shampoo that my grandmom used to make in my childhood, they cleaned the hair well but tangled the hair too. SO do i use a regular conditioner along with it?

    1. Hey Tina – I would suggest soaking them separately as some of them take more water than the others to swell up. If unavoidable, then soak in 8 cups of water and add one more cup while boiling. Dried amla drinks up the water in my experience

      If your hair is getting tangled more, than use aloe vera gel after the head wash. Apply to wet hair and leave for 3-5 mts and then rinse normally. Its better than store bought conditioners. I never need conditioner in my hair as the texture is oily.

  2. I have used this all my school and college life as I had really long hair back then. I liked the idea of storing the liquid in bottles and refrigerating. I used to soak and boil small quantities of reetha, amla and shikakai for one time use. Mom used to sometimes grind all these 3 ingredients into a powder. This was a convenient and non-messy option. Using the mild liquid for dish washing is a cool idea. Will get these 3 ingredients and start using them again. Thanks for the nudge and memories, Shalini ♥

    1. Oh how wonderful to hear this Shilpa. I truly hope you do start with it again as its wonderful for the hair.Grinding it to a powder is also okay but use a really strong mixie and de-seed the soap nuts or else you might break it. I soak it because they are all very hard and I found it difficult to grind them to a powder. Have seen recipes with the powdered version too. So try out what ever is convenient for you.

      Our generation was blessed with having such moms who insisted on using home remedies for hair and skin cleansing. I am happy to be back to it though at times do miss that awesome smell of a shampoo and the cleaning of the bathroom after using this is a little painful too 😉

      1. Oh yes, definitely starting again. Mom used to first crush all the 3 ingredients with a Mortar & Pestle and then grind them into a fine powder in a mixer. We had Sumeet Mixer then, it was truly powerful. True, thanks to our moms for because of them we were able to take care of our hair with these home remedies. As soon as I left home for PG, I dropped it like a hot potato! 😐

  3. Wow, this is such an easy and eco-friendly alternative to chemical shampoos. Pretty economical too I am sure. As kids we had Sunday oil baths with shikakai powder followed by a soapy gooey rinse made from Hibiscus leaves. I hated it! But now I know why my mane is still thick and strong. Yes, it’s time to head back to the roots.

    1. Thanks Kala. I have been meaning to try out Hibiscus leaves too as have seen several people recommending it.Yes these herbal remedies is why we still have some good hair and skin – I totally thank my mom for this now. Though I used to hate all the concoctions a lot 😉

  4. Wow Shalz I love how you’re making and trying these eco friendly products. I remember my grandmother using Reetha and Shikakai when I was a kid but then the glamorous shampoos took over. She also used to use besan but now I’ve forgotten the recipe. I’ll give this a try.

    1. Thanks Tulika. Yeah I remember besan too – it was combined with dahi and some haldi. I used to hate that as the besan particles would cling to my hair and would be a pain to remove even after tonnes of brushing 🙂

      As for glamorous shampoos, gosh I was a sucker for Sunsilk though I loved the Halo ad a lot 😉

  5. My mum has always used shikakai and reetha to wash her hair. How she totally approves of these hair cleaners than the shampoos and stuff I use! I had begun using shikakai but stopped it as I found the process of cooking it and mashing etc quite cumbersome. Also, as opposed to just lathering shampoo and washing hair gently, shikakai needed me to rub my hair with some force to get the oil off. This further put me off it and I switched back to shampoos. But, now, my hair is falling like crazy! I am taking care, oiling it and all, and yet, the hair fall is bad.
    Tell me, is washing with this solution just like washing with shampoo? No force needed to wash the oil off?
    Also, doesn’t reetha dry the hair?
    And, does the hair become too wavy to leave it loose?

    The link you have shared–the quantity they have mentioned is 200 gms each. Will that be enough? I mean, knowing that reetha dries the hair, won’t it be too much ?

    Too many questions, na, Shalz? But, I really want to know. Let me know if and when I can call you to ask these questions again. I really need to get my hair care regimen in order, else I might have to go the Persis Khambatta way! 😛

    Thanks for this detailed post!

    1. Hey so happy to see so many questions Shilpz. I can totally relate to the hair fall problem as because of Thyroid, I have it in spades. Yes this stuff is a little tedious to make but now thats its done once, the quantity I have made is enough for me for a month or so.
      Okay here are the answers:
      1. No need to rub this stuff on the hair – pour about a cup or a bit more on non-oiled hair ( your length is same as mine) and massage the liquid gently in the roots. Let this mix sit in the hair for 3-5 mts. I generally pour this on my hair and then start my body scrub routine. Be careful as this stings if gets in the eye – I wear a shower cap over my hair for this duration. After 5 mts just rinse off with lots of water and Voila the hair is cleaned.
      2. For oiled hair, either do this routine twice or do as I do. I wash once and let the balance oil sit in my hair for a day longer – its not greasy hair but slightly oily hair which doesnt look bad if you step out with it. Next day I apply an egg on the hair and then again wash in a similar fashion.
      3. The dryness of reetha is handled by the Shikakai which balances it out. If you still feel there is a lot of dryness; apply aloe vera gel on your hair after the reetha rinse and leave for 3 mts, then wash off with water. This will make it soft and non – dry.
      4. The link is a suggestion to buy the items – use as per the recipe and put the rest away for next use.
      5. Call me today anytime – will be so happy to chat with you re 🙂

      1. Thank you SO MUCH, Shalz!!
        Yes, I know that shikakai stings the eye and it’s also one of the reasons I quit using it.
        Will buy the stuff from my local grocer.
        Doesn’t the hair stink of egg afterwards?

        Yes, will call you today.
        Love! ❤

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