"Let's Talk About" Series, Gardening, Herbal Recipes, Herbalism, Natural Beauty

Soapwort Recipes: Green Cleaning from your Garden!

Amber Shehan April 3, 2014

Soapwort is a versatile plant that is easy to grow, harvest, and use around the home. It can clean skin, lace, quilts, hair, bodies, even household cleaning can be done with a strong enough brew.


Soapwort is a versatile plant and it is easy to grow, harvest, and use around the home. It will clean skin, lace, quilts, hair, and bodies. Even household cleaning can be done with a strong enough brew! It is also known as Saponaria Officinalis, Wild Sweet William, Sweet Betty, or Bouncing Betty. I don’t know who Betty is, but she sounds like fun!

soapwort from the "Soapwort Recipes: Green Cleaning from your Garden!" article on pixiespocket.com
Young soapwort in the garden

Growing Soapwort:

Soapwort is a self-seeding, prolific perennial. It can get up to three feet high and it spreads like mad! Don’t plant it near a fish pond or other water fixture unless you want dead fish. Many aquatic creatures will die from exposure to too much saponin, and in fact, people sometimes use saponin-rich plants to disable or kill fish for easy capture. That being said, wild soapwort can often be found near lakes and riverbanks, moist ditches, and waste places.

Bouncing Betty can easily tolerate poor soil and drought conditions and can become invasive if you aren’t harvesting from it regularly. You can plant it in a container garden to mitigate the insane growth rate. For fun, plant soapwort near peppermint and watch the battle for territory commence!

You can start soapwort from seeds, or propagate by splitting the rootstock. Once it is settled, good luck getting rid of it!

Saponaria Officinalis from WikiMedia Commons

Harvesting Soapwort:

The roots contain the most saponins, but any part of the whole plant will work to get you clean.

Collect the leaves and stems when the plants are in full flower for optimal saponin content. You can harvest these parts a few times each year. If you trim the plants back once during flowering, you might even get a second round of blooms.

Collect soapwort roots when you thin the plant in the fall. Scrub the roots well and chop them up small so you won’t have to smash them later. Let them dry completely before storing them. You can also dry soapwort using the oven or a dehydrator.

How to Use Soapwort:

Soapwort contains saponins which create a soap-like cleaning action. Saponins create an effective cleaning foam, a lather that can dissolve fats and grease! Even though it works like a powerhouse, soapwort is gentle enough to use on old fabrics, the bodies of wee tiny babies, and sensitive skin – trust me, I’m the poster child for sensitive skin. It is fine for external use, but like other saponin-heavy plants, soapwort is not recommended for internal use!

If you don’t have any soapwort to harvest for yourself, get some roots, seeds, or plants from Richter’s Herbs, or check in my shop to see if I have any extra for sale.

Soapwort Recipes:

Heavy Duty Household Cleanser:

  • 2 cups of freshly chopped soapwort leaves, stems, and/or roots (or 1 cup dried)
  • 1 quart of water

Add the soapwort to boiling water and cover the pan. Simmer for fifteen minutes or so, let cool, and strain it through cheesecloth or a kitchen towel. You can also add a drop or two of rosemary, mint, or citrus essential oil for a pleasant scent if you like.

Gentle Cleanser for Delicate Fabrics:

This is a fantastic cleanser for real wool, old silk, grandma’s quilt, lace, embroidery, or tatting.

  • 1 cup of fresh soapwort leaves (or half a cup of dried)
  • 1 quart of distilled water

Add the soapwort to boiling water and cover the pan. Simmer for fifteen minutes or so, let cool, and strain it through cheesecloth or a kitchen towel. Do not add any essential oils to this, just leave it plain.

Soapwort Shampoo and Body Wash:

Soapwort shampoo is a little less concentrated than the all-purpose cleaner.  It is a gentle cleanser for problem hair, as it doesn’t strip all of the oils away.  This recipe is more than just shampoo – it also makes a good face wash for sensitive skin and helps with acne and psoriasis.

This recipe is for single use, but you can triple or quadruple this recipe and store the rest in the fridge for up to a week. Just give it a good shake before use, and brace yourself for the nice cool wash.

Soapwort infusion is not as bubbly as regular shampoo, so it takes some getting used to. It definitely does the trick, though, and with way fewer chemicals, fragrances, and unnecessary additives. Try a Foaming Pump Soap Dispenser and you might get a more familiar foam to put on your hair or face.

  • 3 Tablespoons fresh soapwort (1 tablespoon dried)
  • 1 Cup of water

Add soapwort leaves to boiling water and cover the pan. Simmer for fifteen minutes or so, let cool, and strain it through cheesecloth or a kitchen towel. Use this to get a gentle wash. You can also use any of the following herbs to add to the pot with the soapwort for skin and hair:

  • Mint
  • Lavender
  • Rose Petals
  • Hibiscus (red hair)
  • Chamomile (fair hair)
  • Rosemary (dark hair)
  • Nettles
  • Sage
  • Calendula

And there are so many more to choose from!

You can follow it up with an excellent conditioning vinegar rinse, or use any of the above herbs brewed as a tea for a conditioning rinse.

from the "Soapwort Recipes: Green Cleaning from your Garden!" article on pixiespocket.com

You can get soapwort seeds or plants from Richter’s Herbs.

Get updates from Pixie's Pocket: brewing and herbs in your inbox:

Amber Shehan

Hi! I'm Amber Pixie, and this is my site. Enjoy the recipes, information, posts, and please feel free to message me if you have questions!


  1. Rebecca | LettersFromSunnybrook on April 3, 2014 at 10:42 am

    I just might have to try the mint vs soapwort battle to add some drama to the yard. I’ve never tried using soapwort but it is now in my plans! Right now the only ‘safe’ soap for me is Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild Liquid Castile Soap. Would be fun to make my own and add y herbs and oils! Thanks for the clear advice and tips.

    • amberpixi on April 3, 2014 at 10:44 am

      I love using soapwort, and I swear that I have such sensitive skin that if you look sideways at me, I go red! *grin* I know that as a card-carrying eco-hippy-freak, I’m supposed to love castille soap, but I can’t stand it. The smell, the oily feel…*shudder* Yup. I’m a wierdo. 🙂

  2. tessa - Homestead Lady on April 9, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    This was so fascinating!!! So, could I potentially use this as a laundry detergent? You have it as a heavy duty cleaner but then mention that its good for delicates so maybe I should add something to make it stronger? Or is the concentrated amount of soapwort the difference. I’m totally visiting Horizon Herbs and adding soapwort to my order. I’m featuring this article at Green Thumb Thursday on this week’s hop – feel free to grab the featured button and add it to your post, linking back to the hop, when you come link up this week. Hint, hint. 😉

  3. Green Thumb Thursday 4/10/14 - Homestead Lady on April 10, 2014 at 3:05 am

    […] Let’s Talk About Soapwort by Pixie’s Pocket – this was so fascinating! […]

  4. Susie - North Florida on November 3, 2014 at 8:11 am

    my first comment had an incorrect email address. I have been growing soapwort for more than thirty years. I mixed yarrow and peppermint in the same bed and the peppermint was the big loser.

  5. AutumnSage on November 3, 2014 at 8:50 am

    I have this growing in my garden and a little goes a looooong way. very invasive so be ready 🙂 Ive actually dug most of it out an have contained it in a pot now.

    • Amber Shehan on December 29, 2014 at 11:09 am

      I definitely did a lot of chopping this fall after it started dying back…hopefully I’ve restrained its footprint this year! 🙂

      • Starshine on June 6, 2020 at 1:15 am

        We recently bought an old house in a really small town about 8 months ago located in South Dakota. I noticed these tall stems sprouting around the entire house and decided to plant ID them. Discovered they are soapwort and they have taken over everything. I’m definitely going to be making soap from them. I’ve removed a lot to make room for other plants and herbs. It’s my first garden in 5 years so I was not going to let anything else have it’s way other than the bindweed that’s edging the foundation (Morning Glories are some of my favorite flowers). Thanks for the recipe 🖤

        • Amber Pixie on June 8, 2020 at 10:01 pm

          Congratulations on the new home! Soapwort is so lovely and it’s good that it is useful since it is so prolific. Don’t feel back about pulling out heaps of it, roots and all! It’ll be back, especially if you let it go to seed. Enjoy giving soapwort a try!

    • Heather on May 31, 2023 at 3:14 pm

      I have some dried soapwort root that I got from somewhere, and I’m curious if you can get a good brew for shampoo by reusing the roots after straining off the first batch… It seems sad to just compost it, it seems fairly robust even after the first steep and boil. Do you have any experience with this?

  6. The Top 37 Homesteading Articles of 2014 on February 19, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    […] Lets Talk About Soapwort by Pixie’s Pocket  […]

  7. Si on March 29, 2015 at 5:29 am

    I did this yesterday and tried it last night and i noticed that the bubbles are only in the bottle, there was no soapiness to it! Not even a hint of lather outside the bubbles in the bottle, it was a bit different from regular water but that was all… I dont have a foam dispenser so i had to use my hands and i was wondering did i do something wrong or is that how its supposed to be?

    • Amber Shehan on March 29, 2015 at 11:27 am

      It sounds about right…if you want lather, shake it up or use one of those special dispensers, but it cleans without all of the bubbles that we are used to from soaps and shampoos. It does pour and feel just like water, but after using it, my hair is squeaky clean!

  8. Si on March 29, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Thank you Amber i’m glad to know i didnt mess it up 🙂

  9. Aaaand we're back! ~ Pixie's Pocket on May 14, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    […] at vending. I met a Pixie’s Pocket reader (Hi, Donna!) and explained the properties of soapwort to a few interested seamstresses. I also got to watch a friend buy her first ever glass of mead […]

  10. Kristy on April 26, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    Just found a soapwort plant in my yard recently! I can’t wait to explore it more.

    • Amber Pixie on April 27, 2018 at 9:44 am

      Oh, yay! What a lovely discovery to make! Enjoy dancing with such a fun plant. 🙂

  11. Pat Idone on August 20, 2020 at 3:11 pm

    How do you store soapworts soap and how long does it last?

    • Amber Pixie on August 29, 2020 at 1:42 pm

      Sorry for the delay Pat! Soapwort soap will go rancid pretty quickly, so I usually use what I’ve made within a week.

  12. Janeille on September 13, 2020 at 10:00 pm

    Very cool! I found a soapwort plant in my garden and am excited to try doing something with it. I have been using soapnuts for shampoo since the beginning of the year but it would be awesome to grow my own!!

    • Amber Pixie on September 20, 2020 at 2:57 pm

      I’ve never tried soapnuts – that’s a neat idea! Thanks for sharing Janeille!

  13. Janeille on September 13, 2020 at 10:01 pm

    Also, I freeze my soapnuts shampoo and just nuke a few cubes from the ice cube tray to melt. Stays good forever that way!!

  14. Gina on July 8, 2021 at 9:42 am

    Question, how can I harvest a few times a year, if i can only harvest leaves and stems when it is in flower, and I might only get a send reblooming if I cut it back? I definitely want to do this right! I know this is an old post, and sorry to ask a question that may seem silly. But I am going out to harvest now! Thanks so very much, gina nj gardener

  15. Gina on July 8, 2021 at 9:44 am

    I’ve got one more question. Can I dry my leaves for winter soap making? Thanks again, gina

  16. Vickie on March 3, 2022 at 11:04 am

    I’m wondering if you have to rinse the soapwort shampoo/body wash off? For camping situations specifically, could you just put it on a cloth like and use it like a babywipe all over? Or just pour it over your hair?

Leave a Comment