Hey thanks for posting!
I too have been on the lookout for a way to do this, and as you can imagine, the information is not easy to find.
What I did discover though is that there is a truly all natural alternative. I discovered this by researching each individual ingredient for soaps and then figuring out their purpose.
It all goes back to surfectants. Even in the products that are considered “safe” almost all of them use fully synthetic surfectants.
Well, it turns out that there are quite a few different fully natural surfectants. They are called saponins.
There’s a pretty huge variety of them available in plants, and the majority of them can be extracted using only water.
There’s also another source that goes by the name of soapnuts. They typically grow in India and can be purchased for pretty cheap all over the place. I think we paid like $30 for 2lbs of them on Amazon.
They go by another name in ayurvedic medicine, they call it Rhita, Reetha and a few other variations.
To make the extract, you can either just throw the nuts in a jar, cover them with water and let them soak for a few minutes. Most people like to make a bigger amount by boiling something like 1 cup of the nuts with 1-2 cups of water, but be careful because they create tons of suds so you gotta keep an eye on it.
What I did was heated it till boiling, then covered it with a lid and let it soak for a couple hours. Then strained them with a nylon strainer bag that I bought for kava. You can reuse the nuts multiple times before they are spent.
I put the nuts in my dishwasher, I put them in a little mesh bag in laundry. The only downfall to using these is the “soap” that’s extracted has a consistency like water so it doesn’t really lather up very well.
One technique I’ve seen to create something that resembles the liquid soap we’re all accustomed to is to throw the extract in a blender and blend until it becomes almost a cream.
Once you extract it, it’s recommended to store it in the fridge for about a week before discarding. It sorta smells like vinegar but it really does clean very well.
I haven’t figured out how to thicken it up using truly organic ingredients. However some people use vegetable glycerin, xanthan gum, even cornstarch.
There is apparently a way to make it into a solid bar of soap but I haven’t experimented with that yet.
But yes, there are truly natural things that we can make soap from that do truly work.
I use soap nuts for cleaning everything in the house. I’ve even heard of some people keeping the nuts in a tiny strainer bag and just rubbing the bag in their hands or on their hair to make it a little easier to deal with, compared to using the extract by itself.
I’ll be growing soapwort this spring so I’ll have the supply I need to really experiment.
I’ll update this post once I come up with a recipe for something that resembles the soap we’re used to.