Soap Nuts aren’t really nuts - they’re actually a fruit related to the goji berry, which means that they can be used safely by people with nut allergies. Native to India and Nepal, people there have been using soap nuts to launder their clothes for thousands of years. The reason they’re so good for laundry duty is because the outer shell contains saponin, a natural detergent that can be found in select plants. There are several different species of soap nuts, but the one that’s said to contain the most saponin are soap nuts from the Sapindus mukorossi tree.
How Do You Use Soap Nuts?
Easily. Place 5-6 Soap Nuts in a cotton muslin bag and tie it tightly. Then, add it into your washing machine with your load of dirty laundry, and proceed as usual setting your cycle and water temperature. That’s it!
The best part is, the soap nuts are reusable! You can continue to use the same bag of 5-6 soap nuts until you rub your fingers over the bag and feel the nuts are soft and slimy; or, if you open the bag, you’ll notice that the soap nuts have turned dark and dull. That’s the time to trade out nuts and start with a fresh bunch, because it means all the saponin is gone. Personally, I use six soap nuts in a muslin bag to do a load of laundry, and that one bag of soap nuts lasts me approximately 8 loads, sometimes more. Since I do an average of 2 - 3 loads of laundry per week, one bag of soap nuts will last me about 4 weeks!
I know what you may be thinking. How clean is clean? Soap nuts are strong enough that I washed my husband’s chef coats - which used to come home reeking of fryer grease - and come the end of the cycle they were completely clean with no odor to be found! If you have a particularly stain-heavy load of laundry to do, however, it couldn’t hurt to use one or two more additional nuts to be sure.
NOTE: Some sources advise that you should use only the shells, and remove the seeds from the center of the soap nut because the seeds could stain laundry. Other sources say it’s best to leave the seed in, because how it bounces within the shell helps release more saponin. Personally, I have never removed the seed from within the nut, and I’ve never had staining or any other problems!
Some of the MANY Additional Benefits
- Soap Nuts are naturally dried, hypo-allergenic, and safe for all use – including on infant laundry!
- Soap Nuts are so gentle, they can be used on all fabrics at all temperatures.
- Because the soap nuts gently loosen fibers unlike chemical detergents which weaken them, soap nuts naturally make clothes softer – so you can toss your fabric softener in the trash!
- The saponin in soap nuts is naturally antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial.
- Soap Nuts are completely biodegradable. When you are done with them, you can add them to your compost heap!
- And it doesn’t stop at laundry! Soap nuts can be used to clean anything that you would clean with detergent – counter tops, windows, you can even blend them with water to make liquid hand soap!
As with any step in the natural direction, there will be a few…
Adjustments: There are a couple of things about soap nuts that may take getting used to.
The scent: when you pull your clothes out of the wash, they won’t smell like mountain rain or powder fresh like chemically washed clothes do. When you smell them, they’ll just smell clean. Gloriously clean.
The transfer: unlike with liquid detergent, when you pull your clothes out of the wash and put them in the dryer, you now have something to remove! It might take a few loads before the act of pulling the little muslin bag out of your washed clothes will become a habit.
Investments: Soap Nuts, Cotton Muslin Bags
To put the investment in perspective with the returns, I ordered 1lb of Soap Nuts (approximately 100 nuts) for $6.00 from Mountain Rose Herbs. If you use six soap nuts per bag like I do, that’s a total of 16 bags of soap nuts which will each last about 8 loads of laundry. For my average of 2 – 3 loads a week, that amounts to 16 months of laundry! Even when I add the cost of the ten small cotton muslin bags I purchased for $3.75 (that I also purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs), plus shipping for the bags and nuts, that’s still only a cost of .13 cents per load of laundry. Less than that, in fact, since the muslin bags can be reused even longer than the soap nuts can. This initial investment provides great bang for your buck!
Wool Dryer Balls, the all-natural alternative to dryer sheets. Cheap and easy to make, no wrinkled clothes or static cling, no fake perfume scent all over your clothes, and best of all? They last five years! After making four of my own (pictured left) I never want to see a dryer sheet again. If you want to know more about wool dyer balls, check them out on Crunchy Betty.
And there you have it: Soap Nuts. I hope you consider taking this step in a natural direction!