Soap nuts: Making laundry even easier (and greener!)

Soap nuts: Making laundry even easier (and greener!)

So I’ve been using my own homemade laundry detergent for several years now. It works great. I like it. My husband likes it. Even though she hasn’t mentioned it, I’m sure my one-year old girl likes it, too. What’s not to like? It’s all natural. Safe. Frugal.

And still, I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to making my own laundry detergent again. Why? Two words: Soap nuts.

I’ve had several people ask me on facebook and on the blog about soap nuts. And while I’ve heard about these cool little gems for a long time, I just hadn’t tried them because I still had plenty of homemade laundry detergent on hand. But I promised myself that I would try them once I was out of my other stuff. And try them I did.

And love them I do.

While working on my eBook, Toxic Free, I already had two great laundry detergent recipes ready to go. But I didn’t feel satisfied without getting this whole soap nuts things figured out. And even though you can still find those two great laundry detergent recipes in my book, you will also find this not-so-much-a-recipe-as-a-tutorial for soap nuts, too. Whether you choose to get the book or not, here is a little feature on my new favorite laundry “detergent.”

soap nuts: all natural laundry made super easy!

What are soap nuts?

Soap nuts are dried shells/husks from the soapberry. These berries are the fruit from a unique tree species. These shells contain a substance called saponin that produces a soaping effect. Saponin is 100% natural and a great alternative to chemical laundry detergent.

Why do I love soap nuts?

Three simple reasons:

1. They pass my hippie-lovin’, all natural requirements for my toxic-free home.

2. They make laundry time so easy! Seriously, it’s awesome.

3. It’s one less thing I have to make.

Don’t get me wrong, I love making my own stuff… clearly. But life is busy. Being a mom takes a lot of time. And sometimes you just want an “easy way out.” Especially if that easy way out doesn’t compromise my standards. At all.

soap nuts: all natural laundry made super easy!

Looking for other great ways to ditch toxic chemicals and change your life? Be sure to check out my book, Toxic Free!

soap nuts: all natural laundry made super easy!

Have you tried soap nuts? Do you love them as much as I do? Why or why not?

This post is part of Frugal Days Sustainable Ways.

NOTE: Due to an never-ending cesspool of spam, I have made the tough decision to close comments 14 days after the original posting of all posts. Sorry to anyone left out of the conversation. I just needed to spend less time monitoring spam and more time with my kids. Best wishes, Robin!

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About the author

Hi! I'm and I’m passionate about healthy living: feeling nourished, having energy, getting good sleep, and feeling strong. I believe healthy living does not have to be complicated or stressful. I’m a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist (RSMT) and a Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst (CLMA). I’m also an avid researcher and love to read about nutrition, the body, and toxic-free living. Learn more.

View all articles by Robin Konie

48 comments

  1. Melissa

    Do you have a link to the soap nuts you bought on Amazon? AND how many loads do you think you can get out of that?

    1. Heather

      I would love to know too! AND – do they seem to work on any type of water – hard, soft, rusty, gross, etc. ;)


      1. Post author
        robin

        We have really hard water and they work well. Apparently they aren’t super great on really tough stains so you’ll want to pre-treat stains. And for those using cloth diapers, one mom said they didn’t get out urine… so something to think about. :)

  2. Naomi

    I love them too! The only thing I could add is I love that I can throw them in the compost pile when they are done, so no waste either :)

  3. Sisse

    I used them for years but stopped because I thought they made everything look grey :-/ We have very hard water. I would love to use them but I think I would need to use something to prevent calcium buildup in the clothes. Vinegar is supposed to damage the rubber components of the washing mashine – does anyone have any ideas?
    Btw, they can also be used for washing hair and dishes, I’ve been told :-) I prefer baking soda for hair, though.

      1. Sisse

        Thank you, I saw it a while ago and have been meaning to try it :-) That might help! Although I think it might still be possible to find something to counteract the excess calcium. I think I’ll try the recipes for detergent in your book also :-)

  4. Janet

    We started using them about 2 months ago. I like them but that little muslin bag gets lost easily in our home and it not holding up well to all the laundry we do. I think as far as our laundry getting clean I feel it is working. If you want a good smell to your clothes such as using Tide, Wisk, etc than this product is not for you.

    We also use 3 wool balls in our dryer instead of sheets or liquid fabric softener. The clothes sometimes have static. Any solutions for that? Thanks.

    Have a beautiful day!


    1. Post author
      robin

      I found that drying my clothes on low took care of all our static cling. Or spraying 10 – 15 sprays of vinegar on the clothes before drying them helps, too. (The smell goes away, promise.)

  5. Melanie Foote

    I just discovered these a couple weeks ago! I ran out of Purex and went to the local natural grocery store to see what alternatives they had. I came home with this: http://www.amazon.com/Eco-Nuts-Detergent-60-Load-10-Ounce/dp/B003OUIVU4/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&qid=1358088850&sr=8-16&keywords=soap+nuts+laundry+detergent It was $11.99 at the grocery. It’s supposed to do 60 loads, which I find extremely impressive for such a small bottle.

    The first load smelled weird. Then, I realized that it smelled weird because it had no smell at all! No soapy smells, no artificial fragrances, just wet cloth. The wet clothes went into the dryer and came out as nice as any commercial cleaner.

    Janet, I do dryer balls too! I have 6 and would like to get more. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find the awesome $20 deal for all 6 again. If you want scent on your clothes, then put some essential oils on the dryer balls. Works great and isn’t toxic. I too have static issues sometimes. In experimenting, I’ve discovered that I need to take the clothes out while they’re still slightly damp and let them air dry. If they go until everything is totally dry, I’ve got more static than an electrostatic generator!

    1. Tracy

      Just as you sort clothes for the washing cycle, I sort them again for the drying cycle. The clothes that take less time to dry I pull from the load and will dry separately with other colors if necessary that match the drying time needed. That eliminated the static problem I was having.

  6. Agnes @ Living La Vida Eco

    I loved soap nuts for washing cloth diapers (mostly fitteds). They worked great. I would only add a little bit of oxygen bleach every second or third wash.
    I haven’t had the same luck with clothes. Not sure why. Maybe not enough agitation in our front loader? Temperature not high enough (most of our clothes are washed in warm or cold water)?
    I still have a lot of soap nuts left, so I’m willing to give it another try.


    1. Post author
      robin

      Hi Hannah,

      I haven’t heard of it or tried it. Hopefully someone else has! I’d be curious to learn more myself. :)

    2. Tracy

      I use them and they work just fine. They last a really long time. I found them cheaper on Amazon. The only negative is the white loads which is typical. They need a boost in that load. I do a great deal of laundry that is typically extremely dirty and am very satisfied with the product.

    3. Tracy

      I found them cheaper on Amazon. I do a great deal of laundry that is extremely dirty and am very satisfied with them. They do need a little help with the white load which should be expected (there is no miracle cleaner that does everything). One ball lasted a year and a half for me using a he washer on mostly cold cycle. Our house produces about 2-3 loads a day. Hope this info is helpful.

  7. Rico

    Do you take the Muslim bag out before the rinse cycle? How do they NOT lather up while in the rinse cycle? Seems kind of like a hassle!!

  8. Robin

    Hi Robin!

    By chance do you know if the soap nuts are ok for people to use with allergies to tree nuts? My 3 year old is allergic, so I’m just curious to hear your findings.
    Thanks!


    1. Post author
      robin

      That’s a great question. Since nut allergies can be so serious I’d contact the company directly for the best answer.

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  10. Camerly Rose

    Hi, I have a six-month old and we are cloth diapering. Do you know if soap nuts would work on diapers? Thanks for the info!

  11. Jage

    Try a ball of aluminum foil in your dryer to stop static cling. It lasts lots of loads. I leave it in the bottom of my laundry basket and put it in the wash with the clothes so I don’t forget it.

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  13. ani

    Hi,
    I am an Indian and I remember washing my hair with soapnuts as a kid. And my hair used to be soo awesome then. Long, strong, thick and soft and shiny. In college I started using shampoo…….and Oh!! the list of hair and scalp problems I had after some 15 years of shampooing…
    Its been about 3 months that I started getting back to using powdered soapnuts (minus their seeds), powdered shikakai and hibicus flowers. I sometimes add powdered fenugreek seeds ( they make your hair so shiny and soft ) I mix these powders and store them in a container. I add about 2 table spoons (medium length hair) in a squeeze bottle, add water, mix it and use it as a shampoo… its so gentle on the scalp and yet powerful enough to get off the oil mask (coconut oil that I leave in for an hour before shower) .

    I hope I am not going completely off topic…but ‘Soapnuts’ triggered it :)

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