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How to Use Soap Nuts For Eco-Friendly Laundry


How To Use Soap Nuts For Eco-Friendly LaundryHow would you like to do your laundry with a completely plant based soap, that leaves no residue and is one hundred percent safe for grey water?  That sounds like a unicorn!  The cool thing is, it actually exists!  In fact, you can even in order it on Amazon!  Here’s how to use soap nuts and make your laundry eco-friendly.

What Are Soap Nuts?

Most often when I tell people I do my laundry with soap nuts they ask “What are soap nuts?”  And that’s an excellent question.  Soap nuts aren’t very well known yet, even though they are amazing.  They are not actually nuts, but they are a berry that grows on a tree from the Sapindus trees.  These trees grow in warm locations, and all the ones I have seen for sale have come from India.  I believe they are called nuts because they look a lot more like nuts than berries.

The really cool thing about soap nuts is that when the husk of the dried berry gets wet it releases saponin.  Saponin is a surfactant, which is what makes soap useful to clean with.  So essentially, soap nuts are like soap from a tree.  Awesome!  The really awesome thing about soap nuts is they are hypoallergenic, grey water safe, and environment friendly.  Even the most mild homemade laundry detergents usually contain borax and washing soda, which is none of the above.

The only down side to soap nuts is that they are imported, but for me the benefits outweigh their long distance travel so I use soap nuts almost exclusively.  My husband is rather attached to his favorite laundry detergent, so I can’t say it’s the only thing we ever use.

How To Use Soap Nuts

Using soap nuts is really, really EASY.  You put 4-5 nuts in a small cotton bag and toss them in your washer with your clothes.  That’s seriously all you have to do.

Some brands have instructions that come with the nuts say you have to presoak them in warm water before you can use them in a cold wash but I have done test washes with and without presoaking and I don’t notice any difference in how clean our clothes get.

You can always get more fancy and make liquid detergent, hand soap, shampoo and all that kind of stuff out of them, but if you don’t have a lot of time to spend fussing with your laundry, seriously, just toss them in.

I’ve hand washed my laundry with soap nuts too.  While you don’t get big foamy bubbles like you do with commercial stuff, they DO foam a little.  It’s more than enough to satisfy my urge to make sure they are actually doing something!

If you are washing on cold the nuts can be reused 3-4 times, and if you are washing on warm or hot they can be reused once or twice.  I tell if I need fresh ones by squeezing the bag when I pull out the laundry.  If it’s foamy and I can see the dark brown saponin on the bag then I know they are still good.  (Don’t worry, the brown will NOT stain anything, even delicate whites, it rinses right out).  After you’ve used up the nuts just toss them in the compost bin.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m in love with soap nuts, and I prefer them to anything else I’ve done laundry with.  Here’s where to get them, if you decide to give them a try.

Have you tried them?  How did they work for you?  Let us know in the comments below!

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10 thoughts on “How to Use Soap Nuts For Eco-Friendly Laundry”

    • I can get them cheaper than the eco-friendly free and clear detergents; it works out to about 12 cents a load. I haven’t done a cost comparison on homemade laundry detergent.

    • You can if you want, but the soap nuts don’t leave a soap residue like detergents will, so you can leave them in without any problems.

  1. For those with sensitive skin or very prone to allergic reactions, I recommend a small test load with t-shirts, no intimate apparel. Make sure you aren’t in anyway reactive to a plant substance you’ve never been in contact with before.

    • Good suggestion. My oldest daughter has sensitive skin and the soap nuts don’t bother her, but we did do a test load before completely switching over.

    • My husband still likes to have his favorite laundry soap on hand, so if I run out or can’t find one of the cotton bags I’ll use his instead.

      • I’m sorry, but I have the same question and don’t think your response answered it.
        I would also like to know how you deal with stains. Thank you for your info on the soap nut.

        • Sorry, I’m not sure what your question is exactly? Soap nuts are my favorite, but if all the little cotton bags are mixed into loads of clean unfolded laundry instead of hunting through I’ll just use whatever’s closest. (I have four kids, so sometimes there can be a LOT of unsorted clothes.) There aren’t any types of clothes I wouldn’t use them on.

          I’ve always pretreated stains before putting the dirty things into the laundry basket. I usually soak stains in the bathroom sink with some hand soap rubbed in until the stain is gone, but if you usually use a spray on stain remover that will be fine with soap nuts.


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