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How to Use Soap Nuts For Zero Waste Laundry!

How 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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Tuesday 22nd of December 2015

You said you use them on almost everything. What would you not use them on?

Kathryn @ Farming My Backyard

Tuesday 22nd of December 2015

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.

Michelle Mangrum

Friday 6th of February 2015

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.

Kathryn @ Farming My Backyard

Monday 9th of February 2015

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.


Friday 30th of January 2015

Do you have to remove the soap nuts before the rinse cycle so they don't leave the clothes brown?

Kathryn @ Farming My Backyard

Friday 30th of January 2015

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.


Tuesday 8th of July 2014

What about cost?


Wednesday 9th of July 2014

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.

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