If you’re curious about using soap nuts (also known as soap berries) for your laundry you might be asking the same question I did: Do soap nuts really work? At first I thought the idea was crazy! But don’t you worry now, I’ve got your back on this one, I have done the testing for you.
DIY Shampoo Project Turned Laundry Experiment
So here’s the story of how I actually stumbled across soap nuts – originally I wasn’t looking for them as a laundry option. I was ordering them for an herbal shampoo I’m going to start making once the last of three herbs arrives in the mail. Another post for later :) Anyway while doing my research I learned that these nuts/berries have a few different uses, one being a natural laundry soap.
Back to the question, if you’re like me the first thought that came to mind was “Really, a sack of these little brown berries are going to get my clothes clean, in place of detergent – just berries…really, seems a bit nutty to me?!” But in the spirit of always trying to keep an open mind I decided while I’m waiting for the remainder of my shampoo ingredients I would experiment with these little guys in some laundry.
Laundry needed to be done anyway so I it was a win win, as long as my clothes came out clean that is, otherwise it would’ve been $1.25 for the “test load” down the drain. So I figured what the heck, if anything I could re-wash the clothes a second time if need be (sorry water :( fortunately that wasn’t the case :). More about the outcome in a few.
Contrary to their name, it turns out soap nuts (which have been used for centuries in countries like India and Asia to clean all sorts of fabrics) aren’t actually a nut at all. They’re actually a berry-like fruit that grow on the Sapindus Mukorossi tree in tropical climates.
This particular tree’s berries contain the highest saponin content, which is a natural detergent. Soap nuts have gentle insecticidal properties, are traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine as an expectorant, and to treat eczema and psoriasis. That’s a huge plus in my book since common commercial laundry detergents have so many chemicals in them that cause all kinds of skin irritations and allergies.
Why Soap Nuts for Your Laundry?
There are so many benefits to using soap nuts in your laundry. They are hypoallergenic making them a great choice for babies cloth diapers and general laundry, safe for people with psoriasis, eczema, and sensitive skin in general.
They are the most eco-friendly laundry detergent as even other non-toxic detergents produce some type of waste. Each time you do a load of laundry you’re reusing a muslin bag, with totally organic, biodegradable, and compostable berries – the only true 100 percent zero waste laundry detergent choice there is!
Another huge plus is how economical soap nuts are. A handful of soap nuts costs pennies and are reused for multiple loads. They leave your clothes soft so you no longer need to use fabric softener. Your clothes don’t fade as fast, the fabric stays in good shape longer, and they are safe to use on delicate fabrics including silk, cashmere and wool. They are by far the most cost effective laundry option I’ve found!
Soap nuts work great for both top loading and front loading HE (with the additional benefit of leaving no residue) machines, and both septic and greywater systems (reusing waste water from home plumbing fixtures, except toilets).
Using Soap Nuts – Low and Behold – They Actually Work!
So, if you’re still with me, here’s where I get to share that soap nuts really do clean your laundry! At the end of my spur of the moment escapade I was pleasantly surprised to be able to cast aside all prior preconceived notions I ever had about the craziness of soap nuts. Instead of doing a traditional ‘this is how you do it’ I’ll just share my experience and how I actually used them so you can easily duplicate it.
UPDATE: Little Lamb has been out of stock for some time and it’s not clear when they will be available. If you scroll down to the end of the post, you’ll find more options for quality soap nuts you can use instead.
I ordered 2.2 pounds of Little Lamb Soap Berries (they make hand made wool dryer balls too). As I mentioned I needed a large bag since I’m using it to make shampoo, and in retrospect I’m glad I got it since I will now be using it for laundry too. I have a sneaky suspicion I’ll be trying it for some of the uses mentioned in this article in the near future to fulfill my DIY urge!
The first thing I noticed when my package arrived (besides the nice cotton drawstring bag my soap berries came in and the two small reusable muslin bags for washing that were included – nice!) was the sort of bittersweet odor. Initially I wasn’t fond of it and wondered if my clothes would hold the smell. Nope, not at all, in fact clothes come out with a completely neutral smell, they just smell clean.
These particular berries are sourced from Nepal. I heart Nepal. They are 100 percent USDA Organic. I had read that the berries absorb moisture which won’t harm them but since I live in a moist place I decided to put the plastic bag (which they came in inside the cotton bag) in a thicker zip lock bag to better preserve them (protecting my investment here :) especially since they will last for several months or even years to come.
After reading the handy dandy directions on the back of the bag I placed 4 soap nuts into the little bag and crushed them by hitting the bag on my kitchen counter a few times (unleashing my fierce side) and tied the strings of the bag in a knot so I wouldn’t find little pieces of berries in my laundry later.
I grabbed my load of towels and sheets, threw them in the washer, started the load and walked away. Once the load filled with water I inserted the bag of soap nuts in a small mason jar of HOT water for 10 seconds, at which point they barely started to suds and tossed the bag with the water into the load and let ‘er rip.
When it was time to dry I threw all the clothes along with the bag of soap nuts (it’s nice that you don’t have to fish them out, they just go right into the dryer) and dried as normal with no fabric softener sheet (they’re so toxic anyway). And voila! Out came clean, fresh and completely odor free laundry!
Let me just mention this is saying a lot – these were beach towels and towels that my man uses multiple times after surfing, and if you’ve never smelled the type of funk ocean water can make a wet suit and towels have, trust me, it’s not so pretty. And the towels smelled CLEAN! And there were no stray pieces of soap nuts anywhere, they all stayed nicely put in their little bag.
You can reuse your berries for up to 5 washes. Once they shrink up or become too hard (which you can feel through the bag) it’s time to grab a new batch. One 2.2 lb. bag contains 100’s (not 100 but 100’ssss) of wash loads! Did I mention economical??? That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout! And remember, no guilt when you toss them out since they’re 100 percent biodegradable, or even better, compost them if you like.
If when using soap nuts you find that you are missing the fragrance of laundry soap just add a few drops of your favorite essential oil(s) to your soap nut bag each time you do your laundry – good to go!
The Nuts and Soaps of it All
All said and done soap nuts aren’t so nutty after all, more like the bomb diggety! They are the one and only zero percent waste laundry detergent. If you care about clean clothes and a clean planet please make the switch to soap nutstoday!