Soap Nuts for Natural Laundry Care

Katie Wells Avatar

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This post contains affiliate links.

Read my affiliate policy.

Soap Nuts are a natural and very inexpensive way to clean your laundry without chemicals
Wellness Mama » Blog » Natural Home » Soap Nuts for Natural Laundry Care

I’ve posted before my homemade recipes for liquid and powdered laundry detergent, but I’ve also been experimenting with another even more natural method that I wanted to share.

To be fair, I must admit that when I first heard about this method a few years ago… I thought it was crazy. Of course, there have been times when I also thought cloth diapering, making my own soap, and keeping chickens were all crazy ideas too…

What Are Soap Nuts?

According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

Soap nuts are found in both the eastern and western hemispheres, but are native to India and Nepal. They have recently become a popular environmentally friendly alternative to chemical detergent, and are a gentle option for those with allergies to chemicals in regular detergents. They have traditionally been used as an expectorant, and in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for eczema and psoriasis. Soap nuts contain saponin, a natural detergent. The soap nut shell absorbs water and releases the saponins which circulate as a natural surfactant in the wash water, freeing dirt, grime, and oils from clothing.

Sounds crazy… right?

I thought so too, but was amazed that they actually work! They leave little to no scent, maybe a slight apple scent, and they don’t bubble, but they do remove stains!

Why Soap Nuts?

They are the only true non-toxic and sustainable laundry option I’ve found. Homemade laundry soaps are a great alternative to conventional ones, but still create waste products. Soap nuts can be used completely and then composted for a no-waste solution, and a simple re-usable muslin bag is all that is needed to add them to a laundry load!

Another advantage to Soap Nuts is that they are extremely affordable! A handful of Soap Nuts can be purchased for pennies and used for multiple loads, making them the most cost-effective laundry solution I’ve found too. Since they are no-suds, they are great for front loader and HE machines and they don’t leave residue. They are also cloth diaper safe!

They don’t have the rain fresh smell of commercial detergents, but I like the light apple scent (that disappears when clothes dry).

How to Use Soap Nuts for Laundry

This is where it gets technical and difficult… just kidding!

To use, put 4-6 Soap Nuts in a muslin bag like this one (or you can make one out of fabric scraps) and place in washer. Wash as usual with cold, warm or hot water. After washing, remove bag and let dry. Dry clothes as usual. Soap Nuts may be re-used several times until the shells start to become soft and grey, and then they should be composted.

Follow up with wool dryer balls instead of conventional dryer sheets, and you’ll have truly natural clean laundry in no time!

Other Uses for Soap Nuts

Soap Nuts can also be used to make liquid cleaner, to clean dishes, and even in shampoo. I’ll be posting more recipes soon…

Where to Purchase

I buy mine online, but in the past I’ve seen them in some speciality stores as they’re getting more common.

Have you ever used Soap Nuts? How did they work for you? Any tips? Share below!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


203 responses to “Soap Nuts for Natural Laundry Care”

  1. Carmen Avatar

    Hi Katie,

    Just wanted to thank you for having this great blog and sharing it with all of us and I wanna let you know I bought the soap nuts and “love them”, thank you thank you and will be doing the gelatin stuff you had mention : ) Have a great day!!!

  2. Naveen Avatar

    Back in India we mailnly use this as Shampoo. We usually mix with Amla and soak in water the night before, to use it the next day. They say it cures Headaches and is also very good for hair growth. Good to see this can also be used for Laundry !! 🙂

    1. Fabiola Avatar

      Hello, I’ve been looking for a good shampoo I can make. Can you tell me more about the soap nuts with amla? Can I make a lot at once and store for regular use?

  3. Alison O'Donoughue Avatar
    Alison O’Donoughue

    We’ve been using soap nuts successfully for a couple of years, including on cloth diapers. A few tips: hot water is best to release the saponins, a knotted sock works as a great replacement for the muslin bag, if you make a liquid soap for the laundry you can increase the cleaning power by adding washing soda, and finally watch for stains! Very rarely we’ll get a brown mark on something that wasn’t there going in. I’ve noticed it when I use the liquid solution at high concentration in a hot wash.

  4. alex Avatar

    Stupid question… what if you have any nut allergy? Even just a mild one… Are they truly considered “nuts”?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      They are actually a berry in the same family as the goji berry…

    2. Laura Avatar

      great question! I was just going to ask the same thing. My daughter has a severe nut allergy and the whole family is sensitive to fragrances/ chemicals/ soaps. This looks like a great solution. So delighted to have found this site!

  5. Cyndye Avatar

    I’ve used soap nuts for years. I simmer them in water to extract all their soapy goodness and reuse a Seventh Generation laundry detergent bottle. It needs to be stored in the fridge though. Or you can freeze it in ice cube trays and use 2-3 per load. When you first start using them you may have to use vinegar to cut through the film left by commercial detergents. I am crazy sensitive to fragrances and these just leave my clothes smelling clean.

    1. Pranjali Avatar

      This is a great idea. I wonder, what if the liquid is stored out in the dark cold laundry cabinet rather then freezing. Have you tried it?

      1. linda Avatar

        Think of the soap nuts as you might a bag of plums (they aren’t but think that way for a moment) If you boiled the plums up and poured the liquid into a bottle, after a while it would go off. The soap nut liquid can be viewed in the same way. It will keep for a while but not forever like shop bought products will. If you use a lot then keeping it on a cold shelf might be fine, Otherwise ice cubes in the freezer makes for the better option.

  6. April Grow Avatar
    April Grow

    So how many soap nuts come in 1 pound? I make my own laundry detergent (it has washing soda, baking soda, Borax and Fels Naptha). It started bc I was trying to eliminate as many chemicals as possible, but a wonderful side effect is it got rid of my sons’ eczema. I have one who is allergic to grass (even if he wore pants he’d come in covered in welts). When I started using my own detergent he stopped reacting to the grass. This summer I forgot to take it with us when we went to spend a month with my parents, and he broke out all over. Soap nuts sound even easier, but I wonder how cost effective it is if you have to replace them every 3 uses. I just have no concept of how far a pound goes.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      I haven’t counted, but a pound lasts our family of 6 for several months, and when I calculated, out monthly laundry soap cost was around $2 I think…

    2. linda Avatar

      On average, the ones I bought, weigh about 1 gram each – that makes about 1000 in a kilo (around 450 to the lb). I make mine into a concentrated liquid, frozen into ice cubes, that averages out 1 soap nut to a light soil wash and 2-3 to a heavy soil wash. Plus I grind some into a powder for stain treatment adding up to maybe an extra 1 or 2 for every other wash. That is an awful lot of washes to the pound.

  7. Jeneal Southern Avatar
    Jeneal Southern

    I’m not sure if it’s just me, but there is no link in the article to the muslin bags you use. Just wanted to let you know in case it wasn’t just me. 🙂

    1. Chantilly Avatar

      Agreed! Could you please repost the link to where we can find a muslin bag like yours? Thanks 🙂

    2. Rebecca Avatar

      Did your stains from the soap nuts come out or are they permanent? I had one piece that is 1/2 white come out with grey stains all over yesterday. I am currently treating it with stain removal (so much for natural!) and am thankful it wasn’t a more serious piece of clothing (like husband’s work shirts). I don’t think I could use these on whites again. I even took the nut bag out during the rinse cycle, so that obviously did not rinse the excess away from this piece of clothing. Thank you!

      1. Lisa Avatar

        I’m considering these for laundry or smartklean laundry ball. Did u get the stains out? I liked these cuz more natural. Any tips helpful. I read some soak 1st before darks? Dry between loads? Best places to buy? Waiting anxiously… Lisa

    3. Amanda Avatar

      The box of soap nuts comes with 4 muslin bags.
      I also use vinegar every wash in the bleach cup of my HE front loader. And I was in Eco Warm.
      I’ve been wondering how clean it really gets so that’s why I came looking here.

  8. kate Avatar

    I’ve been using them for about six months. One suggestion from the company was to soak them in warm water for a little bit if you are going to do a load of darks (with cold water) so the nuts have a chance to release some of the “soap”. One issue I’ve had is when washing a load of white bedding is that I found a bunch of brown marks from the soap nuts. That only happened once. Otherwise, not many issues. I haven’t tested against any super stains.

    1. Carol Avatar

      I just started using them. Each time I’ve used them they leave large white blotchy film on my clothes that are black or navy. Any type of fabric this happens with. It makes me think that their saponins are not dissolving in the water, and are just leaving a white film on my clothes. Anyone else have this problem? The washer is a high capacity he top loader that uses very little water.

      1. linda Avatar

        I hate HEs!! I’ll never have another one, they just will not do a good enough job.

        Sorry. I have had it happen just once and blamed adding too much wash soda. Most of my washes are dark materials and I have been using them for a number of years now. Are your soap nuts confined to a wash bag? You could, perhaps try making a soap nut liquid (method elsewhere amongst the comments). You could also try soaking the nuts in hot water for 5 minutes before tipping into the washer as they need a temperature over 40° to successfully release their saponins.

  9. Chris Kane Avatar
    Chris Kane

    i’ve used soap nuts for my laundry and they’re wonderful; i can’t wait to hear what everyone else comes up with!

  10. Stephanie Holloway Avatar
    Stephanie Holloway

    I boil water & steep the soapberries for an hour or two then use one cup of the liquid for a large load & keep the rest of the liquid in a jar.

    1. Nathalie Avatar

      Sounds Great! How many berries per cup of water do you use to steep it in.

  11. Beth Avatar

    I’ve been using soap nuts for my laundry needs for the last 5 years. I use them on everything except the Queen size bedding. The only reason I don’t use them with that is that they tend to get tangled in the bedding.
    I have also made a concentrated laundry solution out of them for washing / soaking delicates in the sink.
    Easy to bring with you when you travel (even internationally) and make great gifts 🙂

  12. Karen B. Avatar
    Karen B.

    I tried the soapnuts last year and they didn’t work for me at all. After one washing the nuts were falling into mushy pieces and my clothes weren’t clean or smelling fresh. I was disappointed. I got mine from a different vendor, though and I’d be willing to try them again from a different one.

    1. Maya Amadeus Avatar
      Maya Amadeus

      I’ve tried them last year too and my husband and I both noticed that our white laundry (underwear) turned somehow dirty-looking grayish 🙁 I still have a full bag of them sitting in my bathroom.. Do you have any suggestion?
      Many thanks from Toronto!

      1. Laurie Avatar

        If you still have them I’d gladly pay a small shipping fee to try them out. Let me know how much and I could paypal it if you want to give them away basically.

      2. linda Avatar

        The difference seen in a whites wash is possibly down to the optical brighteners that commercial detergents contain. These take the energy of the UV portion of the spectrum and re-emit it in the blue portion of the visible spectrum. Since UV isn’t visible but blue is any white surface treated with an optical brightener will emit more visible light than that which shines upon it. Hence the apparent brightness of treated whites is an optical illusion – really they truly are that yellow natural cleaners reveal. One natural way to get the brightness back into your whites without recourse to chemical detergents is to always dry them in full sunshine – the sun is a great whitener.

      3. Barkley Avatar

        If you can get your hands on it, sodiun percarbonate can safely be added with the soap nuts to brighten white laundry.

      4. Sheila Avatar

        My sister uses them as a head to toe body wash for her girls who have sensitive skin. Might try that.

        1. Lu Avatar

          Your sister should be careful with that, the pH of soap nuts is about 5, that’s very acidic. I’m surprised it’s not drying out their skin.

          1. Licia Avatar

            Our skin does best at naturally around a ph of 5.5- and if your sister has hard water (which usually has a ph more alkaline than neutral 7) the bath would be the right ph for their skin.

    2. Kiran Avatar

      Soap nuts are not suitable for everyone that causes some problems like etching sense, scars etc. What we have to do is, try soap nut along with some natural ingredients like Acacia concinna, hibiscus podwer. These ingredients will soften its Ph level and will give better results as these sources are also very beneficial and good for hair care.

  13. Sara Avatar

    I love soap nuts! They work really well. I bought a big bag and since you only have to use a few at a time I know they will last me a very long time. I didn’t know I could reuse them, though– I guess they’ll last even longer than I thought!

  14. Gabriele Hawthorne Avatar
    Gabriele Hawthorne

    I know it is a different subject but sense you changed my life i wanted to have your input. I have also just discovered a natural toothbrush and I just ordered a case on amazon they are called
    Miswaks I never had them but a friend of mine uses them for a while and told me about them what do you think
    It is an organic product. Natural way of brushing teeth.

    Kills bad odor. Requires no toothpaste. Easy to carry around

    1. linda Avatar

      Thank you, I’d never heard of them either but, checking them out after reading your comment, thought the benefits they provide against tooth caries and gum disease worth trying out. Having done that I can affirm that they do do the job. Though I will say that the natural flavour, sort of horseradishy, might be a bit of an acquired taste.

  15. Gabriele Hawthorne Avatar
    Gabriele Hawthorne

    I been using soap nuts for a while now and I love them I also use a bag in my dishwasher the same concept as in the washmachine place 4 nuts in the muslim bag and place the muslim bag in the silverware basket. The direction were on the package of my soapnuts.

    1. Debra Ball Avatar
      Debra Ball

      a MUSLIM bag??!?!?!?! Really? lol, I’m sorry, I’m not poking fun at you, it just hit my funnybone.

  16. Linda S Avatar

    Do you need to retrieve the nuts out of HE washer before rinse cycle? It sounds like a wonderful idea.

    1. Jay El Avatar

      There is no need to – soap nuts are water softeners (just like fabric softener, except that soap nuts are completely natural and they don’t leave a waxy film on clothes or create a build-up in pipes and machines). Leave them in, even for the rinse cycle and your clothes will come out softer each time – especially if you have used excessive amounts regular washing powder/liquid (which is almost everyone), or have used regular fabric softener (again, almost everyone).

      If you live in an area with hard water, you can add 1/3 cup of white vinegar for extra softness.

      1. Leota Avatar

        Previously, I used bake soda and vinegar as booster, softener and brightener for every wash. Good to note to continue using vinegar for softness. How about baking soda? I added it for softening water, and an extra clean to clothes. Thanks!

        1. Janet Avatar

          Per the instructions that came with my soap nuts, I use them until they fall apart. In my front loader, that’s 8 or more loads of clean clothes.
          BTW, I still add about 1/2 cup white vinegar to the fabric softener cup for less wrinkles. I still get the fresh scent the nuts leave behind.
          For extra dirty clothes I add 1/4 cup baking soda to the tub before adding clothes and 1/2 cup white vinegar to the “bleach” cup on my washer. Does not effect the texture or cleaning power of the nuts.

          1. Deirdre E Siegel Avatar
            Deirdre E Siegel

            Thank you, I have a front loader and use white vinegar as fabric softener. When my present laundry liquid runs out, my machine will get it’s drum clean cycle, then my Soap Nuts will take centre stage. At present all washes are on delicate – cool – setting for the extra water, then given the separate spin cycle. Your advice was much appreciated Janet 🙂

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      If you click on any of the “Soap Nuts” above in the article, it links to the brand I use…

  17. Tammy Messina Avatar
    Tammy Messina

    Will you please share about how many washings on average you get out of a set of nuts? It would help in determining how many to purchase. Thanks! Looking forward to the other recipes you’re trying out.

  18. Aime Avatar

    I just started using your homemade laundry soap and love it! It smells lovely and cleans awesome! I definately want to try these though, even less waste is right up my ally! Does the bag have to be made of Muslin?
    Also, your homemade scouring powder is amazing! It works just as well if not better than chemical cleaners and I don’t have to worry about doing harm to the environment! Thank you!!

      1. Glenn Avatar

        I have found that muslin works best. I’m going to try cheese cloth tomorrow. My muslin bag got tatty and I made up some small bags out of loose weave 100% cotton, these have failed quite miserably. I suspect the way the material behaves in water does not allow the ‘soap’ to get out very well.

        1. Trish Avatar

          I am using a langerie bag. Looking for smaller on but works perfect. Like the zipper vs the draw string.

    1. Charisma Avatar

      My box came with at least 4 muslin bags in it already…I would imagine they will last as long as the box of nuts does!

  19. Michelle Avatar

    These little nuts are GREAT and I’ve been using them for about 4 years now. I bought them initially to strip some used cloth diapers I bought when my first son was tiny. I’ve also made liquid detergent out of it, but I usually only use this for spot treatment. Looking forward to some other ideas on how to use these!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *