Soap Nuts for Natural Laundry Care

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Soap Nuts are a natural and very inexpensive way to clean your laundry without chemicals
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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!

Sources
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. WellnessMama.com 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.

Comments

204 responses to “Soap Nuts for Natural Laundry Care”

  1. jenny strahan Avatar
    jenny strahan

    I was wondering if you need to rinse clothes after using soap nuts? Just thinking about camping when have limited water?

    1. linda Avatar

      Soap nuts work by reducing the surface tension of water, making the water ‘wetter’ and allowing it to penetrate the clothing fibres to lift dirt, grime and oil from the clothes. This detritus is released into the water and a certain amount of dirty water will remain in the in the material after it is lifted out.

      Your clothes will still need to be rinsed but rinsing can be cut to a minimum since you are not trying to remove all the chemicals associated with commercial products.

  2. Michelle R Avatar
    Michelle R

    I have used these too and liked them, but they seem a bit pricey.
    So now I want to try baking soda, vinegar and a few drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract. Has anyone tried that?

    1. Rebecca simpson Avatar
      Rebecca simpson

      I wash some of my clothes with no soap at all and they smell clean and fresh. I use warm water only. I do use soap to wash socks, underwear and towels and sheets. Basically I wash church clothes and anything that needs a wash but doesn’t have greasy stains or difficult stains on it this way. When I started doing this I was AMAZED that it took anywhere between 3 & 5 washes to get out all the residue from commercial cleaners. Now when I do use soap it is a homemade version.

    2. linda Avatar

      Soapnuts can be an expensive in the short-term but, if used properly, they are an economical investment and will save you money in the long-term.

      Baking soda does work well in the wash but you might find that the quantities you need to use work out as more expensive than the soapnuts.

  3. Falco Avatar

    I bought a box to try recently. My washing machine water runs off into the bathroom sink. After a few loads I noticed that the water in that sink was beading. The whole sink was covered with white powdery residue.
    This made me wonder if there’s residue being left on my clothes, that I can’t see yet. Would it make cloth diapers less absorbent if it repels water like this? Is it safe that I’m wearing it on my skin?
    Not sure I should continue using it to find out.

    1. Laura Avatar

      I have noticed that my Bum Genius cloth diapers have lost some of their water repellance since I’ve started washing them with soap nuts. I love them for washing clothes though.

  4. Rachael Avatar

    I tried skimming over the comments to check but I couldn’t find anything. I am also pretty sure my question answers itself but I just want to be doubly sure… when you say, “wash as usual” you mean without any other products? These replace detergents and only requires water?

    1. anthony hopkins Avatar
      anthony hopkins

      avoid petrochemicals

      old fashioned ways are the best

      borax,washing soda,vinegar a couple of drops of essential oils.
      small amounts of citric acid and cheap hydrogen peroxide can all be used.

      not all at once : )

      much safer than modern chemical crud.

  5. Leah Ann Lindsey-Simpson Avatar
    Leah Ann Lindsey-Simpson

    Katie, I use soap nuts now (LOVE THEM) and I was wondering if you have done Any research about growing the plants that soap nuts come from. I would love to grow my own plants 🙂

    1. Cat Avatar

      There is a native soap berry tree that grows in the US. You can use it’s berries the same way – their just smaller.

  6. Sara Avatar

    I’ve read if you wash cold, you have to soak the nuts in hot water first and then add to your wash. True?

    1. linda Avatar

      Extract from soapnuts.pro
      “Can I use soap nuts in cold water?
      Absolutely – If the soap nuts are high quality soap nuts with a high saponin content they should be fine right from the start. They should feel a little tacky. If they are dark and dry you should prime them so to speak. Soaking them or making a “tea” may be needed to facilitate the release of the saponin. It is also very helpful to break them into smaller pieces to further facilitate rapid saponin release. For laundry in general – regardless of temperature or detergent type – a little time pre-soaking will produce better results.”

      Alternative 1 – you can make your own Soapnut liquid by boiling them until soft, making absolutely sure that there are no seeds included liquidise with a stick blender and sieve off the resulting liquid. Count the number of complete berries you use, take this as your portion control, add an extra 20% for luck then use at the rate of 1 portion for lightly soiled, 2 or more for heavy soiled. (I use just enough water that 1 portion is equal to 1 section of my ice-cube tray and freeze until required)

      Alternative 2 – for this your soapnuts do need to be dry to start with (if they are damp or sticky they will gum up the works). Using the same counting method, place your soapnuts in a liquidiser and grind them to a powder – do not over grind or the powder will turn into a solid coating around the side of the jug. Sieve to remove any remaining solids or fibres, weigh and divide the results by the number of portions and use as above.

      This powder can also be made into a paste for stain treatment, hand wash or shampoo.

  7. August Crosby Avatar
    August Crosby

    Have you had any issues using this with cloth diapers, like barnyard stink or ammonia build up?

  8. david kristof Avatar
    david kristof

    I’m using soap nuts and making liquid from them. I loved it for very long, but after a while my white clothes and my gym clothes plus towels got sour smell, so i made my own liquid detergent from natural soap and water. They are working very good so far, but i’m sure i keep the nuts as well.

    1. Leah Ann Lindsey-Simpson Avatar
      Leah Ann Lindsey-Simpson

      I boost my soap nuts with 1/2 a cup of borax and washing soda mix, and a few drops of tea tree oil on 1/2 or 1 cup of vinegar I. The rinse cycle for my towels and sweaty gym clothes for myself, husband, and kiddos. I also wash my clothes longer. I put it on the longest time and I do not overload the washer so the soap nuts can work their magic. Everything comes out clean and absolutely no scent. 🙂

      1. Kathy Crawford Avatar
        Kathy Crawford

        So you take the borax, washing soda mix, tea tree oil and vinegar and you put them where? Do you use this along with the nuts??

  9. Ally Huang Avatar
    Ally Huang

    In the back of the package says that it contains the chemical that is known to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. Anyone has any idea about this?

  10. Jessica Harris Avatar
    Jessica Harris

    I’ve just started using soap nuts and love them. I’m having issues with my white clothes, however, since using the soap nuts… especially socks… They are turning gray and dingy. Any ideas?

    1. anthony hopkins Avatar
      anthony hopkins

      sodiium percarbonate it is the main ingredient used in oxy products.
      3 or 4 table spoons of washing soda

      hard water a couple more.
      lemon juice or if you can find it citric acid powder couple of spoons.

      couple of cap fulls of hydrogen peroxide
      white vinegar

      i always use at least a cup full of washing soda to help the soap nuts along
      borax is another superb natural product

      soap nuts in a bag
      half a cup hydrogen peroxide
      1 cup baking soda or washing soda in the wash would be a powerful combo

      problem is hard water,washing soda is much stronger than bicarbonate of soda or baking soda
      so washing soda maybe best choice

  11. Camille Lindquist Avatar
    Camille Lindquist

    I was really disappointed by the brand you recommended. I ordered my 1 lb of soap nuts for $6 and was so excited, (not so excited by the $11 shipping! eek!), and they are not deseeded! If you use soap nuts with seeds in them you can end up with stains from the seeds on your clothes. I can crack these open and use them still, but what a pain. You need to mention this in your article, because I just assumed that since you recommended them that they were deseeded because that is how you are supposed to use them!

    1. Mary Avatar

      Omg..seeds! So exciting…If you live in a warm climate, plant them, and grow your own soap nuts!

  12. hailey Avatar

    Do I put soapnuts in the washing machine and use detergent or do I use them independently? I recently made a homemade powdered detergent with the recipe 4 parts baking soda, 3 parts borax, and 2 parts castille soap but I am pretty disappointed with the results after the first weekend of washing. The whites seemed “dingy” and everything appeared to be “fuzzy” 🙁 – hoping to find another solution. Do you have either of these issues with your powdered recipe? Thanks

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      I haven’t had either of those issues, but the soap nuts can be used by themselves (in a muslin or cloth bag) and the work great!

  13. Terrie Talbert Avatar
    Terrie Talbert

    I just bought a pound of soap nuts from Mountain Rose Herbs and just so happened upon your sight…glad cause didn’t know how to use them. Wow! It will be cheaper than the DIY laundry liquid I’ve been making. 1 pound has 112 nuts for $6 but I purchased 10 1 pound packages = enough to get a 15% discount so cost me $5.10.
    I’m reading here you can use for shampoo but didn’t leave a recipe for how many nuts to how much water and boil for how long? I’d love the recipe! Thanks so much!
    Terrie

  14. Jennifer Avatar

    We love soap nuts! I add a few drops of tea tree oil to the little bag before tossing it in the wash. Helps kill bacteria and leaves a fresher smell.

  15. Megan Harris Avatar
    Megan Harris

    I would be very interested in how to use as a shampoo, dish soap and cleaner.

  16. Michelle Turner Avatar
    Michelle Turner

    I switched to soap nuts after extensive research on being able to recycle my wash water onto my yard including the vegetable & fruit garden when the rainbarrels run dry. This is the only way I can do it and not flood my yard with all the salts in every other commercial or homemade detergent. Also living in the country on a shallow well with a septic system it helps me conserve water water from the well and keep it out of the septic system. With my high energy washer and about 5 loads a week, I get 100 gallons of water for watering everything that needs it. Will soon try making the concentrate for dishes and hair.

  17. Cassandra Avatar
    Cassandra

    I got mine from a different vendor and the few loads I’ve done have had a lot white fibers/fuzz all over them. Could this be from the muslin bag that it came with or that particular brand of soapnuts? Has anyone else had this problem? I really wanted to be jazzed about them but it’s very frustrating especially since I line dry and they don’t get removed by the dryer lint screen

    1. Christina Thompson Avatar
      Christina Thompson

      If you think it could be the muslin bag put the nuts in an old sock and tie it off like one other blogger said. I hope this helps.

      Sincerely,

  18. Emily Prince Avatar
    Emily Prince

    I’ve been using soap nuts for over a year for all of the our laundry (my husband and I). I love them! They are cheap, non toxic and work great (even on my hubby’s stinky basketball clothes!). To extra stinky loads I just add some vinagar to the wash. It’s amazing to me now, when I smell other peoples wash in the machine now (I live in a apartment with common use machines) their sented detergents smell so toxic and unnatural to me!

  19. Kristina Greene Avatar
    Kristina Greene

    I just started using soap nuts a few months ago. I love them! Our clothes are clean even with our hard water.

  20. JuliaJ Avatar

    I was wondering if using soap nuts would reduce the amount of color that bleeds from the clothing while washing, so my dark-colored clothes wouldn’t fade as fast. Commercial detergent usually is pretty harsh on colors.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      Good question… I don’t know for sure, but it seems that it makes sense and they are more gentle on clothes…

    2. linda Avatar

      Extract from naturalspasupplies.co.uk
      “[Soap nuts] are especially kind to delicate clothing such as silk, clothes coloured with natural dyes and natural textiles. Because soapnuts are natural and gentle, they help clothes which would normally fade quickly to retain their colours. Soapnuts have anti-fungal, antibacterial and insect repellent properties making them ideal for prolonging the life [of] delicate textiles.”

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