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. Sarah Avatar

    We have recently moved and I no longer have a top loader.. I use to let them soak in the washer and then add clothes and now I’m not sure what to do! Has anyone used them successfully with a front loader before?

    1. linda Avatar

      Sarah, I have been successfully using soapnuts in a front loader for years. Other than HE machines being a disappointment at cleaning clothes in general, you should be able to achieve a reasonable result. For a dirty wash I find I get better results by adding extra water to the wash cycle (which is a faff but then I had to do that with proprietary soaps too and if yours is not an HE you may find you don’t have to do it at all).

      According to, “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.”

      Personally I grind my soapnuts and turn them into a liquid – negates the need for a pre-soak. Hope that helps. search my name on here if you want more information and ideas. Best of luck with your new machine – I hope you won’t be too disappointed.

  2. Hannah Avatar

    Thank you for all the great info on soap nuts! I just recently started using them, thanks in part to you, and I love it!

  3. Maria Avatar

    What happens if the person has sensitive skin or allergic to nuts?? I was told about this because I wanna start cloth diapering.. this will be interesting..

    1. Rebecca K Avatar
      Rebecca K

      I have 6 children and have used cloth. My short comment is this: I would not use soap nuts on cloth. I can’t imagine that’s going to get them clean enough and help with whiteness. I recommend Allen’s Naturally, the gallon size and don’t look back!

    2. Lu Avatar

      Maria, they aren’t actually a nut, they’re a berry. Soap Nuts is just a common nick name for them so they would be completely fine for people with nut allergies. The berries aren’t edible and in a concentrated liquid form it is quite acidic so definitely not good to ingest them or any contact with eyes, but the soap itself is far more gentle than any chemical detergents you’ll find on the market shelves, and it also rinses off much easier so the likelihood of any residue is pretty miniscule. Though in saying that, when they’re being used whole in washing machines they are there through the whole cycle and that still doesn’t seem to bother people. People have been using them in India for centuries for almost everything, clothes, shampoos, body wash, even as a lice treatment and although I’m cautious about the acidity when using the concentrate directly on my skin, a lot of people swear by them for sensitive skin. So I think it is best to trial them and make your own mind up.

  4. Dashire Avatar

    When I use soap nuts (not bought from where you suggested because I already had some) our clothes are stinky. I have to wash them twice and I have been using 5-6 nuts to see if that was the problem. It has made no difference. The only way our clothes smell good at all is if I add lavender Essential oil to the wool drier balls. Could there be something wrong with the soap nuts I have been using?

  5. Stacy Avatar

    Have you ever heard of pureWash? I heard it mentioned in a cloth diaper blog post and looked up the website. It sounds like something you would have looked in to at some point.

  6. Olivia Avatar

    I was just wondering if anyone knows whether it matters what brand you buy the soap nuts from, or if they’re all the same?

    1. linda Avatar

      No they aren’t all the same. A good site that gives a lot of information about soapnuts is Alternatively you could search the comments on my name for a brief explanation of how to buy the best.

  7. anthony hopkins Avatar
    anthony hopkins

    soap nuts are fantastic but i am biased.
    i believe regular washing products are evil : )

    soap nuts can be soaked in a jar overnight then the liquid used for your clothes hair body.
    they can be used in the muslin bag.
    3-5 washes.

    old fashioned products that are amazing are borax (20 mule team)
    washing soda
    bicarbonate of soda

    natural whitening sodiium percarbonate which is used in most oxy products

    a couple of drops of essential oil of your choice in the softner tray tops it off.

    all the items i mentioned i would not classify them as part of the industrial rotten petrochemical industry.
    just simple products that have been used for a long long time.

    5 soap nuts in a bag in the wash

    heavy cleaning half a cup of washing soda

    white sheets
    a vodka shot glass size of hydrogen peroxide liquid or table spoon of sodiium percarbonate.

    one thing to understand is most folks laundry is saturated with petrol chemical cleaners from overloading your wash with detergent this dries and builds up in the fibres.
    do an experiment wash your sheets and clothes with just water and you will see what i mean plenty of suds.

    using soap nuts gets the items feeling and smelling better over time give it time.
    if the bag bursts the brown nuts will stain just collect up the pieces and do another wash with washing soda or any of the more natural items i have mentioned.
    you do not need petrochemicals in your laundry wash unless you want petrolium in and on your body.

    imagine you clothes smelling of your favorite essential oil rather than some nasty factory fake carcinogenic substance.

    soap nuts as the base ingredient by experiment you will find what other extras like vinegar washing soda etc work best.

    anyone saying these nuts are terrible either made a mistake did not experiment or works for tide or persil : )

    1. linda Avatar

      I have been using soapnuts for over 3 years now and will continue to do so. They do not remove stains so a little extra pre-wash effort is required but an almost 100% total reduction of itchy skin as the reward is more than enough compensation for me.

  8. Rebecca Avatar

    I am a certified organic farmer and momma. I love soap nuts. I use naturoli brand because they are certified organic. Have you made the powder soap detergent or spray from your soap nuts? I haven’t tried it yet. Was wondering if it was worth the effort?

    1. linda Avatar

      I have made a soap nut powder by grinding the berries and a liquid from boiling them, dividing the end result into the equivalent of individual soapnuts, a spoon for the powder and ice cube tray for the liquid. This seems to make the full power of the berry available all in one go. These I can then use singly for a light wash or in multiplies as required by however soiled the laundry. I do think that the convenience makes the extra effort worthwhile – apart from anything else I have no bags or soggy berries to dry out after each washday nor do I have to keep count of how often they have been used with regard to how much life is left in them.

  9. Cristina Avatar

    Is this something you are still doing? I am making my own laundry detergent for almost a year now and not that i have read this and all the comments, I am thinking about trying this out but just wondering if it is that great that i will stick with it or revert back to making it.

  10. Stacey Johnson Avatar
    Stacey Johnson

    I’m afraid these don’t work for our family.
    Husbands a welder, and three kids.
    They actually don’t seem to do anything when we use them, our clothing still smells really bad also.
    Were still looking for a recipe that works for us.

    1. linda Avatar

      Have you tried combining them with washing soda, or doing a pre-wash with washing soda and final rinse with vinegar? You will need to pre-treat any stubborn stains but I have found various combinations of these 3 will address just about any problems.

    2. Lucette Avatar

      Stacey if you make a liquid concentrate from them first you’ll get a strong detergent that should work brilliantly, I’ve come up with a really good recipe that gets the most out of the berries and smells awesome too. Though you only get a small amount of concentrate from it, but it goes a fairly long way, I also ground mine in a coffee grinder to get the most out of them that way as well, I’ve just found out you can also by it in powdered form which I think is way better. 200g of powdered berries gives me a litre of concentrate, I’ll put the recipe below:

      200g Soap Nuts (ground/powdered preferable) – or whole
      3 litres water
      1/2 cup Vinegar
      6-10mls Eucalyptus Oil (add when cooled) – or any other essential oil you are drawn to. Other good ones for cleaning are Tea Tree, Orange & Peppermint.

      Bring Nuts, water, and vinegar to the boil (watch closely as it will froth up and boil over), then reduce heat and simmer with the lid partly open until the liquid has reduced to just over 1 litre. This could take a couple of hours and you can speed up the process by removing the lid and increasing the heat, but the longer simmer time, the better. Cool, strain through muslin and decant into a bottle. Add Eucalyptus Oil (or other). And store in the refrigerator.

      I have a laundry soap scoop which is 30ml and that does a normal wash, 2 scoops should cover a heavily soiled wash no problems. For dishes, use sparingly to get the most out of your bottle.

      1. linda Avatar

        That is excellent but has left me having one of those Dohh! moments here 🙂

        I do something similar with my soapnuts but I have always counted the soapnuts out, boiled them whole, whizzed it all up with a hand blender – then had to wait a lifetime for all the foam to go down so that I can portion the mix out into ice cube trays and freeze. I then also grind some so that I have a powder for spot treatment. Why oh why did I never think to use the powder when making the liquid???

        Thank you, Lucette, for making my life so much easier.

        1. Lucette Avatar

          You’re welcome 🙂

          Oh, I forgot to add, I always put the pulp back in the pot and boil it down a second time so not to waste any. I can get a good 1 to 2 litres of liquid soap from that. Then all good for the compost! Cheers!

      2. Jo Avatar

        Hi Lucette

        The liquid form might be rancid easily, do you know how to keep it for a long time without freezing ?


        1. Lucette Avatar

          Hi Jo,

          With the addition of the vinegar and Eucalyptus oil, it’s shelf life should be a lot longer than without, but I always keep my detergent in the fridge as yes it is a natural product and will eventually go rancid. But because I use my concentrate for everything, I tend to use it up within a few weeks so I am yet to experience an off batch. However my second boil down, which is not as strong but I get larger quantities of it and it sits in my fridge for longer, has lasted a good 2 months in the fridge and is still going ok, so I do believe it should last a good while in the fridge alone. Though freezing does not ruin it in any way so if you have surplus I would highly recommend freezing as you should then be able to store it indefinitely that way, or within reason. Hope this helps


        2. linda Avatar

          If you are worried that your soap liquid is being stored for too long in the refrigerator, you can re-sterilise it by heating to boiling point every so often. You could also start off by using distilled water and sterilising all tools and equipment.

  11. Lucette Avatar


    Do they remove the smells from the underarms of the garments? that’s how I usually tell if a detergent has successfully done its job and I’m not an overly smelly person either. Thanks

    1. Keren Avatar

      Not so well by themselves, however I spritz neat white vinegar onto the underarm areas. This didn’t make a difference straight away, particularly on items we wore before we moved over to non aluminium deodorants that get that nasty white build up. But continuous use of the vinegar direct to problem areas on each wash and it battled the niffs down within a few washes.

  12. Alex Avatar

    Hi, I’ve been using soap nuts for a few months and they work great on my lightly worn day-to-day clothes, but they’re not so great at de-stinking my gym socks and sports bras since those individual articles get used more frequently than the individual items in my selection of street clothes. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to give my wash cycle an extra kick so I don’t have to double wash?

    1. Linda Avatar

      You could try putting your heavy duty items to soak overnight before the wash. Alternatively (or in addition) you could try adding either a cup of vinegar or bi-carb to you wash cycle – but not both at the same time as they will cancel each other out.

  13. Denice H. Avatar
    Denice H.

    You sourced soap nut information from the Mountain Rose Herbs website. Have you ever purchased soap nuts from this company? I am currently thinking about it and wanted the feedback.

  14. malvi Avatar

    I just used an orphan white sock when I lost my muslin bag in the apartment laundromat. No need to spend money or effort on the bags if you don’t want to.

  15. Stephanie Avatar

    These sound like a great inexpensive alternative to try. I have a front load HE washer and the detergent drawer is above the wash basin. Would I leave the soap nut bag in the traditional drawer or throw them into the wash basin?

    1. Linda Avatar

      You’d put the soapnuts in with the load (in their little bag). It doesn’t matter that that means they are in there for the full cycle as they don’t leave a residue that needs to be rinsed away – no more soapy itchy skin.

    1. Linda Avatar

      I would be concerned, as the soapnuts break down toward the end of their useful life, that particles would pass through and become lodged in the wash. If you did try this, do post back and let us know how it went.

  16. Nicole Avatar

    What other brands have you all used and recommend? The one used by Wellness Mama is wonderful, but the shipping is too expensive to Canada. I also love Eco Nuts but they’re a more commerical oriented (and therefore twice as much) compared to online brands.


    1. linda Avatar

      NaturOli do seem to be good and I’d love to be able to afford their Extreme 18x liquid but, yes, they were out of the reach of my pocket too so I did a bit of research (quite a lot of it on which is like THE soap nut expert site – though the author works for NaturOli there is no bias in her information) and worked out a set of purchasing criteria:
      1) the best nut, or berry really, is the variety Mukorossi.
      2) they need to be deseeded – the seeds add to the weight but are of no benefit to cleaning power and can leave stains. Be warned that even deseed ones still contain a few seeds you need to keep an eye out for.
      3) I wanted them to be from a sustainable crop and providing employment (thus finance) to local populations.
      4) using the whole nut requires a wash bag (though a sock will do if it comes to it) so that needed to be in the deal too.
      5) bearing in mind that the most expensive are not always the best and the cheapest are not always the best value they had to be at a price I could happily afford (doing a quick calculation that 4-8 soap nuts do 4-8 washes and around 1000 in 1K that is going to save lots of expenditure on commercial soaps and softeners).

      Then I went looking on Amazon at what others were buying, read the reviews and contacted sellers to find the one that best met the criteria I had set. I am on the other side of the globe so the brand I ended up with, Salveo Indian Soap Nuts, probably has no meaning but more than a year later I am still happily ploughing through my purchase.

      I don’t know where you shop on your side of the pond but taking a quick look at, have 98% positive reviews and are packaged by disabled women in Nepal so they are starting to tick boxes already. They are on special offer at the moment so there’s another tick (this is not a recommendation, just an example).

      Good luck at finding the right one for you. I hope you love them as much as I do mine.

      1. mimi Avatar

        thanks for this, i already bought some, but i will use the vendor you suggested the next time!

  17. Kathy Avatar

    Hi! I have a recipe for making shampoo, suitable for both hair and body. The shampoo made from the recipe below can also be used on pets. I live in Finland, and I found the recipe on a Finnish wellness site. I just found out about soap nuts last night, and went out and bought some today. I’ve not tried using them yet, but am excited to read the posts about using them for laundry and will soon be trying them for personal hygiene too!

    The Finnish article said that this shampoo, when used for hair, makes the hair shiny, strong, and healthy! It also said not to be alarmed when you don’t see any “foam”; massage the shampoo into the hair and scalp and rinse like ordinary shampoo, and see the good results. : )

    Here is the shampoo recipe:

    Put 5 or 6 whole soap nuts into a pan with about one quart ; cook for 10 minutes, and let cool. Store in plastic bottle!

    Loved visiting this site! : )

Leave a Reply

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