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!

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. Linda Feltman Avatar
    Linda Feltman

    I discovered soap nuts about 6 months ago and they have solved a year long mystery. I began using the wool dryer balls about a year ago when I was first plagued with a miserable poison ivy like rash on my arms and arm pits for six weeks. My dermatologist ended up giving me a prednisone shot to finally calm it down since nothing else was working. Creams, lotions etc – all some manner of steroids. It was pretty frustrating. I felt I had been using ‘good’ detergent – i.e. Seventh Generation, Mrs Meyers and Method. In February when it flared again, I went through a week long patch test. Out of 60 patches, 2 were positive – and neither ingredient was listed on any product I used. I even emailed the companies – all who responded – and said they do not use those ingredients. In April I discovered a local company selling all natural shampoos, soaps and the soap nuts. I had never heard of soap nuts. But his wife’s story was so similar to mine, I decided to try them out. They WORKED. Within weeks, as I cycled through clothing, I used soap nuts instead of commercial laundry remedies, the itching flare ups had stopped. I then switched to their all natural shampoo. For decades, once a week I would use a prescription shampoo to manage my scalp dermatitis. I realized about after a month of using their shampoo (and I had been using ‘all natural’ shampoos – but commercially made) I suddenly did not need my prescription shampoo. So kudos to the soap nuts. And in my case – also using a shampoo that has only naturally occurring ingredients has solved a life long problem.

  2. Diane Avatar

    We’ve used soap nuts for a while now. Cloth diapered three kids and I have a husband who works in fire protection. We also have a small homestead so we are outside gardening and caring for animals a large amount of time, needless to say we get dirty at work or play around here. We line dry so no need for dryer balls. I compost our old soap nuts. We are striving to be a plastic free home. So not having the tubs of laundry detergent is an added bonus. I hope more people find these wonderful little berries and are able to add them to their laundry routine. They have worked well for us over the years.

  3. Carol L Avatar

    I tried soap nuts to wash clothing, and found, like others here, that they didn’t work for me. I have a well with hard water, and in the winter, especially when the water is SO COLD, it fills my washer very slowly, so I use warmer water, but not hot. I don’t think they work well in cold or warm water, I believe they need hot to work well.(Hence the boiling as it directs here, or by making tea with boiling water) I also found they let my clothing with a film, or discolored whites. HOWEVER! I made a liquid from them, simply by making a ‘tea’! Washing dishes, and some say even hair (found on a website for helping grow hair thicker). So, I used a few soap nuts, added them to a teapot, boiled water and let it steep for hours until cold. Voila!! I noticed that they still had foam to them, so did it again, and again, and again! I’m on my 7th or 8th time, (small teapot, though) and they are still going strong. My only worry is that the liquid may spoil before I get the chance to use it all up. So, I’m using it in my homemade shampoo, and for dishes and some other cleaning chores. I’ll store it in the refrigerator, just for caution, and use it quickly. Next time, I’ll use fewer nuts, and make only a small amount. I did add several drops of lavender, lemon, lime and orange to it, as I don’t think it smells very good! I won’t use them for laundry, but for all other cleaning stuff, I’ll give them a go!

  4. Stacey Rutter Avatar
    Stacey Rutter

    Love the article for soap nuts but when I saw you endorse the use of wool balls instead of dryer balls so I wanted to let make sure you knew about the abuse in the wool industry. I recently learned about it as well and hope we can all find a better alternative then using wool.
    Check this out:
    A PETA investigation of more than 30 shearing sheds in the U.S. and Australia uncovered rampant abuse. Shearers were caught punching, kicking, and stomping on sheep, in addition to hitting them in the face with electric clippers and standing on their heads, necks, and hind limbs. One shearer was seen beating a lamb in the head with a hammer. Another even used a sheep’s body to wipe the sheep’s own urine off the floor. And yet another shearer repeatedly twisted and bent a sheep’s neck, breaking it.

    In Australia, where more than 50 percent of the world’s merino wool—which is used in products ranging from clothing to carpets—originates, lambs are forced to endure a gruesome procedure called “mulesing,” in which huge chunks of skin are cut from the animals’ backsides, often without any painkillers.

  5. Sandra Avatar

    The soap berries are a wonder….will never go back to normal washing powder….

  6. Christelle Avatar

    I just love soap nuts! Especially since they don’t require deforestation – instead they are just wild harvested! And no plastic packaging… pretty fantastic.
    I also found out recently how versatile they are!! You can use them for your skin, your pets, your jewelry, etc.
    Thanks for this great info 🙂

  7. Aimee Avatar

    Have only just started using them and I love them! As a 21 year old student living out of home, they are definitely the most cost effective solution for laundry detergents. They work so well and are so cheap that even all three of my male roommates are using them!

  8. Frederique Avatar

    Hi! I just bought a kit of soap nuts and wool dryer balls and im in love! So easy and so natural and eco-friendly!
    I do have to admit that with the very grimy or smelly stuff the clothes don’t come out as clean smelling as with soap, but i found an efficient and environmentally harmless method to make the results perfect for me and my daughter! I soak the washberries in their muslin bag inside a measuring cup (2cups) filled halfway with warm water while im loading the laundry in my front loading machine. Then i add the muslin bag straight to the clothes, close the door and start the machine. I top up the measuring cup with white vinegar and maybe 7-8 drops of lemon essential oil and i place the EO/soaking water/vinegar mix in the “liquid soap” dispenser of the washing machine and VOILA! the clothes smell fresh, even after they dry, and the vinegar even has a bit of a javel type whitening effect without the harsh chemicals!

  9. Blaine Avatar

    I was surprised that on your website you promote 2 brands of “natural” detergents and both of them list either Sodium Lauryl Sulfate directly or one of it’s family members which have be know to be irritants to the skin at a bare minimum.

  10. Elicia Avatar

    I’ve been using my bag of soap nuts since December and I’m down to half a bag of shells. Are these the same as using a whole berry? Should I just use twice as many pieces in my bag?

  11. Jamie Avatar

    I’ve been using soap nuts for a year or so and I trust them to clean, deodorize, and provide the same hard working result each time.
    The muslin bag gets dirty but I just Clorox it for a couple minutes and it’s as good a new.
    I tried these because I get migraines that are smell related. What a joy to know I don’t need to run down that isle at the store and hold my breath as I search for the detergent I use to use and pray that the unscented one was in stock.

  12. Dawn Jastrem Avatar
    Dawn Jastrem

    I take a few with me when hiking and camping, that way I can wash my hands in a stream or creek if I need to and it doesn’t put any chemicals in the waterways.

  13. Happy Avatar

    I love these things! I fill a petty little (synthetic) net bag of these for awesome hand washing. (I ? these!) I have long enough cords to hang it from the drain stopper post and still be in the sink.
    Oh, did I tell you, I love these! LOL
    I wish I could plant this species around our parcel but it probably doesn’t grow in snow country.

  14. Julia Avatar

    Of all the laundry options you’ve tried – hone made or store bought that you deem safe – which one ckeans best for using ‘he’ laundry machine? I am targeting graasy kitchen towels and kids clothes :).
    Thanks a lot!!

  15. Paul Avatar

    These things (Soap Nuts) are incredible. They work very, very well. They leave a nice, clean feeling in the clothes.

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