Don’t be afraid of soap nuts. Yes, they look a bit weird and smell funky at first, but they work! My clothes come out of the washer with a light, fresh scent and very clean. With all the “green” and “eco-friendly” detergents on the market today, I’m happy to have found a product that works and that – clearly – comes from nature.
Soap nuts are literally nuts from the Sapindus genus of trees, also known as soapberry trees. The shell of the nut contains saponin, a natural cleansing substance that has been used for centuries around Asia for both clothing and skin.
In addition to being an effective cleaner, soap nuts are very gentle on skin so they’re great for people with allergies.
The nuts – which have been de-seeded and dried – are usually sold by the ounce and come with a small, fabric pouch. The pouch holds the soap nuts (4-5 per load) so they can be easily retrieved later.
The nuts can be used up to five times on average before they lose their potency. Based on your water softness, wash temperature, and necessary cleaning power the number and usage of your soap nuts may be different. Specifics can be found on suppliers’ websites (a few options below).
The first time I saw soap nuts, I thought: I don’t even want to touch those, let alone wash clothes with them. They were dark nuts, slightly sticky to the touch, and smelled…off. Not a bad smell, but not what I wanted to smell like. I forgot about them completely until my thoughtful sister gifted them to me one day.
I followed the instructions, hoped for the best, and expected the worst. To my utter surprise, my clothes were clean, smelled great, and the soap nuts didn’t smell as bad afterward either.
A couple washes later the shells of the nut fell apart, but worked just as well. My sister likes to put a drop of lavender essential oil in the bag too, but I prefer the natural scent. Disposal was easy: straight into the compost!
I heartily recommend soap nuts to anyone who has the courage to try them. I haven’t had great luck finding them in stores, but many suppliers sell them online.
Note for apartment dwellers: buy a couple extra bags so you can use your soap nuts on multiple loads at a time.
Soap nuts online: