According to statistics, an average American family of four spends around $185 on laundry detergent annually.¹ Add another $39 for bleach, and $66 for fabric softener. That’s a lot of money going down the drain. (No pun intended!) And it doesn’t even take into account the toll all those chemical products take on the environment.
But you can do laundry almost free! Just switch to soap nuts! I did years ago, and have never regretted it! I pay about €15 ($16) for 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of soap “nuts”, which last the two of us almost two years! That’s a great savings!
But just what are soap nuts?
They aren’t really nuts at all, but the dried fruit shells of the Sapindus Mukurossi tree. So they are also called, more accurately, Soap Berries. They contain a natural substance called saponin; which is released by warm water and agitation. By the way soap in Italian is sapone! So soap nuts are essentially natural soap, used for centuries in places like India and Nepal for laundry, cleaning, bathing, and dish washing!
Soap Nuts, the only organic laundry detergent that grows on trees:
- Reusable: each nut can be used up to 6 times before it’s spent;
- Simple: just throw them in with the wash or make into liquid;
- Naturally softening: they eliminate the need for fabric softener;
- Affordable: less costly than detergents or fabric softener;
- 100% certifiably organic: no harmful ingredients, non-toxic;
- Sustainable and renewable;
- Non-polluting: 100% compostable & safe for graywater systems;
- Eco friendly: less processing, energy, and packaging;
- Water & energy saving: require fewer & shorter rinse cycles;
- Vegan: many liquid laundry detergents contain animal fats;
- Front-loading friendly: produce few suds, so perfect for HE machines;
- Antimicrobial: naturally disinfect clothes & surfaces;
- Leave no soap residue: no rinsing required;
- Gentle: safe on all fabrics, even silk and wool,
- Cloth diaper safe: and delicate enough for infants;
- Fragrance free: or add your own essential oils;
- Hypoallergenic: no skin or respiratory irritations;
- Not actually nuts: totally safe even with nut allergies;
- Easy to travel with: no liquids to spill or get through customs;
- Indefinite storage: keep in a cool, dry place.
Two Methods to Wash Clothes with Soap Nuts:
Method #1: Use whole nuts.
This method only works with warm water of 30°C (86°F) or higher. But it gives you the advantage of reusing them 6-10 times (see below*). Note: they produce few suds. Manufactured detergents contain unnecessary chemicals to make them more bubbly. But suds are nothing more than air trapped in the soap molecules, which do nothing to boost cleaning power!
- Unlike DIY laundry detergents, there’s no mixing involved;
- Tear 5-6 of the shells into pieces, by hand;
- Place in the small cotton bag (included), tie shut, and throw in with clothes;
- For a bit of fragrance, put drops of essential oil directly on the bag;
- Leave in for the entire cycle; they leave no residue;
- Reuse right away or hang bag to dry until next load;
- If you forget and toss it in the dryer? No harm done, just keep reusing.
Method #2: Buy liquid soap nut detergent.
This is even easier, although a bit more expensive. Just pour ¼ cup of the liquid into washer. It works well even in cold water.
How can you see when the soap nuts are spent? When the nuts become mushy and no suds squeeze out in hot water. Either squeeze the edge of a berry, or squeeze the bag in water to test them. The nuts will also get less and less shiny as the soap gets consumed. Hot water tends to consume them more quickly than cold.
How well do soap nuts work?
1. Goodbye fabric softener!
Soap nuts naturally soften fabric! Trust me. We don’t have a clothes dryer, but even jeans and towels always come out soft and fluffy! (Although this may change with extremely hard water.)
2. They do not remove all stains.
But I’ve never yet found a detergent that does! They all seem to need some help.
3. And one drawback (for some people) is that they’re odorless.
They leave absolutely no scent on your clothes, so some people add essential oils. Which I found to be an unnecessary expense. For me, it was more a matter of getting used to the simple smell of clean.
So what laundry boosters do I use?
- Stain removal: a bit of organic, biodegradable dish soap on stains; it’s a great degreaser and safe on fabrics.
- Whiteners: 1 tbsp gentle, organic lye soap (lisciva, in Italian). Or 1 tbsp citric acid (which also softens).
- Odor fighter: Rub a bit of dry baking soda on underarm area of dry garments. (Do not use on silk or wool.)
An extra advantage to soap nuts: Soap nuts are great to travel with. No liquids to spill or cause check-in problems. They’re lightweight, take up almost no room, and a few go a long way!! (Some countries, however, do prohibit the entry of agricultural products.)
Had you ever heard of soap nuts? Do they sound crazy to you? Or would you be willing to try them? If so, some places even sell sample packets so that you don’t have to buy a whole package!