A year ago I finished my first box of soap nuts and ordered a bigger box. I’m still using them. Result.
What’s not to love about a 100% natural, non-toxic, allergy friendly, environmentally friendly laundry option that’s inexpensive and leaves your clothes soft and clean? Safe to say I’m a convert and a big fan.
I stumbled upon soap nuts while looking for laundry washing powder recipes online. I’d made my own washing powder before and while it worked fine, the logistics of having the ingredients to hand to make more when a batch runs out wasn’t working. But I really did want something to soothe my environmental conscience, with regard to what I was putting down the drain, putting on our skin and getting my waste quota down another little bit.
Reviews were a little mixed about soap nuts with most saying they worked, but some here and there saying they were totally useless. I’m guessing variations in both water quality and individual requirements account for that.
But they were cheap, I found them in a 250g size in a local shop and I was mighty curious! They can also be purchased in larger, more cost efficient quantities online, working out at under €10/kg bag, which should last about a year.
Soap nuts, also known as Indian wash nuts, are the berries of the Sapindus tree, one of the Lychee tree family. They contain saponin, a surfactant which acts in the same way as the surfactants in regular soap powder. The surfactant releases into the water where it breaks up the surface tension of the water, allowing it to seep deeper into the clothes. One end of the surfactant is attracted to the water molecule and the other end is attracted to the dirt/grime and is washed out with the water. So the theory goes and given the general lack of complaints from teenage daughters and husband, I’m inclined to agree.
How I used soapnuts::
- The instructions say use 3-4 soap nuts. I’ve a big 9kg (20b) washing machine, so I used 6 nuts
- Just put the soap nuts into the little muslin bag provided, and put in with the laundry
- They leave no scent, so if you need a scent, add a few drops of essential oil on the soap nut bag
- Wash as normal! For me, that means a 30 degree short cycle wash for most clothes, with a longer one for dirty clothes.
- For occasional completely filthy things and also for the weekly white shirts wash, I steep in washing soda overnight, and I still do that
- After washing, remove the nuts and leave them dry out
- Continue to use the same nuts until the sticky/shineyness is gone. It says between 4-6 washes. I do 6 washes a week, I replace the soap nuts each Saturday – keeps it simple
- For white shirts I still throw into washing soda to steep overnight. Stubborn staining on anything also needs pre-treatment, as with any washing method.
- Add to compost when used
The only downside to these little beauties is I’ve lost the little bag once or twice when I just gathered up the laundry and took it out to dry, but it always emerged, and theres a spare in any case. And oh yes, my family thinks I’m proper crazy.
Disclaimer: Let me say it loud and often – I am not a domestic goddess. (I do not need my cloths to look out-of-the-shop clean).