Nuts for Soapnuts!

I finally invested in a bag of soapnuts.  I read about them on Ready Nutrition, where Tess Pennington gave detailed instructions on the many ways they can be used. (Be sure and check out her article – she tells you how to make liquid soap, shampoo, etc., from them!)  I spotted them in a muslin bag at our local grocery store, much to my surprise – you don’t often find specialty items in a little place like this!

I started off with a small bag just to test them out and see if I like them.  I payed $18 for an amount that promises to wash 100 loads.

I like the idea of using something natural in my laundry.  I do use a tiny amount of a scented product for a nice fresh smell in the laundry in the winter, since I dry inside this time of year.  In the summer, the great outdoors gives all the nice fragrance I need!

Soapnuts come from a little tree from the genus called Sapindus.  These shrubs grow in warm to tropical regions.  Many of the soapnuts sold in North America are grown in Nepal and India.

The nuts aren’t actually nuts at all, but little berries that are related to the lychee.  The berries are harvested and then dried in the sun until they become a hard leathery little nut.

Soapnuts have other non-laundry oriented uses too (this is from research, not personal experience!)

  • The soapnut liquid can be used as an natural insecticide when sprayed on your garden plants.
  • Used soapnuts can be composted.
  • They were traditionally used in Asia as an expectorant.
  • They are used in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for psoriasis and eczema.
  • Soapnuts were used as a contraceptive because they have spermicidal qualities.
  • Research is currently underway about the effectiveness of soapnuts in treating migraines.

So, back to the soapnuts adventure….I took out the little nuggets and smelled them – not an especially fresh fragrance but very light and not offensive.  They just looked like random little nuts and they came with a tiny muslin bag in which to place the required amount of nuts for your load of laundry.

The instructions on the bag called for 3-5 nuts per load of laundry.  I also put in a couple of broken chunks.

After 2 months without a washing machine, I’m pretty darned thrilled to announce that I received one from my landlords when they upgraded to a new front-loading model.  My set up here isn’t fancy and I only have cold water going to my machine.  Because I can’t wash in hot, the instructions on the bag said to soak the nuts for 5-10 minutes in hot water.  I used hot tap water this time but next time I think I’ll pour water from the kettle over the nuts.

After wandering off and forgetting that the little bag was soaking, I came back after 20 minutes and saw this, a soapy looking liquid.

I dumped the entire contents of the bowl into my washing machine with a load of darks.  I also tossed in a few scent beads.

When the wash was done, everything looked nice and clean and smelled good.  There had been a couple of “work shirts” in the load, which were a real test of the cleaning ability.  They came out smelling clean.

The little muslin bag, disappointingly, bit the dust on the first load.  It ripped so badly at the seam that it isn’t even mendable.  Fortunately there was a second bag included.  I may pick up a mesh lingerie bag on my next trip to the store if this one falls apart too.

The soap nut experiment has been a definite success.  The 3-5 nuts are able to be used for up to 3 loads of laundry before they lose their cleaning power.  A large bag that is said to do up to 500 loads of laundry is $27.  This takes up far less precious storage space than a like amount of ready made detergent, and also less space than the ingredients for homemade detergent.
(Qualification:  Before I invest further we are going to wear some of the soapnut-washed apparel.  Rosie has numerous allergies and has very sensitive skin so I want to be sure that she won’t react to it.  There are many commercial detergents that are off-limits for that very reason.  Soapnuts are said to be hypoallergenic so I have high hopes!  She’s wearing soapnuts clothes today, so if I don’t hear from the school about an itchy kid, we’re good to go!)

UPDATE:  The soap nut laundry has been a success.  My extremely allergic kid has worn clothing washed in soapnut liquid and slept in soapnut-washed sheets!  We’re all clear – apparently these little fellas are very hypoallergenic!

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Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor.  Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at

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8 Comments  to  Nuts for Soapnuts!

  1. Anonymous says:

    I hope that is a success for Rosie as it appears to be for you. I enjoy reading about your new adventure. Have a great week!


    • Daisy says:

      Hi, Jill! Thank you for reading and for saying hello! I was just about to post an update regarding the soap nuts – all clear for allergies!!! :)

      ~ D

  2. melody_cir says:

    I have wondered what soap nuts were. I live at camp all summer (April-Oct) and don’t have a washer. I’m going to try them. But tell me, what are scent beads, and where did you get them? I am really enjoying your blog!
    -Grandma Melody

  3. melody_cir says:

    I have wondered what soap nuts were. I live at camp all summer (April-Oct) and don’t have a washer. I’m going to try them. But tell me, what are scent beads, and where did you get them? I am really enjoying your blog!
    -Grandma Melody

    • Daisy says:

      Hi, Grandma Melody! Thank you for reading!

      I am using the Downy unstoppable scent beads. The instructions call for a cap full – I use maybe 8-12 little beads. They do absolutely nothing but impart a pleasant scent.

      If you are going to be using the soapnuts without a washing machine be sure to boil the water to soak them in to get the most content from them. You won’t get a lather and bubbles like you get with a commericial detergent, and you’ll want to add something like Borax to your whites.

      Have a great day!

      ~ D

  4. Eric says:

    We use a couple Soapnut products from
    They sell a concentrated liquid soapnut product and we use it all the time to wash our clothes or steam clean the carpet.

  5. Cory says:

    We’ve been using soap nuts for a few months now. They are great. My 3 year old son’s eczema is much better! We get them from Sinfully Wholesome because we like their environmental packaging.

  6. Dear sir

    We would like to introduce ourselves as a leading exporters and manufacturers of soap nuts , soap nuts shells , soap nuts,soap nuts powder , soap nuts liquidfrom Nepal and India., We have been doing this business from more than 10 years with good quality and reputation. We have our own farm collection centers and factory in Nepal and India Himalayas jungles that can process the products according to customer’s request.

    We process 200 m tonnes of Big size Best quality soap nuts annually exports. We provide team work to local villages on cracking of nuts and separating black seeds (cores) from the half shells.

    We pack soap nuts in small airtight plastic packs of 1kg and 25 kg. Along with small cotton wash bags (sacks) and then finally packed into 15kg net master carton box. Our offered cotton bags are 100% organic and unbleached.

    Also we are exporting other products like especially Organic tea ,Organic coffee ,Organic garments ,Non woven bags , Jute bags & Pashmina products

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    Making World Greener

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