Nuts for Soapnuts!

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

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 paid $18 for an amount that promises to wash 100 loads.

I like the idea of using something natural in my laundry. 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.  You can add some essential oil for scent if you want.

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!

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • 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!


    • 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

  • 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.

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  • Yeah I tried using those little bags about once before I gave up. These days I boil about 1L of soapnut liquid at a time, mix it in a 1:1 ratio with white vinegar (great for the wash and also seems to help it last longer) and a few drops of essential oil for scent. Then I just keep it in my fridge until I use it all. I’ve found that if I leave it out it goes rancid quite rapidly – sometimes within a day. The liquid in this form also works rather well as a natural herbicide on any weeds you don’t want.

  • Its so annoying that this miff is going around that soap nuts are spent when the outermost coating has gone! Soap nuts will continue to clean right until you see a transparent thin cream shell, it just is not as powerful as the outermost layer which is very astringent but the inner still has MANY uses, washing up, washing hair (trust me your hair will be as soft as a babies even if you are old, use marshmallow root and sage as conditioner and you are golden!), if you burn a pan put soap nuts in with some water boil and leave with the lid on it will just lift off, insecticide for plants and you can use them to wash with but I find them sticky.

    The other thing I read very often is that people are adding oils to their soap nuts, the purpose of soap nuts are to remove dirt and oils by adding oils directly to your soap nuts there are lessoning the ability to clean!

    And my final gripe is the boiling for hours to make liquid. If you preheat a flask, empty and fill with soap nuts and top up with fresh boiled water, leave until next day.
    Pour contents into a pot and boil meanwhile pour boiling water into the flask to preheat it again.leave for another day.
    This time you will notice that some berries are fully spent. You can either repeat the process above or if you are in a hurry take a metal sieve pour the mixture and then push the berries through the sieve. What you have now is a concentrated soap nut liquid that you can put into a soap foamer which makes it A LOT easier to use as shampoo and if you use a cloth to strain you can put the liquid into a sprayer.
    I know the pains of allergies and can fully vouch having used soap nuts to wash my hair for years it has never been softer and beautiful shiny. My hair is naturally curly and the marshmallow root and sage are just perfect leaving my hair easy to comb, bouncy, curly and shiny. It really is a great way to use the left overs from washing clothes!

    • Claudia, how do you use marshmallow root and sage for rinse? What form are they in? No idea how this is done. Thanks.

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