I have been curious about soap nuts for a while, and, since trying them, I have to say they are possibly the most sustainable cleaning choice you can make. Derived from a plant, these organic berries are easy to grow, non-toxic, odorless, compostable and reusable in household cleaning.
What Are Soap Nuts?
Soap nuts come from the Sapindus genus of trees and bushes, native to temperate and tropical regions around the world. The soap nut, which is actually the shell of a de-seeded berry, contains saponin, a natural cleaner that has been used for centuries.
Their primary function is a laundry detergent. Toss 5-6 nuts in a small cloth bag into the washing machine, and you’re all set. NOTE: You will not see suds in your laundry, which is perfectly fine by me since suds are typically the product of compounds like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), a toxin considered the #1 cause of childhood poisonings.
Soap nuts, on the other hand, are hypoallergenic, odorless, non-static and non-polluting. Because of their lack of suds, they work great in HE washing machines and require less water for rinsing. And they still get your clothes clean.
I have been using Sinfully Wholesome Wildcrafted Nepalese Soap Nuts, which are certified organic. The berries are de-seeded by hand and sun dried before being packaged—I love this part—in a Lokta paper bag, an eco-friendly paper from the bark of a laurel bush that quickly regenerates like bamboo. There is no unnecessary packaging; everything about this product can be reused and recycled.
How To Use Soap Nuts
In the laundry, you can reuse a bagful (5-6 nuts) about 5-6 times before they lose their effectiveness. However, then you can steep the used nuts overnight in hot water and use the liquid as a household cleaner. I can’t wait to try this! They replace multiple products since the soap nuts cleaner can be used for windows, floors, counters, appliances, dishes and more.
Sustainable Baby Steps provides details and recipes for using soap nuts in various forms from dishwashing liquid and shampoo to pet cleaner and bug repellant.
I didn’t notice any decline in laundry cleanliness when I switched from my usual eco-friendly detergent, and the bonus is that Sinfully Wholesome soap nuts are cheaper. I have their 500-gram bag (regularly $24.95, currently on sale), which is good for 150-200 loads of laundry or, in my case, about a year’s supply. What a deal!
My one issue is remembering to remove the soap nuts bag from the washer. More than once it has ended up in the dryer, which hasn’t done my clothing any harm. It’s simply a matter of creating a new habit, and this is one definitely worth developing.