I searched high and low for a natural laundry solution.
Happily, I stumbled upon soap nuts.
These are little berries that contain compounds called saponins.
When the dried berries are wet, they release saponins, which work like detergent. That’s why you’ll sometimes hear soap nuts described as being “saponified.”
Saponins are found in a wide range of plants. But soap nuts contain high quantities of saponins.
Soap nuts really do clean and freshen your laundry. Even though you won’t see a lot of suds or any suds.
Nevertheless, you can rest assured they’re cleaning your clothes.
You can also reuse these eco friendly hard shelled berries multiple times.
They really are the safest (in terms of chemicals) and most economical way to do a load of wash.
The soap nuts tree grows through India, where the berries have been used for ages to do laundry.
How Do Soap Nuts Clean?
(This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything I receive a referral fee, at no extra cost to you.)
The soap nuts I ordered are sold by Eco Nuts. This is the only brand I’ve ever used, because I still have the original box.
Soap nuts last a very long time, since you only need a few nuts per cycle and you can reuse them.
The Eco Nuts website has a long and detailed explanation of how soap nuts work.
This article is very technical. So, in a nutshell (pun intended), the saponins act as a natural surfactant, which is just a scientific name for the action of soap or detergent.
Surfactants (soap nuts included) attract dirt but prevent it from attaching to the clothes again.
I feel totally confident using soap nuts for a regular batch of laundry. This includes used towels, clothes, under wear, dish towels, etc.
Every batch I’ve done comes out smelling clean and fresh.
Stubborn stains I pre treat with a semi natural stain remover. But I’d do this regardless of whether I used soap nuts or chemical detergents, which I try not to use.
After we bought the soap nuts we continued to use chemical detergent on towels we used to clean up our elderly dog’s accidents, because of the very strong urine smell.
I considered the “accidents” a very special situation. Otherwise soap nuts would cover nearly all of my laundry needs.
Apparently, you can use soap nuts in cold water. But more saponin is released in hot water.
I tend to use the cool setting. But I run my soap nuts under very hot water for a minute or two before I throw them in the laundry. (The soap nuts I buy come with little linen bags that hold them in the wash cycle.)
Another way to release even more saponin is to soak the soap nuts in a cup of hot water for about 10 minutes. Then use this water, along with the soap nuts in your wash.
Do Soap Nuts Kill Germs?
It doesn’t appear as if soap nuts kill bacteria that builds up inside your washing machine.
Then again, neither does another popular brand of chemical detergent, according to a paper published by the California State Science Fair. The research was conducted at San Diego State University under direction of the Dean of the College of Sciences.
If I have a stinky batch of laundry I add a couple of drops of lavender essential oil to the wash cycle.
Essential oils are known to have antimicrobial properties.
One study published in the Laboratory Animal Research journal found that lavender essential oil was effective against pathogens carried by pet turtles.
(However, more research is needed. Since some turtle bacteria can cause human illness, check with your healthcare provider to see if this natural product is a good remedy for you.)
Women who are nursing or pregnant should not use essential oils unless directed to do so by a healthcare professional.