What’s the dirt on soap nuts?

Sapindus mukorossi fruits, image from Wikimedia Commons

Mrs. Homegrown here:

I’m trying to take a temperature reading on soap nuts. Have you used them? Did you like them? How do you use them–as laundry detergent, shampoo, soap? Do you use whole nuts or make a liquid? How long have you been using them? Do you find a big difference between brands?

If you could shoot me a comment, I’d really appreciate it.

On a more advanced level, I’m curious about their interactions with soil and compost, so if you have any thoughts on that, I’d love to hear them. I’m curious as to how they’re harvested, and if their growing popularity is impacting their local ecosystems.

If you’ve never heard of soap nuts, let me know that, too! I’m wondering where they sit in the general public awareness.

Soap nuts are saponin-rich fruits, usually of a tree called Sapindus mukorossi (though all Sapindus make soaping fruits), which can be used for laundry and other cleaning purposes. They’re usually sold only lightly processed: seeded and dried. A handful of these dried fruits, which look somewhat like small dates, are put into a cloth sack and thrown in with the laundry. The fruits release saponins, natural surfactants, which clean the clothes. Supposedly. I hear mixed things. I’m experimenting with Maggie’s Soap Nuts right now (and Erik is complaining about their…uh…rich organic smell…which doesn’t seem to linger after drying), but I’ve not used them long enough really judge how they work. The truth is, so much soap is embedded in the fibers of our clothing that you can wash the average garment a couple of times in nothing but water and it would still come out pretty clean. And, for better or worse, Erik and I don’t do that much wash. I feel like I need to adopt a Little League team or something to really test drive this stuff! So send your comments, or your ball teams, this way…

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52 Comments

  1. You mean I could potentially break up with Tide?! That would be so cool!

    I’ve never heard of a soup nut. Of course now I have to spend the afternoon researching these trees to see if they grow down south.

  2. Kreg, that was just my thought! They’re tropical, they’d definitely want to grow in southern climes. There are native Sapindus growing on this continent, but I think they have smaller fruits. The Mukorossi seems to have the biggest, soapiest fruits. I wonder if anyone is growing it here?

  3. Yes, I’ve heard of these, but never tried yet. Natasha on her YouTube channel RawRadiantHealth recently did a video on them, and held a giveaway for some. Haven’t watched the vid yet either, but I’m guessing she really likes them or she wouldn’t give them away….

  4. Kreg: Check out Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

    Melinda: Thanks!

    Paula: I’ve heard they work better in front loaders because of the pounding action, but I’m testing in our geriatric top loader. I’ve heard they’re fine for HE machines because they don’t suds much.

  5. I too have heard of soap nuts but haven’t tried them. I am interested in them for laundry and possibly shampoo. I have an HE washer and am currently using biokleen powdered laundry soap. It works just as well as the conventional soaps without the problem of lots of suds. It was so ingrained in me to think of suds being needed for cleaning that this was a real adjustment. Now I think it is strange if I wash something that someone else washed in normal laundry soap…you can see how much soap is left in clothing after washing!

  6. Soapnuts are amazing.
    I’ve used a brand marketed as “Himalayan Soap Nuts” a 1kg sack of them will run you about 25$ in Montreal.

    About a handful goes into a cloth draw-string bag that they come with, or a sock with a knot tied in it. The baggie soaks in hot water for about the time it takes for the washer to fill with water before going in, unless of course you’re washing with hot water.

    Each baggie/handful can be dried and re-used for about 4 loads, depending. I do 1 load of laundry once a month or so, so this 1Kg bag will last me forever.

    I’ve been happy with them. They don’t seem to aggravate my sensitive skin, or leave a scent at all, although the nuts themselves have a bit of a tomato/berry smell to them. I’ve been told that putting lavender oil on the sachet will perfume your clothes.

    They initially took out stains I’d long learned to live with, however I’ve found that they aren’t great for bright colours & whites together, such as stripy socks.

  7. I have used them a little over a year and a half, and have liked them. I bought a big ol’ bag from Amazon.com under the brand NaturOli. They turned out to be something like 0.07 a load, which I think it pretty good. I feel they are comparable to a detergent in effectiveness; that is, you still need a stain treatment on occasion. I have noticed that my cotton clothing stays colorfast longer and doesn’t deteriorate like it did with the detergent, and that I have no need for fabric softener (and I line dry!) I no longer have to dye my husband’s socks and shirts to get them looking new again. I happen to like the smell of the brand I got.

  8. I have never heard of soap nuts. I’m intrigued, but also wondering how the cost-analysis breaks down. But I am also someone who does a lot of laundry. I’ll be eager to hear how it turns out!

  9. I’m intrigued by all the various possibilities of saponins, especially the wide variety of plants that produce them.

    I’m growing some soapwort right now. One little seedling came up, and didn’t make much progress for months, but now seems to be accelerating its growth.

    I also plan on growing quinoa next winter, or the following one. The saponins around are very bitter, and apparently toxic to some animals (sadly, earthworms seem to be included), so birds eating them is not a concern; I plan to try using the rinse water from them in laundry.

    As to shampoos and similar, thickening is important, and I have found fenugreek to be a very good thickener. It doesn’t contain much in the way of saponins, so it isn’t such a great cleanser on its own, but the saponins it does contain seem to be precursors of human hormones: it’s traditionally used as a galactogogue, breast enhancer, and aphordesiac, but I find it helps with skin irritation as well, like a more mild version of hydrocortisone. I think some thyme or cinnamon in the mix might keep it from spoiling as quickly.

  10. Thanks for all the comments, folks!

    Joel: Fascinating about the fenugreek! Indeed, runny shampoo is a problem when you play with this stuff. Do you mean you add a decoction of the seed? Does fenugreek goo up like flax seed?

    I’m interested in all soaping plants too, and wish I could grow soapwort here, but it’s just too hot and dry. I could go out and dig up the neighbor’s yucca–but that wouldn’t be very nice. Some of our native chaparral plants soap as well, but I’d also not want to harvest them.

    Carly Mae: Cost is what made me shrug them off as a laundry alternative until now. What changed my mind and begin investigating is 1) curiosity about maybe growing my own soap nut tree and 2) learning that Mountain Rose Herbs is selling the nuts super cheap.

    Now, I’ve heard internet scuttlebutt that the MRH nuts are low quality, but then I realized the complaint came from another soap nut company. I’m waiting for my MRH order to arrive, and I’ll compare it to the Maggie’s brand nuts that I have.

    But to answer your question, I’m not sure how it would pay out for someone who did a lot of laundry. It would depend on how many washes you could get out of a nut, for one thing, and maybe on other factors like your machine and you water. I’ll post back with any new info. I get.

  11. I’ve heard of them, and even considered the option of growing a drummundi here in Sunland. I haven’t figured out where to PUT one, though, what with my lot being so small. I might use one to replace the elm out front that didn’t survive my water use reduction…

    I haven’t used them yet, primarily over guilt about schlepping soap halfway across the world. I am also using Biokleen products for the moment and they seem to get along perfectly with the plants I’m greywatering with my laundry discharge.

  12. Stacy,

    I feel the same guilt about the schlepping. But then when I think about the environmental impact of some of the alternatives…well, suffice it to say I get confused.

    Biokleen is a great product in general, but I worry about it’s use in greywater. Last I heard, it wasn’t greywater compatible–but I may be wrong. Over time, salts from any detergent not formulated specifically for greywater can gradually build up in the soil. You wouldn’t notice there is a problem until it is too late. I mean, how do you get salt out of soil? And here in the southland, our soil is already too salty. The only detergent we feel okay about using when the laundry water is going to the garden is Oasis Bio-Compatible. Just for what it’s worth.

  13. I’m very particular about which of the Biokleens I use – many of their formulations use sodium and boron compounds but as far as I’ve been able to find, their Cold-Water Formula Laundry Liquid doesn’t. I never use any of their powders.

  14. I got soap nuts from naturalnews.com in 2008. I liked them a lot, they cleaned the clothes nicely. But they did clog up the drain somehow. I had a small bag that tied with a string that held the soap nuts in it during wash & though the bag was always still tied at the end, somehow soap nuts got into the pipes & made a mess of the piping system. Outside of that, no problems.

  15. Lora just turned me on to Ceanothus shrubs which have high saponin in the flower clusters. If Eric can’t dig the earthy nuts maybe some fragrant blue flowers in the wash would do the trick. According to “A Weavers Garden: Growing Plants for Natural Dyes and Fibers” via Google books:

    “Farther south along the Pacific coast, the attractive shrubs of the genus Ceanothus have provided soap substitutes occasionally used by Indians and settlers. Ceanothus contains saponins in its dense clusters of blue, pink, or white flowers, which make a fragrant cleansing lather.”

  16. Another species of the genus Sapindus (Sapindus rarak De Candole) is very famous in Indonesia to clean a traditional cloth called Batik, which must not be washed using the regular detergent.

  17. I love Soap nuts! I’m so excited that you guys might be making the switch. I don’t know what brand we used but I remember that they came in a little fabric baggie. My wife does the wash but here’s what I remember about them:

    They worked like a champ
    They last a long time, we used them until they disappeared.
    They were cheaper per load then reg soap.

    I’m not sure why we don’t use them anymore but i think its just because we ran out and just never bought more.

    Hope it helps

  18. We have been using soap nuts (berries really)for about 10 months. I first became aware of them while researching ways of washing cloth diapers. The soap nuts are great because they don’t have any detergents to clog the pores of the cotton/hemp, keeping the cloth absorbant.
    We bought 5 lbs of “pieces” on Amazon from NaturOli, and it worked out to $.05 per load according to their calcs. I have no idea how the cost is working out for us.
    We use them for all of our laundry, and it works great for us, occaisionally have to pretreat with something, but otherwise the clothes are clean. The berries have a little funky smell (vinegary or something) but the clothes don’t have that smell, only smell clean.
    I compost the spent berries, or just throw them up into the shrubs if I am too lazy to walk to the compost pile. I haven’t seen any adverse reactions caused by them.
    I have found 3 seeds in my bunch and am planning on planting them, but my cursory research has led me to believe that it takes 9 years to start producing fruit. I am on gulf coast of Alabama zone 8 and I think my climate is compatible. I have not found them listed in any of the invasive species databases.
    I love them.

  19. Also, I did boil the surfactants out to make a liquid to use as a shampoo. I could tell that the liquid was in fact very “soapy” (I don’t mean sudsy), but I did not like using it as a shampoo, and saw no reason to process them to liquid for laundry.

  20. yes! i actually just tried them for the first time yesterday- and will keep using! i typically alternate between tide, trader joe detergent, and 7th generation- depending on whats around. the soap nuts seemed to do the trick, but i think that i might try adding a little castile soap next time. they’re definitely cost effective- we picked them up in bulk from our local co-op– using 3 nuts per load, reusing the nuts 2x loads– thats about 6 cents per load! good deal.

  21. I haven’t read through all the comments, but here’s my take… we have used them almost exclusively in our laundry and dishwasher. I make a liquid boiling water and 8-10 soap nuts. We pour about a half a cup into the detergent spot in the washer (a HE) or into the dishwasher. They do a great job leaving the clothes clean and smelling fresh (even cloth diapers for a 2 year old). They don’t do a great job keeping whites bright, so we started using an oxygen bleach on those loads. With vinegar in the rinse aid compartment, they leave the dishes perfectly clean.
    We’ve tried using them for handsoap… we mixed the liquid soapnuts with some essential oils (to cover the “rich organic smell”) and used it in a foaming soap dispenser. It was okay… not quite sudsy enough to compare to what we are used to, but it got the job done. It worked okay as a shampoo too. I actually liked the way it left my hair feeling, but couldn’t win over the husband.
    With using the liquid, I found I could reuse the soapnuts for quite a long time. We would just add more water a reboil the same ones until it stopped sudsing (usually we could reuse them about 5 or 6 times). A one kilo bag lasted us almost a year (doing laundry for 5, cloth diapers every few days, and using them in the dishwasher, as well as the handsoap experiments). We tried using the soap nuts in a sack in the laundry, but we kept running them thru the dryer and they just didn’t seem as cost effective that way. Making the liquid was well worth the time for us.

    HTH

  22. I’ve been using soap nuts for about 10 months. I have not complaints. After a bit of research and experimenting, I’ve found that they don’t work so well at the coldest settings. I wash at 40°C & that seems to be fine. Also, the whites aren’t quite so “bright.” Having trouble finding distilled vinegar & baking soda so I’m still on the hunt for how to brighten my whites.

    Otherwise, we’ve been very happy. Colors though are fantastic.We line dry, no smell once things are dry. I’ve bought 2 small bags in 10 months. I’m actually surprised people are saying that they are expensive. In Austria they cost pennies in comparison to powdered detergent.

  23. Thanks so much for all these comments! I’m pleased to see that the nuts work so well for many of you. Keep them coming. Any negative experiences?

    William: I’ve heard that our local indigenous peoples used Ceanothus to prepare for wedding ceremonies. Don’t know if that’s true or not, but it seems to indicate that the blooms smell good. I might have to filch some from Griffith Park.

  24. I sometimes use our local (drummondi) soapberries; smaller, but the same idea. As I tend to wash in cold water, I’ve found that making the liquid soap-juice is necessary; successive boilings yield an almost industrial-strength concentrate, then laundry detergent, then shampoo. And the last boil run through the blender, with the fruit bits, makes a really nice soft and creamy body-wash! Liquid soapberry juice will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks before fermenting(come to gthink of it, I’ve got some in the freezer I’ve been meaning to test). Much less scent that way, too; when I tried re-using the fruit-in-bag, the peaty-vinegar smell got to me.

    Happy washing!

    DSF
    http://bokashislope.blogspot.com

  25. Hi,
    I’ve used soapnuts for about two years. We had a top loader and they worked great. In January we upgraded to a front loader (due to a errant sock in the top-loader’s motor!) and one of my first questions was can I use soapnuts in our new washer? Of course I could, because there is little to no sudsing. I love that I can use the tidy little bundle 3-5 loads and then I’m done with laundry for 2 weeks. I’ve learned a couple of things along the way. First, don’t leave your clothes sitting in the washer after the cycle ends. I noticed that the nuts would stain the muslin bag and lighter clothes that were laying against it, if left in the washer. So plan on being able to take the laundry out within a reasonable amount of time. Second, make sure that the seams on the muslin bags are tight. I had one bag start to come apart and let my nuts free into the wash. I found them in the seal of our front-loader, there were no ill effects, just more an inconvenience. Regarding biodegradability, I take the old/used soapnuts and toss them into the garden and have not seen any ill effects. Lastly, I used to buy these at Whole Foods and the brand they carried is no longer producing them, so I have to buy them online and I am reluctant to do so. It’s so nice to see that you found them and I will be using your comments to look for local resources for my soapnuts.
    I’m in Seal Beach, CA.

  26. Hey Pumpkin,

    Thanks for all the specific info. Good tip about taking the bag out promptly.

    Unfortunately I had to order my soapnuts, so I have no leads for you. I can’t find them in stores around here. For all the yoga-doin’, raw food eatin’, namaste sayin’ folks in this town, there’s a serious lack of natural food stores. Anyway, price-wise it seems best to order in bulk, and that’s only possible online. Or… maybe through a food co-op?

    What I really want to do is plant a soap nut tree!

  27. I’ve been using Maggie’s brand for over a year now and haven’t regretted it once since the first time I used them. Because they don’t build-up they will eventually get rid of the toxic synthetics currently built-up on the clothing, and I can use the berries multiple times making them the cheapest laundry option I’ve ever used.

    Great choice on making the switch!

  28. I am just testing out a sample pack, and it’s good to read of everyone elses experiences. Since my cold water is really cold in the winter I haven’t tried it with my delicates. I did do a load of cleaning rags with 2 nuts on hot water and they came out clean. Stuff that was stained is still stained, but the dirt is out.

    Good to know I can’t leave my laundry in the washer with them since I tend to do that. Perhaps it would be worth my time/energy to make the liquid from them.

  29. I have been using soapnuts for several months now, and while I love that they are natural and biodegradable, I’ve run into a few problems. The first one is that when I wash my cloth diapers, I find that they begin to smell very quickly when used. One pee and the stink is incredible. Most people don’t seem to have this problem, but I can’t figure out why I do, or how to get rid of it.
    The second issue is using them in the dishwasher. Things just don’t seem to come out as clean as other people say they find, and over time I end up with a scuzzy build up on the interior of the washer and on my plastic dishes.
    Does anyone have any ideas on how to fix this?

  30. barefoot: I’m no expert on soapnuts or diapers, but I know with plain soap that baking soda improves the cleaning ability of the soap, especially if you have hard water. Try adding a cup or less to a load with the soap nuts. Also, 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar in the rinse cycle really helps with deodorizing and rinsing soap scum. I don’t know if you’ve tried either, but they might help.

    As far as the dishwasher goes, I’ve heard other stories like that from people who’ve tried homemade concoctions. Dishwashers are such heavily engineered devices that its probably best to stick to detergents formulated for them, unfortunate as it is. Have you tried running an empty cycle with vinegar in the soap compartment (and maybe some on the floor of the washer) to get rid of the scum?

  31. Thanks for the ideas, I’ve tried them yet, but may have to. There isn’t a general smell to the diapers, they smell fine when they come out, it’s just once the urine hits them, “woo-ee.” So bad. So, I’m not sure the baking soda or vinegar will help, but it can’t hurt.
    As far as the dishwasher goes, I keep hearing people who LOVE using soapnuts, “My dishes are so shiny and clean!” I just can’t seem to get the same result. I use vinegar in my rinse, but I’m going to try throwing an extra sloosh in the next load and see if it helps. I’ve also been contemplating doing it empty as well, to try to clean it up a bit.

  32. I’m just starting to get the hang of the soapnuts from Mountain Rose Herbs. I cook 6 or 8 in about a quart of boiling water, almost till mush, add borax, and as it cools mixed in some peppermint liquid castille soap for smell and a little “back-up”.

    So far so goo…I mean good.

  33. Wow, just got done reading the post about making your own pads, and now this! What a great discussion forum!

    I also just got some soap nuts but haven’t been using them so much. Maybe if I make the liquid soap I will use the berries more.

    However, I do agree with the shipping concerns (I bought Maggie’s in bulk) and haven’t quite figured out how to rationalize the purchase yet. Curious to see if you end up growing your own!

  34. Hello, Mrs. Homegrown,

    This was a total fluke to find you. Fate maybe???

    My name is Chris Sicurella. I am the founder of NaturOli, (NaturOli.com or NaturOli.com/SoapNuts); owner of SoapnutsSupplier.com (our wholesale division); and moderator of SoapNuts.pro (developed to be purely an educational resource with high quality, accurate info and even “insider” type market intel). .pro is a work in progress that will never end. There’s such a wealth of info I want to share.

    My company has won numerous awards for our integrity, honesty and green initiatives. And that is representing both the skin care and detergent industries (both of which have a ways to go to earn the public’s trust again). Just recently we won our second international “Green Dot Award” for the beneficial environmental impact of our new soap nut liquid extract formulation.

    I would simply like to offer you my experience in answering any questions you may have. Be assured that I will be forthright and candid – only the truth. No hype. No pitch. Just facts.

    My last submission to the Green Dot jury was 4 pages long, and only scratched upon the surface of what soap nuts (better yet, soap berries) offer our world.

    Please let me know how I may be of assistance. Soap nuts have a remarkable and intriguing story. It’s not often that we discover (or re-discover) something in nature with such profound possibilities for bettering our lives.

    There are many questions and comments here that I could easily help with. Many are ones I’ve assisted hundreds of other folks with. Not even sure where to start, or what protocol should be followed. So, this in simply an introduction.

    You may publish my email: [email protected]. This appears to be a very select and intelligent group, so hopefully putting my email here proves to be a good thing. (Mrs. Homegrown, I will trust in your judgment to post it or not.)

    There is enthusiasm, curiosity and even some passion in many comments I’ve read. That’s exciting. Hopefully, my background will be found valuable.

    Respectfully,
    Chris

  35. Hi. Am dropping in to post comments. Will take a top down approach and keep them brief.

    Sapindus trees grow in a wide variety of climates all across the globe. Each species flourishes within its preferred climate and soil conditions.

    There are a lot of data gaps regarding cultivation, and most arborists have had little experience with them. We do know that saponaria (prolific in Mexico) and trifoliatus (prolific in S/E Asia) seem to prefer the warmer and/or tropical environments. These are smaller trees baring smaller fruits. They are very commonly found species. Mukorossi prefers significantly higher elevations, hence the bulk of mukorossi coming from foothill areas around the Himalayans. It is indigenous to China. Through time has expanded its range through Nepal and northern India. It’s registered as an alien species in both countries.

    Bottom line: Sapindus trees grow like weeds when a specific species finds the right conditions.

    Cultivation from seed is difficult and can be frustrating. The germination period is long. Seed scarification is tough for the seeds are so hard. Seedlings are out there, but hard to find. 100% certainty of species identification in seedlings is still iffy. It’s no fault of anyone. Growers are learning more all the time, and are becoming much more careful about sourcing their seeds.

  36. Brands: Every seller has the best. Right?

    So, what is the difference? After fielding so many questions from consumers, I decided to write an article about “how to buy soap nuts” on http://www.SoapNuts.pro

    I will hope that you will read it.

    Rather than addressing the brands, my approach was to discuss all the OTHER particulars so folks could simply make more informed decisions. Those particulars are far more important than what label is on them.

    It was probably me that started the buzz about Mountain Rose. I wrote numerous articles about what was happening because the INDUSTRY was being harmed. When people started asking what to do with all the soap nut seeds, I knew there was a problem in the market. People were having bad experiences and they were confused. There should be very few seeds. Seeds have no value for cleaning purposes, and can leave spots on laundry. I have always tried to protect MRH’s reputation when writing, for it is a good company. I buy many ingredients from them for our soap bars. Somebody simply made a mistake. They were being sold as mukorossi, but were actually trifoliatus that was not de-seeded. I contacted MRH about it for I do not believe they would do this intentionally, but have yet to find that anything has changed. I think they just don’t know the difference. They are priced exactly right for what they are. If you plan to use them for laundry and cleaning, simply be aware of what you have. They are not de-seeded mukorossi. It a case of apples and oranges.

    I do have serious issues with the exporters for putting such soap nuts on the market. With the market still being in its infancy, their short sightedness could create a setback for all sellers trying to offer a high quality product. That was wrong of them. They even started to refer to the soap nuts with seeds as “whole” soap nuts. That is terribly deceptive. And new consumers wouldn’t even know the difference.

    Hopefully I have helped some to understand this situation better. I encourage anyone finding such soap nuts to complain IF you have been led to believe you were buying top notch soap berries. You – the consumers – have the power to change things. All I can do is write.

  37. Dear Mrs.Homegrown,
    I have done my personal research and have some opinions I’d like to share about the soap nuts. Soap nuts are high in saponin, but they still will not clean as well as soap. Lather is not the end all be all, but it is an important indicator on a molecular level that soap is working at removing dirt. Using soap nuts alone to wash your clothing is like using baby shampoo to wash your hair exclusively. It will make a lather and is good for gentle cleansing (due to the increased surface tension like a surfactant), but not great at cleaning really dirty clothes. I would recommend using soap nuts as an additive to something like liquid soap, or shredded coconut bar soap for laundry (boost it with some oxyclean and those are some white clothes my man!) or add it to liquid olive oil soap (100% castille , not partial olive) for shampoo needs. I hope my 2c have been helpful!

  38. Dear Mrs. Home grown,

    I got your great information about soap nut today through my friend in the USA.
    We have been working on this and for some information, please visit http://www.krmecofoundation.org Thank you !!

    The Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation
    Chalnakhel-5, Khahare, Kathmandu, Nepal
    Krishna K. Gurung
    The Soap nut Shell Project at KRMEF:
    Soapnuts have been grown and sustainably harvested in Nepal for centuries. The shell contains saponin, a natural and environmentally friendly detergent which is allergy free and perfect for babies, eczema and sensitive skin. Ostracized women who suffer from leprosy are encouraged to collect soapnuts, and the women at KRMEF separate the shell from the seed. The seeds are dried and made into jewelry by disadvantaged women, allowing them to reintegrate into society and become productive. The shells are packaged in raw cotton bags which are hand loomed and sewn here at KRMEF. This project helps create jobs for leprosy affected people, especially women who have been victimized and ostracized from their communities due to physical disabilities.
    How to use soapnut shells:
    Laundry: put 8-12 half shells in the small bag provided and load with clothing. The smell is neutral and 3-5 drops of essential oil can be added for scent. The same soapnuts can be used for two loads on a low temperature setting, but for loads on a high temperature it is useful to change the soapnuts every wash.
    Dishwasher: place 10-14 half shells in the cutlery box. For each wash new soapnuts should be used.
    Soapnut liquid and its uses:
    To prepare: in large pot place 100g. soapnut shells and one gallon of water. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 30 minutes. Strain and store liquid in an airtight container. A few drops of essential oil can be added for scent.
    This liquid is very versatile and can be used in numerous ways:
    • As a general household cleaner it is effectively used to clean floors, bathrooms, and appliances.
    • As shampoo and liquid hand and body soap for both you and your pets.
    • To clean jewelry – simply soak in liquid for a short time and then rub with a clean cloth.
    • To purify fruits and vegetables – soak in liquid for 10 minutes to clean and remove germs.
    • It can also be used anywhere normal liquid detergents are called for.

    The Soapnut Seed Project at KRMEF:

    Soapnuts have been grown and sustainably harvested in Nepal for centuries. Ostracized women who suffer from leprosy collect soapnuts, and the women at KRMEF separate the shell from the seed. The shell contains saponin, a natural and environmentally friendly detergent which is allergy free and perfect for babies, eczema and sensitive skin. The shells are used for laundry, dishwashers, and to make liquid soap. The seeds are cleaned and dried, then strung with precious stones, recycled glass, and silver by local disadvantaged women, allowing them to reintegrate into society and become productive. The silver adorning the jewelry is crafted in the village by a local artisan, and will be taught to those who work at KRMEF. This organic jewelry is then packaged in raw cotton bags which are hand loomed and sewn here at KRMEF. This project helps create jobs for leprosy affected people, especially women who have been victimized and ostracized from their communities due to physical disabilities.

  39. Hi, I can not find the info I am looking for about soapnuts or soapberries: Do soapnuts soapberries have natural estrogens?

    There are many women that are having health problems from too much exposure to natural and synthetic estrogens. Many common herbs and foods act like estrogens, like cinnamon and chocolate. There are also chemicals added to liquid clothes soap that have the same estrogen effect. So wanting to avoid these estrogen chemicals I am looking for a safer way to wash clothes and dishes.

    Interesting read: Chemicals turning male fish into female fish in Alberta rivers – http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/295321

  40. I have used them for 9 months now. 1 1lb bag has lasted us this long. I use them for my cloth diapers, but also add in baking soda & occasionally still have to use a squirt of Dawn to really get the CJ butter (diaper rash stuff)fully removed. I LOVE the soap nuts! Mine only barely suds, but the clothes are soft & clean. Will need to start using oxy clean to get the whites bright, though. I will say that it has saved us a ton of money on laundry! I boil water in a little mug, add the bag & let it steep for a minute then dump the whole thing in the wash

  41. I love soap fruit (“nut” is a misnomer)!

    In my years of using them I have found the liquid extract more effective than throwing the little sack in with the clothes, perhaps due to the saponins getting rinsed out. To boost effectiveness, I add borax and baking soda (water softeners and conditioners) directly to the clothes and distilled vinegar in the fabric softener cup. The liquid extract goes into the detergent cup.

    I switched to soap fruit after my husband ended up with a severe asthma attack from using common detergent. He would come home from basketball with red welts where his clothes came in contact with his sweaty body (armpits, groin, waistband) which kept getting worse until it triggered his asthma. SCARY!

    I never experimented with soap fruit for shampoo or body wash, though. I did, however, experiment with soap bark (Quillaja saponaria) about 15 years ago, and loved it!!! Just a sprinkle of the powder in your palm could be sudsed up with a brush. Apparently it’s an additive to coca cola that makes the fizz more sudsy. However, I’ve never been able to find a small scale source since. Would appreciate any leads . . .

    Soapwort was a big disappointment. I found the flowers growing wild, but the amount of saponins were disappointingly low and variable.

    I’ve also not had much luck-a with yucca. Somewhere in our immediate vicinity there’s a variety that contains saponins. But I’m not sure if they are in the root or the leaves and how the plant should be prepared.

    I think it would be fun to have a Sapindus in your back yard. But not at the expense of a fig tree! I happen to love figs and the excellent jam made with habanero.

    • Thank you for sharing your experiences!

      I also think that it’s better to use the tea than the whole fruits/nuts in the laundry. I don’t think it really works as a shampoo–I’ve tried it–but I do know people who use the tea for handwash all the time and are happy with it.

      I don’t know anything about soap bark–but would like to learn more!

      Soapwort doesn’t grow around here, but I bought a bag of dried soapwort root. I thought it made a pretty good gentle shampoo after cooking it up. I understand that soapwort is used by museums to wash antique linens–which is what it used to be used for long ago–fine linens. I doubt it has ever been up to any serious cleaning.

      Re: Yucca, I can’t speak for all yuccas. I know the common yucca around here, which is yucca whipplei. The juices in the leaves are soapy enough to clean your hands, I know this from working with the leaves for cordage. Although I have noticed that my hands feel a little itchy after working with it for a while, so I’d hesitate about applying it anywhere sensitive! I also have seen a demo of someone pulling lots of soapy material out of a yucca heart (the core that remains after you pluck all the leaves–seems a bit of a waste of a slow growing plant, though) I’ve heard it is the roots as well.

      Some yuccas can cause skin irritation, so anyone experimenting should be careful. Do a skin patch test.

      (If you want to try getting soap from a yucca leaf, just cut off a leaf, bend it back and forth until the fibers loosen a bit, then you can separate the fibrous strands with your fingers. As you break down the leaf into strings, you’ll notice some green stickiness on your hands. Add water to that, and it will foam. You can also use the broken down fibers as sort of a scrubbing pad. Again, I’m talking about yucca whipplei here.)

  42. I’ve only just begun to use soap nuts after several years of using Nellies. The reason I wanted to try them was because every time I’d buy something that was super soft, it was only soft until I washed it. I don’t like fabric softener but I tried some and it just made everything feel…I don’t know. Sticky or as if it was coated in something, I guess. The very first time I used soap nuts, I was floored! I hadn’t realized how stiff and rough ALL of my things had become and with one soap nuts wash, everything was SO soft and smelled so fresh – I’ll never go back. Rather than putting them in the washer, I put 4 or 5 in a large jar, with some hot water, and shake it up good. Then I remove the nuts and pour it in the was. I did that because of reports of the wet nuts leaving brown spots on fabric. A LOT of soap comes from the first batch I shake, with fresh nuts, so I split that first one between two smaller loads of laundry. I get about 5 washes out of 5 nuts.

  43. Pingback: What laundry detergent should I use for greywater applications? | Root Simple

  44. I used soap nuts on a trip to a hostel, but our clothes were caked with road gunk and sunscreen from riding a motorcycle for two weeks in the hot summer. Definitely going to give them another shot, as our apartment doesn’t have a washer and I’ll be dumping greywater from a bucket :)

  45. Hey everyone,
    I’m Jeremy from Green Virgin Products. We sell soap nuts and I can vouch that they will work for you. We also recently started selling our soap nuts liquid. It is even more powerful and convenient than our regular soap nuts and can handle the dirtiest clothes.

    If you have bad stains we sell a non-toxic pre-spotter as well. You can buy a sample of the liquid for only 50 cents(6 loads, 1 per order). Please check us out and ditch your toxic detergents asap!

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