Clean & Green Laundry With Soapnuts





Introduction: Clean & Green Laundry With Soapnuts

About: Local Food. Global Flavor. Food for roots, health, peace and community. A food oriented DIY culture.

Doing your laundry with soapnuts is a great way to avoid polluting the earth while cleaning your clothes. These days soapnuts (or soapberries) are all the rage, and I have to say that I agree. I have seen various concerns around soapnuts, such as the cost of transporting them from India to the western countries, or with bringing in foreign plants (if you are trying to grow them at home), or whether they are harvested ethically and organically in India. These concerns are worth keeping in mind when shopping for soapnuts, but I do have to say that soapnuts work great, they don't harm the environment through use and I think it is worth switching to soapnuts especially if you use industrial, chemical-filled laundry detergent. They are affordable too!

I am going to try to grow a soapnut bush at home this year (indoors so I don't disturb the native plants) so fingers crossed there.... I have tried using acorns and bouncing bet (other plants with saponins traditionally used for washing) and I have heard that there are many other plants out there that are useful for cleaning, but honestly, the acorns turned my whites brown and when I tried using bouncing bet (soapwort) I had to dig out a lot of the roots of the plant. To be frank, the soapnuts are practical and actually do a good job cleaning dirty diapers too.

I don't have a washing machine in my tiny apartment, so I have to go to the laundromat once a week, which is actually a nice activity, gets me out for a walk, and plus it means I can't just throw a couple towels in for a whole load and waste energy and water doing that.  I call it slow laundry because it takes me all afternoon to get it done.

For more info on uses of soapnuts please visit my website

Step 1: Sourcing Your Soapnuts

There are lots of products on the market these days, all kinds of new fangled soapnut laundry detergent, in powders or liquid. Things in the soapnut world are just going nuts.

Don't get carried away by all the hype. All you really need to do laundry is 5 soapnuts. You can throw them in loose or tie them up in a muslin bag and these 5 nuts can be used over and over again--good for at least 4 loads of laundry, and yes they do get them clean. I have tested them on large loads of dirty blankets and towels and they have come out clean.

I have posted more information on the various uses of soapnuts and links to some excellent resources here.

If you are looking for a place to buy some soapnuts for your laundry, check out these cute recycled tea-towel pouches containing 5 soapnuts, ready to go for the cleanest, greenest most satisfying laundry day ever.

Step 2: Aromatherapy for Your Laundry

I like to add a bit of hydrogen peroxide (about a teaspoon or so) to my laundry with the soapnuts, just to help give it an extra boost. Also, since soapnuts don't have a strong smell (they smell slightly sour but the smell doesn't come through in the laundry), I like to add a bit of essential oil to my laundry loads. Sandalwood, pictured here is a good aroma, I also like to use rosemary or amber, any of those sort of fresh scents are quite nice. This way you can choose your own  flavour depending on what mood you are in or what mood you would like to be in when wearing your clothes.

Step 3: Into the Washing Machine

Probably everyone has their own way of doing things that works best for them. When I do my laundry I like to get the water going first (hot or cold can be used) and then I toss in my bag of soapnuts, I add a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide and some drops of essential oil. Then I close the lid and let the water run for a bit to get the suds forming. After about 30 seconds I add my dirty clothes and go read a book while the soapnuts do their business.

Simple, clean and eco-friendly. I also love to make soapnut detergent for washing my dishes, my fridge, floors, or even my vegetables in. How to do this can be found here.



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    Wonderful in-depth explanation and detailed about how to use soap nuts for laundry. Thank you so much.

    I have one query - I have a front loading washing machine and we need to load clothes in the drum, close it, then in the top we have small soap compartment we need to put soap and separate compartment for fabric softener.

    How do i use the essential oil with my soap nuts in my washing machine?

    In your washing machine, I see that you load the soap nut bag, start the water , add hydrogen peroxide and essential oil.

    Kindly advice

    Thanks In Advance

    S. Ashwin

    The first load I tried included two dog collars that always stink to high heaven. They came out with no smell whatsoever. Pretty good for my money.

    1 reply

    Check out our web site for a great price and lots of information on soap nuts. There are other uses, dishwasher, shampoo anywhere you use a cleaning product. We had a family of three use our one pound bag for $19.99 and it lasted them 9 months, that is no laundry soap and no need for fabric softener as it has it naturally. You will notice less lint in your dryer.



    Soapnuts are many types of awesome.
    I bought a bag in the middle of last year, and haven't bought detergent since. I'm nearly out now, and should buy some more. Fortunately, I've got a source that is rather local -- just on the other side of town from me. :)

    I can't seem to convince my roomie to make the switch with me, so the washer goes through cycles of good detergent, bad detergent.
    I sneeze less from my laundry being done (no funky perfumes!), scratch less (no crazy chemicals!), and actually have good, clean clothes.

    I found that there isn't a need to run a rinse cycle with the soap nuts, either, so I save water there whenever I'm near the washer to catch that switch between cycles.

    I live in a small apartment, so I don't really get the option to trap the water and reuse it for something (anything?) else, but I don't know what I could really use that for, anyway.

    I've given some away to family and friends, explaining how to use them.
    I can't seem to encourage them to switch -- people have become inundated on the "If it doesn't produce suds, it sucks" theory, it appears.

    Funny enough, I think it was your Cradle to Cradle instructable that keyed me in on soapnuts, and got me to buy some for a try. :)

    3 replies

    I am so excited that you have found soapnuts work well for you. That is also a great tip about the rinse cycle--save lots of water. You can use the water for watering your plants and supposedly the saponins in the water will help the dirt to be more absorbant. It is really true what you say about the suds, though, we are so addicted to suds!

    I have tried using them for shampoo, but find I am addicted to suds for shampooing my hair, but I am gonna see if I can figure it out, maybe just needs a bit of experimentation, as in Burma (Myanmar) they make a great traditional shampoo that all the Burmese ladies swear by (and most of them have gorgeous long hair) so they must work!

    I definitely find that the chemicals and fragrances added to regular detergent gives me allergic reactions! These days I even can't stand the smell of detergent if I am just passing by someone's house who is doing laundry with commercial detergent!

    I'm sorry, what's suds? Can you explain what kind of addiction is that?

    Oh I guess I wasn't too clear in the above comment. Suds are the foam that comes up from the soap. These days we use commercial cleaners that have foaming agents that make the soap or shampoo or whatever foam up so much that we have all become used to that, and may even feel something isn't clean if the soap we are using hasn't suds (foamed) up that much. I confess I quite like the foam too, but the natural soaps don't suds up as much like the soapnuts.

    The Soap Nut is called "Ritha" in India. These are available for about half a dollar for a pound (weight). Multi-purpose cleaning use. Good for using as a natural shampoo for washing hair but burns like hell if it gets into the eyes. We used to have a big tree in the garden. Didn't use any ourselves regularly, but our domestic help were very happy to take it all away and put it to good use! Just waiting to try it out in my side-loading washing machine which requires low-foaming detergent. I hope it works with cold water as well.

    1 reply

    Hey thanks so much for that info, I would love to see a huge tree of soapnuts growing in my yard! I have heard they are good for low-foaming detergent, cold water works too.

    I love soap nuts. There is a soap nuts giveaway going on right now at . Also tons of info about soap nuts at

    This is great! I'm going to read more about soapnuts

    Possibly cold you show some dirty clothes that became clean with soapnuts?

    2 replies

    I don't think you would see much difference if I did this, as most of my clothes aren't completely thilthy from dirt or something obvious like that.

    I have used soapnuts to wash blankets and smelly towels and they come out completely clean. My sister uses them to wash her babies diapers and just loves them.

     Oh sure, mine aren't either, I was thinking more like take a white rag, get it dirty with dirt, wash with soapnuts and let's see the results. I want to believe in them, I just need visual proof. Sometimes the soap I use doesn't even get stuff clean unless I spot treat it.

    Several people including myself have come to the conclusion they do very little to the laundry and are on par with just a clean water cycle.  I still use ours but probably won't replace them.

    btw did you mean 'forming' or 'foaming' in step 3?

    2 replies

    I meant forming but foaming works just as well. They don't foam much and some don't foam as much as others but there is definitely some foam going on there.

    I think I was being particularly dense that day, nevermind = )

    I'd never seen them foam and was just wondering...

    In my marketing & advertising class, we had to design a marketing campaign for a specific soapnut company.  We tried the soapnuts and found them to work surprisingly well.  The soapnuts were MUCH easier to carry down several flights of stairs to the laundry room than traditional bottles of detergent.