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.