I recently came across a really cool new cleaning product. Except that it isn’t new, and it’s not exactly a product, but there are products made from it and you can buy it.

This is starting to sound like a riddle, so I’ll get to the point: SOAP NUTS!!

 

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Table of Contents

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What is a soap nut?

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What can I do with a soap nut?

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How do I use soap nuts?

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Where can I buy soap nuts?

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TL;DR

What is a soap nut?

Soap Nuts, which are actually berries, grow on trees and have actual soap in them!The berries contain saponin, which functions as a surfactant a.k.a. soap. They work to release dirt from fabric and other surfaces, then suspend the dirt in the water to be rinsed away. Some species of soap nut have also been found to be anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.Soap nuts have been in use for literal ages, in subtropic Asia, in countries such as India, China, Taiwan, and Nepal. There is also a western soapberry tree that was used historically for the same purposes by Native Americans.
Soap Nuts - Western Soapberry Tree
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What can I do with a soap nut?

Soap nuts can be used to make an array of cleaning products:

  • Produce rinse
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dish detergent for use in a dishwasher or handwashing
  • Shampoo
  • Face and body wash
  • Shaving Cream
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Glass cleaner
  • Insect repellent
  • Jewelry cleaner
  • Automobile washing

How do I use soap nuts?

There is more than one method for using soap nuts, and the exact measurements may vary based on the exact species you are using. So I advise testing out a few methods to see what gets the best results with the nuts that you have available. That’s what I’ll be doing! But for this blog, I will cover some of the ideas and recipes I have found during my research.

Use the whole nut

Put 4-5 nuts in a mesh or muslin bag, tie it off and soak it in warm water for about 5 minutes–just enough time to get your laundry sorted and put in the machine–then toss it in with your laundry. Soaking the soap nuts helps activate the saponin for best results. Reuse the same bag for approximately 10 loads of laundry, or until the soap nuts seem mushy. To test if the nuts are still good, give it a squeeze after letting it soak, you should see some suds come out.

Note that you may need to adjust the number of nuts added to your laundry based on variable such as load size and water hardness.

Update: I have been using whole Soap Nuts for my laundry for a while now and wanted to add some notes and some photos of the results. 

Firstly, I discovered that the machines in my apartment building do not get any hot water which is kind of a bummer. I mostly use cold water anyway because the fabrics last longer and it saves energy, but sometimes I’d like to sanitize a little deeper! Well, that is a problem for another day.

To counteract the cold water issue I started soaking the Soap Nuts in hot water–not boiling, just out of the tap–for about 10 minutes (as described above). I realized after doing this a few times that it is actually a helpful gauge as to the lifespan of your Soap Nuts. Different nuts can last longer than others, or so I’ve read, so it is good to see how long yours will work to produce suds.

Here is what very fresh, good quality Soap Nuts do to a cup of hot tap water.