With a family of four I find that I do a LOT of laundry! Since we’ve taken on cloth diapers and since our newest addition was born, I do at least a couple of loads per day. Really, I don’t mind it too much. It’s part of the routine. However, when you are doing that much laundry, you really start to consider how much you are spending on laundry detergent.
Because I had severe eczema my whole life, we found out when I was young that plain ol’ Tide was the only detergent we could use that wouldn’t break me out. I believe that my skin got used to it, not so much that it was the best solution for my sensitive skin. When I started getting into a greener lifestyle, I realized how many chemicals are in laundry detergents and thought maybe that was part of the reason that I had so much trouble with my eczema. Since my son has shown the same symptoms of eczema that I used to have, we decided to go for an all natural approach.
I made my own batch of all natural laundry detergent, which made me feel wonderful because I wasn’t putting any harsh chemicals onto our clothes to soak into our bodies. I found, however, that my messy 2 year old and newborn baby girl’s clothes were not getting as squeaky clean as Tide had done for us before, so I began looking for another natural alternative.
If I thought I was doing something right by making an “all natural detergent” before, I was wrong! While the ingredients that I used in my homemade detergent were natural and safe, I found that it didn’t have much stain fighting power. Enter Soap Nuts.
What are Soap Nuts?
Soap Nuts aren’t actually a nut, but a berry that grows on trees in the Himalayas and other parts of India and Nepal. The shell of the berry produces a soaping effect; releasing a natural chemical called saponin. Once saponin is released, it works its way through the fibers of the clothing removing dirt and grime.
The Soap Nuts are deseeded meaning that they bag you get will just have the shells of the “nut” (which is actually a fruit) which is the part that contains the saponin, or soap.
Sure, that’s a lot of great info…but do they ACTUALLY work?!
When I first heard about Soap Nuts, I thought that there was no way they would work, but after some research and having used them for a couple of months now, I know I will never go back to anything different!
When my Soap Nuts came in the mail, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning! I just couldn’t wait to do the laundry (WHO says that?!). When I opened up the bag and took a whiff, I expected to get that fresh laundry smell…well, I didn’t. In fact, I almost gagged and felt immediately betrayed. After the first load through the washer and dryer, though, I realized that the smell doesn’t linger. Because I use my Homemade Wool Dryer Balls, the clothes came out smelling like whatever essential oil I had used for that load. When I don’t put EO’s on my dryer balls there isn’t a distinctive smell. The clothes just smell…CLEAN. Not only do they smell clean, they feel clean and look clean! I have found that Soap Nuts have worked better at fighting and removing stains than my own all natural concoctions.
How to use Soap Nuts
I put about 6 Soap Nuts into a muslin bag. Because the nuts are deseeded, there are broken pieces of shell, some big and some small. I put enough in the muslin bag to make up for what I think would be about 6 or 7 whole nuts.
Because I wash most of our laundry in cold water, I put the nuts into a jar and fill it with about a cup of hot water. Hot water activates the saponin so I shake up the jar and leave it sitting for a few minutes before starting the washer and throwing the nuts on top. Agitation also activates the cleaning properties, so I know once I activate the nuts in hot water, they will get my clothes clean even in the cold water. If I am washing whites or another load with hot water, I don’t worry about activating it, I just throw the muslin bag in and start the wash.
How long do they last?
A lot of what I read about Soap Nuts suggested that each muslin bag works for about 5-7 washes. I’ve heard suggestions to keep tally on how many loads you’ve done, but because I do so much laundry, I have three muslin bags full and ready to go at a time and it would be impossible to try to keep track of how many loads each bag has been through.
I also read that the Soap Nuts become soft and grey when they no longer active. Because I tie my muslin bags shut tightly, I would have to cut them open to check their coloring, I have instead found that when I pour the hot water over the muslin bag in the jar, they bubble and a murky color is released into the water. When the bubbles become less and less and the water doesn’t change color, that is my sign that the Soap Nuts are no longer active.
I have heard that you can boil the Soap Nuts to get a higher concentration out of them. I have yet to do that, though I may start trying it with my Soap Nuts that aren’t producing as much saponin.
Because I want to get as much use out of them as I can, I think my muslin bags last much longer than 6 washes. In fact, when I notice that they bubble less, often times I just add a few more nuts to the bag or combine older nuts with more older nuts.
Will they work if dried?
I actally always dry my Soap Nuts. I don’t even bother trying to find them and dig them out of the washer to hang them out to dry. That is one of the reasons I have a few bags to use instead of just one.
Drying the Soap Nuts doesn’t hurt them at all. In my experience, they will work even after several washes and bouts through the dryer!
Where to get Soap Nuts
There are a lot of places online to purchase Soap Nuts! I ordered mine from Mountain Rose Herbs because I have had great experiences with them with everything I’ve ever ordered! Click here to be directed to their Soap Nuts and here to their muslin bags.
You can also use Soap Nuts for other things around the house! I haven’t personally tried them yet because I use my own Natural All Purpose Cleaner, but you can boil them to make a concentrate and use them as a stain remover, carpet cleaner, window cleaner, even dish soap…and MORE! The possibilities are endless!
I do want to add that I did NOT like how they worked on our cloth diapers. The diapers were clean, but there was a hint of stink leftover that I was not willing to deal with! Call me crazy…but for the messes that my kids make, I prefer something a little stronger!
Good luck and let me know how you like Soap nuts!