I've made my fair share of all natural laundry detergent in the past, but I have to be honest with you- traditional recipes are a total pain! Boiling the water, shredding the soap bar, mixing the borax and washing soda, stirring until it's smooth... It is economical yet time consuming.
I'm really excited to share this post with you simply because it ticks all the boxes in a dream product: Easy, non-toxic, cheap, environmentally conscious, and IT WORKS!! I hope you love it as much as I do.
If there is one chore in the house that we cannot do without, it is washing our clothes and linens. I made the switch to all natural laundry detergent when I noticed myself feeling itchy all over, most of the day. I didn't wear perfume, or eat inflammatory foods, or fail to moisturize. And yet, I seemed to itch constantly. Then one day my sister mentioned that she switched to hypoallergenic options, and I figured I better follow suit!
Enter soap nuts. I'd purchased hypoallergenic detergents before, but they always seemed to have sneaky ingredients in them that still irritated my skin. On top of that, I was pretty sure my entire retirement was going towards the "eco friendly" laundry detergent companies that permeated the grocery store shelves. And oh, the plastic. So much plastic waste. There is a better way, you guys!
Despite the name, soap nuts aren’t technically nuts. They are the fruits of the soapberry tree or Sapindus mukorrosi which can be found in warm and tropical regions such as India, Nepal, and Indonesia. Soap nuts look a lot like lychees, yet they are not edible. They are about 1-3 centimeters in diameter, yellow in color, and becomes black and leathery when dried.
For centuries, people in Southeast Asia and Europe have been using soap nuts as a natural cleanser. It was only until quite recently that the rest of the world started using them as a laundry detergent alternative. Soap nuts contains saponin, a natural surfactant which produces a foam-like substance whenever it comes into contact with water. This sudsy foam helps remove dirt, grime, and stains from all kinds of fabric.
Commercial liquids contain many toxic ingredients and chemical surfactants that are known to be dangerous. 1,2-dioxane, sodium lauryl sulfate, and nonylphenol ethoxylate are just a few. Being expensive, high in plastics, toxic, and environmentally unsafe, I knew there had to be a better way to clean my clothes. And fortunately, soap nuts have proven themselves as an excellent all natural laundry detergent that we can all use.
There are plenty of reasons why you should start using soap nuts when doing your laundry. Here they are in a nutshell:
They are cheap and economical – A kilo of soap nuts can be bought for about $30 and will get you through 250-350 loads of laundry.
They are environmentally-friendly – Soap nuts can be reused 5-6 times, put into a compost pile, and then be made into fertilizer.
They can be used on any fabric – Since they are all-natural, soap nuts are wonderful cleaning agents for any fabric, even silk. They are also great for cloth diapers since they are gentle on the skin.
They won’t wear out your clothes – Because soap nuts don’t have any residue, they won’t clog fabric pores and cause your clothes to fade or fray.
They leave clothes smelling fresh and clean – Like vinegar, soap nuts can neutralize the odor of clothes and work especially well on organic smells such as sweat and urine. Ewww...
There are three easy ways to use soap nuts as an all natural laundry detergent. If you would like to be able to reuse the nuts, opt for the first method below. The soap nut liquid and powder recipes aren't reusable.
Pro Tip: If you use cold water for clothes washing, soak the nuts in a bowl of warm water for a couple of minutes prior to throwing them in to allow them to suds properly.
Plain Soap Nuts
Place 3–5 soap nut shells in a muslin bag, tie it up, and throw them in the drum of your washing machine along with your laundry. A bag of soap nuts this size can be used again for 4-5 loads.
Soap Nut Liquid
Boil 12–15 soap nut shells in 6 cups of water for 30 minutes. Once it’s reduced to about 4 cups, pass it through a cheese cloth to take out any debris. Use 3 tablespoons of the liquid with every load of laundry. But remember: you'll need to make your soap nut liquid in small batches because it will spoil within 1-2 weeks.
Soap Nut Powder
Grab a handful of soap nuts and toss them in a food processor. Once they’re ground to a fine powder, scoop 2-3 teaspoons of it into the washing machine along with your clothes. Wash your laundry as you normally would.