Soap Nuts – not just another inappropriate joke
The world of DIY cleaning can get a little silly. Dryer balls. Soap nuts. It all sounds a bit…inappropriate, right?
When I first heard about soap nuts I thought, “Really? Are people REALLY cleaning their laundry with nuts?” I thought it was taking the green cleaning movement a little too far.
But then I talked to a woman at a local farmer’s market who was selling soap nuts and I decided I had better jump on the chance to try one more method of green cleaning. Mainly because they sounded too good to be true. I had only heard of them being used for laundry, but the woman told me I could clean almost ANYTHING in my house with them! And hey, I’m always game for simplifying things.
What are Soap Nuts?
Soap nuts really aren’t a nut at all. They are a berry that is grown on a tree native to Himalayan regions of Nepal and India. This berry is generally referred to as the Soapberry because it produces a natural soap, called saponin. Saponin is a natural surfactant that foams when dissolved in water, removing dirt and odors from surfaces.
These Soapberries are normally wild-harvested from trees that have never been sprayed with any chemicals or pesticides – there’s no need because pests don’t like the taste of the fruit. Once harvested, the Soapberry is dried and de-seeded. They end up looking like a little brown nut – hence the name.
Since they don’t really belong to the nut family, they are absolutely safe to use around family members with nut allergies!
Soap nuts are extremely gentle, 100% natural, and chemical-free, making them perfect for even the most sensitive skin or delicate surfaces. This eco-friendly option is also naturally anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-microbial and a very powerful alternative to chemical cleaners.
But do they Really Work?
Yes, they work. (Y’all should know by now that I always speak from experience.)
The even better news is that the woman I met at the farmer’s market had some 3rd party testing done on her soap nuts. They were found to deter the growth of some really nasty stuff – including e. coli, yeast, black mold, salmonella, and staph. (This is unique to Shecology™ Golden Soap Nuts, as other varieties of soap nuts may not have the same properties.)
I can also confidently say that soap nuts are very effective at removing odors. I washed a load of campfire clothing with soap nuts and there was not a single trace of campfire smell left on them. (Many of you know what a miracle that is!)
2 ways to use soap nuts
Your soap nuts can be used to clean the entire house and all of your laundry – it’s true. There are two main ways to utilize soap nuts.
Using the whole nut
This option is best for cleaning your laundry. Your soap nuts will normally come with a reusable muslin bag that you fill with 5-6 soap nuts. Simply drop the bag directly in the washer with your clothes and allow it to agitate through all the cycles. Saponins do not leave a residue on clothing like commercial detergents, so there is no need to remove it before the rinse cycle. When the washer has stopped, remove your bag of soap nuts and allow it to dry or use again right away in your next load. Each bag of soap nuts can be re-used up to 10 times, or until the soap nuts are soft/mushy, or not producing suds when the bag is held under water and squeezed. (Hot water loads will exhaust your soap nuts faster.)
This method works best with laundry washed in warm water because saponins are released better in warm water. If washing on cold, simply steep the bag of soap nuts in a few cups of hot water for several minutes (to release saponins) and add to your cold load of laundry, or use the liquid concentrate (see next paragraph).
Making a liquid concentrate
This is my favorite method because I love having a liquid cleaner that I can spray or squirt onto surfaces for easy cleaning. You can use this concentrate to clean anything – sinks, floors, dishes, countertops, stovetop, bathtub, toilets, cold or warm laundry loads, cloth diapers, fruits & veggies, glass, carpets, and more.
Making an All-purpose Cleaner with Soap Nuts
Note: recipe adapted from Shecology™.
You will need:
- 20 soap nuts (find soap nuts here)
- 2 cups of water
- 10 drops of essential oil (find 100% pure essential oils here)
- Combine soap nuts and water in a medium pot.
- Bring to a gentle boil. (Watch the pan carefully so suds doesn’t boil over!) Reduce heat, cover, and allow to simmer for 1 hour.
- Allow liquid to cool, then strain and add essential oils for scent. Transfer liquid to a sealed container. Compost or discard soap nuts.
Note: I should warn you that your house will smell a little funky while your soap nuts are boiling on the stove.
Tips for storage
Like any other botanical water-based liquid, your soap nut liquid cleaner will go bad after a period of time. If keeping at room temperature, store in a small bottle that you can use up within a week or so. Refrigerated liquid will keep for a few months. If you make large batches, simply freeze portions of your concentrated cleaner to ensure freshness.
Instructions for use
This liquid cleaner is perfect for HE washers because it produces very little suds, but works in any type of washer. This concentrate is great for ANY temperature of wash cycle, and is the preferred method when washing with cold water. (The whole nut works well in warm/hot water, but sometimes cold water won’t release the saponins needed to clean laundry.) Use 2-3 TBSP of your homemade concentrate for large loads of laundry. Your soap nut cleaner is free of chemicals or perfumes, so it’s perfect for cloth diapers or even hand washing delicates.
Add your soap nut cleaner to a squirt bottle and use about 1 TBSP per sink of dishes. I like to fill my dish wand with the liquid soap for hand washing dishes. They come out sparkling clean without any residue.
Add your liquid concentrate to a spray or squirt bottle. Use generously in and around the toilet bowl and lid. Allow to sit for several minutes and then clean as usual.
This all-purpose cleaner is also great for mopping floors. Add 1 TBSP of liquid to your mopping water.
Other surfaces in your house
Add the liquid cleaner to a spray bottle and use to clean the following surfaces:
- stove top
- fruits & veggies
Spray on, allow to sit for several minutes, and wipe with a clean dry cloth. Rinse with clean water if desired (especially if using as a fruit & veggie wash) and dry.
The soap nut revolution
Could it be possible that we might only need these silly little nuts to clean almost everything in our houses? Seems too good to be true, but other cultures have used them for centuries before we caught on. You’ll have to use them and be the judge.
If you haven’t tried soap nuts yet, it’s time to give them a shot!