Soap Nuts

How to Use Soap Berries

Soap nuts can work as a good natural laundry detergent. Here are two ways to use them.

Soapnuts, also known as soap berries, can be used in a couple of different ways. You can place them directly in your washing machine (in a small bag), or you can create a liquid soap berry solution to use in your washing machine.

How to Use Soap Berries Directly in Your Wash

Simply place six to eight soap nut halves in a small pouch (you will probably receive a small pouch along with your purchase) and pull the drawstring to close the bag. If you don't have a small pouch, you can place them inside of a cotton sock and knot the sock at the top.

If you have hard water, using about 10 soap berry halves per load is recommended.

Based on my experience. I'd recommend using hot or warm water if you want to use soap nuts directly in the wash. It's the warm water that releases the saponin. If you like to wash in cold water, see the instructions below for making liquid soapnut solution.

Place the pouch in your washing machine, and wash as usual. There is no need to worry about removing the pouch during the rinse cycle. The nuts may last a little longer if you remove them for the rinse cycle, but it's not necessaary to remove them (I'm lazy about laundry and can't be bothered).

I love essential oils, so when the instructions that came with my bag of soapnuts suggested adding a few drops of essential oil on the pouch to scent the laundry (soap berries have a distinctive smell, but they do not leave a smell on your laundry), I was eager to try it.

I tried a few different oils and varied the amount (most suggestions recommend using 10 drops), but I found that using essential oils in the wash in this way didn't make my laundry smell any different. Also, essential oils can stain your clothing, so, although I didn't encounter any problems, I was a bit nervous about adding any to the wash.

If you want to scent your laundry, I'd suggest putting a few drops of essential oil on a scrap piece of cotton cloth, and let it soak into the cloth. Add that to the dryer, or add the cloth to your dresser drawer for scented laundry.

Soap nuts can be reused a couple of times. Simply leave them in the bag, and let them dry before using them again. If you wash in warm water you'll be able to reuse them more frequently than you will washing in hot water.

Stains and Whites

In my review of soap nuts you'll note that I had some issues with stains and dingy whites when I started using soap nuts. The following tips can help eliminate this issue:

  • Pretreat tough stains with a stain remover
  • Do not overload the washing machine, and with a particularly dirty load of laundry, fill the washing machine less full than you normally would.
  • A little Borax added to the wash can brighten whites
  • Wash whites and colors separately

How to Make Liquid Soapnut Solution

While it takes a little extra time to make this solution, it is useful if you like to use cold water for your laundry (because it's warm/hot water that extracts the saponin from the soap berries). Using the liquid also means you won't have to go looking for a little bag of soap berries in your wet clothes every time you do a load of laundry.

  • Place about 12-15 soapnuts in a pot with 7 cups of cold water.
  • Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. You want to end up with about four cups of liquid.
  • Check the pot from time to time to ensure that too much water has not boiled off, and remove from heat once the water has reduced to approximately four cups.
  • Let the liquid cool.
  • Strain the liquid to remove the soapnuts and discard them (they may be composted).
  • Pour the liquid into a container with an airtight lid.

To use, pour about 1/4 cup of the liquid into your washing machine and wash your clothes as usual.

While soap nuts are not perishable, the liquid made from them is. If the liquid is not refrigerated, it must be used up within about four days. Adjust the volume of the recipe to accommodate for the amount of laundry you normally do in this timeframe.

Refrigeration can slightly extend the shelf life.


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