Pros and Cons of Using Soap Berries

I purchased a small bag of soapnuts recently to give them a try. I'm always on the lookout for good, natural cleaning products that really work because I'm not a fan of products that have long lists of mystery ingredients.

I really wanted to like using my soapnuts (also known as soap berries); however, I have mixed feelings about using them. Here's a summary of my experience with soap nuts.

What Are Soap Nuts?

Soap nuts are the fruit of the sapindus mukorossithe tree, commonly known as the reetha tree, soap nut tree, or soap berry tree. They contain saponin, which is released when the shells come in contact with warm or hot water.

Soap nuts are an all natural product that can be used instead of traditional detergent in your laundry. They have many other uses, but I'll focus on using them for laundry here since that's what I'm familiar with.

Easy of Use

Soap berries are simple to use, but they require slightly more effort than tossing traditional laundry detergent in the washing machine. You can place your soapnuts in your washing machine (inside a small bag), or you can create a liquid soapnut solution.

If you decide to make liquid soapnut solution (which you may prefer if you like to wash in cold water), you'll need to boil some soap nuts in water on your stove every 4-5 days. The liquid goes bad after a few days, so it's not wise to make a large batch all at once. However, the a soapnut solution is easy to make, so while it is one more step in your laundry process, it's not a complex or time consuming step.

If you decide to use the soapnuts straight out of the bag, it's a simple matter of tossing a few in a muslin bag (a bag will probably be provided when you buy your soap nuts). The only extra chore is searching for the bag in your wet laundry as you transfer items to the dryer.

This searching is really not a big deal, but I am fairly lazy when it comes to laundry. I have, on a few occasions, left the soapnuts in the laundry and tossed them right in the dryer with my wet clothes. This doesn't seem to have caused any problems.

Cleaning Power

This is the area where I have mixed feelings about using soap berries.

The first few loads of laundry I did came out looking great, and I was hopeful that I could switch over to them for all of my laundry. However, after a few washes, I noticed that a lot of my whites were starting to look a bit dingy, and some stains were not coming out.

I wondered if the dingy whites and stains were a result of using the soapnuts, so I washed a few things in traditional laundry detergent. Everything came out white and stain-free.

I didn't want to give up on my little soap berries, and I had some Borax on hand, so I tried adding that to the wash, as well as washing smaller loads, and that seemed to improve the look of the whites.

A lot of people do have success with soapnuts and love using them. None of the recommendations for getting whites white and stains out are any different from what you'd do with traditional detergent (pretreat stains, separate colors from whites, wash smaller loads, etc.). However, with soap berries, you really have to follow those steps; with traditional detergent, you can sometimes get away with cheating on these steps (which can make a difference if you are a bit lazy with laundry like I am).

Another alternative for getting stains out without using harsh chemicals is line drying your clothes. The owner of the diaper service that I have used relies on this trick all the time to get stains out of her customers' cloth diapers and avoid using bleach in her washing process. While it doesn't work on 100% of stains, the sun on the diapers can be amazing for taking out a lot of stains.


Soap nuts can be great option for people who have allergies or sensitive skin. They are hypoallergenic and free of synthetic chemicals. My younger son tends to get rashes fairly easily, so this benefit is one that I appreciate.

Soapnuts can be an environmentally friendly laundry option. They are not manufactured; they simply grow on trees, compared with traditional laundry detergent, they don't require much packaging, and they don't contain any synthetic chemicals. They are also biodegradable and can be simply added to your compost.

Soapnuts can be used for a lot of different purposes (in liquid form, they are a multi-purpose cleaner, jewelry cleaner, shampoo, garden pest deterrent, pet shampoo, etc.) If you use them in different ways around the house, you may cut down on the number of different products you buy to perform different jobs.

Soapnuts and Cloth Diapers

If you are having problems with leaky cloth diapers, the root of the problem may be buildup caused by traditional laundry detergent. Soap nuts leave no residue and can be use to strip cloth diapers and resolve issues caused by detergent buildup.

Soapnuts also leave your laundry feeling quite soft without the need to use fabric softener. This feature is another big benefit when it comes to washing cloth diapers. Liquid fabric softer, dryer sheets and detergents with built-in fabric softeners are not recommended for washing cloth diapers. They all leave a residue on the diapers which reduces absorbency. Soap nuts will get your diapers soft without causing buildup.


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