What are soap nuts, and will they really clean your clothing? It seems very strange to use something other than traditional laundry detergent on your clothing after using it for so long, but it makes sense. Laundry detergents are made of harsh chemicals that overscrub your clothing, often resulting in skin irritations and prematurely worn out clothing.
Soap nuts are a tiny berry called Sapindus that grows on trees all over the world. They are leathery and brown in appearance, kind of like dried prunes, but a much harder exterior. These have been used for centuries to wash clothing by the Native Americans, the Chinese, and Southern Asia. The berries contain a natural ingredient called saponin which is a surfactant. This means it will clean your clothing when laundered, releasing small amounts of natural soap which slightly suds when washed. It’s also completely safe for the environment, making it the perfect alternative to laundry detergent.
Soap nuts are also reusable. They can be used more than once in a cold wash, and also a few times in warm or hot washes. Typically, the sapindus berry nuts are placed in a drawstring bag and placed in with the laundry. The laundry cycle is completed as you would normally, and the bag of is left to dry out for the next load of laundry. On a cold wash, the berries should last approximately 5 washes, sometimes more. This makes them very economical!
For those with skin irritations due to laundry detergent, soap nuts really makes sense. Soap nuts wash your clothing leaving no trace of scent behind, which is the primary irritant of laundry detergent. They also lack the chemical itchiness of detergent. Saponin washes off completely and easily during laundry cycles. For those that don’t like the scent of laundry detergent, the berries leave no traceable scent on the clothing. They also pack enough cleaning power to remove most stains, dirt, and impurities from your clothing. You also won’t need fabric softeners, since the Sapindus berry contains natural fabric softeners that leave your clothing soft (it will put those fabric softeners to shame!).
Soap nuts are the most reasonable solution to soap pollution from laundry detergent. Traditional laundry detergents can runoff into waterways, ponds, and drinking supplies. This wastewater, even when sent to a treatment plant, must be treated before entering the ocean. Even at that point, it is questionable whether the chemicals are entirely removed or just partially before being release into the ocean. Soap nuts, on the other hand, leave no chemical behind, just natural saponin, which is completely harmless to the environment.