Monday, April 13, 2009

Soap Nuts: the Green Clean Detergent | Natural Cleaning Product Review

Note from Pam:
Soap Nuts, a "detergent" harvested from Nature, used for hundreds of years in East Asia, is fast becoming a 21st Century answer for a sustainable and renewable resource to provide for cleaning needs, using the least impact on the environment.

I've tried Soap Nuts and love them. I think they are particularly good for baby-care and sensitive-skin care! If you've never tried soap nuts--please do! You'll be surprised by these little, saponin-filled green cleaners straight off trees!

Author: Matt Johnson

The North American consumer is moving towards becoming an informed buyer. An average American is now aware of facts that previously went unnoticed such as the presence of Triclosan in anti-bacterial soaps, bisphenol-A in plastics and that air fresheners are abuzz with phthalates. In simple words, the above describes the various harmful chemicals that are present in items that a person uses on a daily basis. People are now coming to realize that such chemicals are not just harmful to human health but also deplete the environment. The shift towards plant based and natural products is evident.

Why not regular laundry detergents?

Cleaning and washing laundry are a regular household task. There are various options in the market in the form of cleaning aids and commercial laundry detergents. These detergents contain a blend of many toxic chemicals that are present in the form of residue on clothes after they are washed. The skin may absorb these chemicals into the blood stream or they may evaporate and be taken in by children causing potential health effects.

Regular laundry detergents contain ammonia and phosphates which is why many people experience itching, rashes and allergic reactions ,such as eczema, to these detergents. A better, safer, ethical and environmental friendly option would be to use Soap nuts as a detergent and cleaning aid.

Soap nuts as detergents and cleaning aids

Soap nuts are a type of berry native to India, Nepal and other South Asian countries. The larger variety of soap nuts (Sapindus Mukorrosi) is widely used as a natural detergent and cleaning aid all over the world. The saponins in soap nuts make them an excellent detergent and cleaning aid.
Saponins are nature’s cleansing agents that act like soap when they come in contact with water. The saponins dissolves in the water and function as detergents. The soap nuts allow water to penetrate well into the fabric thereby washing and cleaning them. The dirt is attached to the surfactant which is then drained along with the water.

How to use soap nuts for laundry?

In order to use soap nuts for laundry purposes, 4-6 soap nut shells will be required. The soap nut shells should be taken and tied together in small muslin bag (supplied with most soap nuts orders), and tossed into the washing machine. Now you can add your clothes and do your normal laundry cycle. This set of soap nuts can be used for 4 to 5 loads of laundry. The soap nuts should be changed when they become grayish or mushy. It is advisable to allow the soap nuts to dry between successive loads of laundry. The soap nut bag should be removed before running the clothes in the dryer.

To make a liquid solution, 100 grams of soap nuts, (or approximately30-35 whole soap nuts) should be boiled in approximately 3L of water for about 20 to 30 minutes. A liquid will be obtained which is a chemical free, concentrated soap nut solution; a natural aid to all your laundry detergent needs. The shells that are left over may be added to your compost. Then 45 ml of this solution (approximately 3 tablespoons) can be used for a load of laundry. The solution made with 100 grams of soap nuts can be used for washing approximately 40 loads of laundry and will cost you less than $10!

Benefits of using soap nuts as laundry detergents

Soap nuts help maintain the bright colors of the fabric and prevent fading with each wash. Soap nuts can be used to wash the most delicate fabrics such as silks and woolen garments without causing any harm to them.

Clothes washed with soap nuts come out feeling very soft eliminating the need to use additional fabric softeners.

The use of soap nuts does not cause any allergic reactions as it is completely natural and chemical free. They are ideal for people with allergies, eczema, dermatitis and sensitive skin.

For more articles on soap nuts visit

For pricing & to purchase soap nuts visit
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  1. thanks for the post! I was wondering what soap nuts did, and now I want to get some!

  2. Thanks Marlene for the encouragement. I am experimenting with soap nuts for other cleaning uses and will write about them again soon. is a site I recommend--the owners are great, regular folks and very helpful.

    -Pam aka GreenKeen :)

  3. I love soap nuts and have been using them for successfully for almost 2 years now. They are the only laundry product that is truly green and sustainable. Plus, I love that I am not contributing to the waste stream with bottles and boxes.

    Here are a few tips. In a top-loading machine soap nuts work best in luke-warm water because that helps release the saponin. In front-loading HE machines or cold water wash it is best to make the liquid. For cold water add 1/2 cup to the wash and for HE machines add 1/3 cup to the wash and softener dispenser. Soap nuts will act as a fabric softener and you also get a second wash this way.

    I recommend using a non-chlorine bleach such as Oxy-clean for whites and really dirty clothes. Pre-treat stains as you normally would.

    I find that 3 nuts 3 times work fine in an extra large load (and I have hard water). For liquid I boil 5-6 nuts in 4 cups of water for 10-15 minutes and then repeat because there is a lot of saponin that will be released the second time. You will have a nice amber liquid that needs to be refrigerated because it has no preservatives.

    I stay away from pre-packaged soap nut liquid because I feel it defeats the purpose of being green plus I've read where they have to add chemicals to it to keep it fresh.

    If you like what I have said check out my website where you will find soap nuts and other unique products that allow you to clean without any household products-now that is GREEN!! I also offer lots of info about non-toxic cleaning and ideas on how to do that.

    I am so glad that people are starting to wake-up to the fact the the manufacturers of household cleaners are not required to list the contents of their products. We need to educate ourselves and then our families and friends about this and we will all be healthier.



  4. A couple more things about soap nuts...they do not have to dry out between loads and are fine if they go through the dryer.


  5. Nancy:

    Thanks for your great tips, particularly about what water temp to use. Good Comment! -Green Keen

  6. I've used the nuts and being a chemical engineer, found them extremely effective.

  7. Soap nuts contain the cleansing agent that acts like soap which does not cause any allergic reactions.
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