Soapnuts - What are they and how do we use them?
What are soapnuts?
Soapnut is the planet’s natural, sustainable alternative to washing detergent. It comes from the Sapindus Mukorossi tree native to South Asia, particularly the Himalayas, and have been used for thousands of years in Nepal as a natural, effective cleaning agent.
Soapnuts are (actually) berries which has an easily removal outer shell, containing a high concentration of Saponin – a natural surfactant. Surfactants reduce the surface tension of water, making it easy to penetrate layers of dirt and oil - therefore works just like soap, only completely natural!
They're good to us:
Soapnuts are 100% natural, vegan and biodegradable. They also contain antifungal and antimicrobial properties, and are hypoallergenic – Ideal for sensitive skin and for those with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
They're good to the planet:
Soapnuts are completely sustainable as the seeds can be replanted. Only the shells are used and the trees are not harmed or damaged in any way during collection.
In our society where harmful chemicals are everywhere, especially cleaning supplies such as commercially-produced detergents containing compounds such as 1,2-Dioxane, which has been shown to be carcinogenic. These and other chemicals leak into our water supplies, poisoning our marine and other natural life. Many of these chemicals are also responsible for a range of potential health issues, including skin and eye irritation, etc.
Soapnut is completely natural and biodegradable, and doesn’t pollute our water supplies. Once used up, they can be composted or discarded.
What can we use soapnuts for?
Soapnuts aren’t just perfect for use as laundry detergent! There are so many other great uses for these little berries/ nuts: dishwashing detergent, multipurpose cleaner, foaming wash, shampoo, organic pesticide, gentle body wash, pet wash and mosquito repellent.
So how do we use soapnuts?
There are two main ways to use soapnuts:
Add soapnuts directly in your wash:
Add 3-4 of these shells in a little muslin bag, pull the drawstring tight and throw it in your wash. Each batch of shells lasts a few loads (usually up to 5 times), so they’re very economical.
Tip: Hot water activates the soapnuts better than cold water. For fabrics that require a cold wash, I like to make my own soapnut liquid laundry detergent (see how to make your own soapnut base) to make sure I get the best clean!
Make your own soapnut liquid base
This can be used as a liquid laundry detergent, or turned into a multipurpose cleaner, pesticide, pet wash, dishwashing liquid, a handwash or body wash (especially for those with sensitive skin). Here's a recipe to make liquid concentrate from your soapnuts that I have been using:
Recipe for soapnut liquid concentrate
- 15-20 soapnuts
- 500ml water
- Optional: 120ml vinegar and/ or 10 drops of essential oil
Once you've made your soapnut liquid concentrate, you can pour them into a spray bottle for so many uses later!
Liquid laundry detergent
- Add 1/2 cup (125ml) of soapnut liquid base to your washing machine drawer and wash clothes as normal. Use 1 cup (250ml) if you need a stronger wash on dirtier clothing.
- Add 1 cup of bicarbonate of soda to brighten whites.
Soapnut Multipurpose Cleaner:
Add your soapnut base to a spray bottle and spray away! You can use this on any surfaces in your home such as countertops, stovetop, sinks, baths, toilet, glass and even your fruits and vegetables!
- Spray and leave on the surface for a few seconds before wiping.
Tip: Do not add vinegar to your soapnut cleaner solution if you’re planning to use this to clean your stone/quartz worktop or your hardwood floor. Vinegar is a weak acid and can slowly erode the sealer on the beautiful surface that you want to keep shiny!
Foaming wash for cleaning dishes, pet shampoo, hand or body wash
Once you have exhausted your soapnut shells from your laundry you can make a foaming wash for cleaning dishes, pet shampoo, hand wash, body wash and even to clean surfaces with.
Put the used (or new) soapnut shells into a blender with 500ml of water.
Blend well, then pour the mixture into a jar or soap dispenser.
- Add essential oils. If you’re using it as a pet wash, we recommend adding essential oils such as neem, peppermint, lemongrass, rosemary or eucalyptus to help repel mosquitoes, fleas, lice and ticks. Soapnuts are naturally antifungal and naturally repel pests such as fleas and lice which is why they are so great for cleaning your pets with!
Fill a spray bottle with 500ml of your pre-made soapnut liquid.
Add 10 drops of essentials oils that have repellent properties such as neem oil, lemongrass, citronella, eucalyptus, rosemary and peppermint.
Shake well before each use and spray directly onto your plants.
Washing your fruits and vegetables
- Soak your fruits and vegetables in your soapnut liquid for 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing. This helps to remove harmful chemicals and residue.
What do I do with the used up soapnuts?
Once the soapnuts are exhausted (you can tell when they go mushy and start to break apart), you can discard them or compost them, or even scatter them in your garden as they can help to fend off snails and slugs. They are also great for the soil and works as a natural, organic fertiliser!
Like any plant and water-based liquid, your soapnut liquid cleaner will have a shelf life! If kept at room temperature, store it in a bottle that you can use up within a week or so. If refrigerated, the liquid can be kept for a few months. Made too much? Simply freeze it!
So have you used soapnuts?
How did you find it? Tell us all about it!
For those who are curious and want to try soapnuts, you can find our Soapnut Trial Pack here. Your trial pack contains enough soapnut shells to do 10 loads of laundry (approximately 12 nut shells) and a small cotton muslin bag to use in your washing machine.