Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Almost a month ago I finally decided to try soapnuts. I had seen them advertised on certain blogs but had never really focused in on them to find out what they were all about. I have been having a great time experimenting with them and love them so much that I have been giving samples to all of my friends. Before I talk about my experiences with soap nuts here is a description of soap nuts from the Mountain Rose Herb website.

Soap Nuts Profile
Also known as
Sapindus mukorossi, Sapindus trifoliatus, Sapindus saponaria, soapberry, and soap pods.

Soap nuts are found in both the eastern and western hemispheres, but are native to India and Nepal. They have recently become a popular environmentally friendly alternative to chemical detergent, and are a gentle option for those with allergies to chemicals in regular detergents. They have traditionally been used as an expectorant, and in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for eczema and psoriasis. Soap nuts contain saponin, a natural detergent. The soap nut shell absorbs water and releases the saponins which circulate as a natural surfactant in the wash water, freeing dirt, grime, and oils from clothing.

Parts Used
The whole nut or husk.

Typical Preparations
Just a few nuts (4-6) in a cotton muslin bag should work for an entire load. There will be little or no bubbles during the wash cycle, and it will smell lightly similar to apple cider. They can be used several times and then composted afterwards. They will look mushy and grey when they need to be changed. They can also be used in a powder form as a cleansing cream by adding a small amount of water.

Soap nuts can be used for anything that you would normally use detergent for-washing the car, windows, etc. Some people have used them as a base for shampoos and hand lotions, and as an all purpose cleaner for around the home. They can be used as an anti-microbial for septic systems. Jewelers in India and Indonesia have used them to remove tarnish from jewelry and other precious metals for many centuries.

Soap nuts are hypoallergenic, and can be used safely by people with nut allergies as they are a fruit closely related to the Lycii/Goji berry. There seems to be little information about the internal uses of soap nuts, although they certainly have been used as a solution to clean fruits and vegetables, so the evidence does suggest that they are of a benign nature if ingested.

The first thing I used the soapnuts for was my laundry. I took 6 large pieces and placed them in a muslin bag that ties at the top and then put them in my washer ...at the bottom so they have more time to be wet and release the saponin. If you use cold water to wash your clothes , they say it is best to put the filled soapnut bag into a hot mug of water and let it sit for a couple minutes before pouring the soaking water and the bag of nuts into the washing machine. If you use warm or hot water to wash your clothes you can skip this step. When the laundry is done you simply remove the bag of soapnuts and let the bag dry until the next use. I reuse the nuts about 4 times. I was very happy with the feel of my clothes and with their cleanliness. Soapnut users say there is no smell to the clothes...which is excellent for those who have chemical sensitivities. Before I started using soapnuts, my washer, which is down cellar would often have a musty or moldy smell coming from the washing mashine. It seemed that this smell transferred somewhat to the clothing. I didn't know what to do about it since i figured that my washing machine was getting washed everytime I washed a load of clothes.So......after my first washing with the soap nuts, I was thrilled to discover that there was NO smell to my laundry or to my washer and that the NO smell was actually a good smell to me.....if that makes any sense. Each washing seems to clean the washer a bit more. I have since discovered that others have found the same results....that soapnuts actually dissolve the slimy film that commercial detergents can leave in your washer....and maybe on your clothes?

Soapnuts are not a tough stain remover, per say.....so it is recommended that if you have some tough stains to use a stain remover before adding the garment to the wash. I don't ever use a fabric softener so I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the clothes came out very soft and supple.

The next thing I tried was using soapnuts in the sink to wash my dishes. All I did was drop 4 nuts into the sink, filled it with hot water and swished the water and nuts a bit as the sink was filling up. I left the nuts in the water the whole time until I finished the dishes. Even though the little bit of visible soapsuds vanished fairly quickly, the grease cutting action lasted till I was done. The only thing I was disappointed with at first was that after the glasses drip dried, they had water spots on them. The next time, I dried the glasses with a towel and they came out beautifully. I don't use a dishwasher anymore but other people have used the nuts in this way. This is what my used soapnuts look like, after I've washed dishes with them a few times and they still have a couple uses left in them. You can see that there is still a shine to them. When they lose this shine, then its time to throw them into your compost. No plastic jugs to recycle......it is just so amazing!

I also wanted to grind some of the soapnuts into a powdered cleanser like I had heard others had done. This was kind of a messy deal but now that I know the tricks...next time should be a bit neater. First I tried grinding the soapnuts in my food processor but for some reason it didn't grind them very well. Next I tried my blender, which did work. Covering the blender with a dishtowel when grinding should prevent most of the nut dust from going into the air. I also ended up wearing a mask. After blending I took the covered glass container outside , took the top off and let the soapnut dust rise into the air....away from me. Then I would come back in and use a metal strainer to separate the fine nut powder from the chunkier particles. You can then pour the chunkier pieces back into the blender and grind a bit more. Here is a picture of two bowls.....the blue bowl with the chunkier particles and the yellow bowl contains what you want the final product to look like.

I have used this cleanser to clean my stove, counter, kitchen sink and bathroom sink and it does a great job.Some soapnuts are sold whole with the pit in them and other companies take the pits out. If you buy the whole soapnuts....and you do want to make a powdered cleanser, be sure to take out the pits before grinding. I also like the way soapnuts make my hands feel. I didn't realize that most dish detergents are made with petroleum.....so knowing that soapnuts are totally natural and even good for your skin and hair, is quite exciting. How can something be so simple yet so safe and effective? Soapnuts are antifungal and antibacterial. My next adventure may be soaking my feet in a tub of soapnut solution or better yet a whole body bath would be fun to try.

Mountain Rose Herbs has a good price on whole soap nuts http://coldfusion.affiliateshop.com/AIDLink.cfm?AID=111632&Redirect=/bulkherb/s.html

They also have spice jars with a shaker top like the one I used for the ground up soap nut cleanser. http://coldfusion.affiliateshop.com/AIDLink.cfm?AID=111632&Redirect=/supply/glass_jars.html

AND....if you are interested in using soapnuts for the bath or for laundry, you'll need the natural bags to put them in http://coldfusion.affiliateshop.com/AIDLink.cfm?AID=111632&Redirect=/tools/bags.html

Mountain Rose herbs sells the whole soapnuts at the link above and Naturoli sells them halved and pitted here at AMAZON

Mountain Rose herbs has a good price for whole nuts (cheaper due to the weight of the pits) and Naturoli has a good price for pitted soapnut pieces.I was very happy with the pitted soapnuts from Naturoli but I buy alot of my herbs and my coconut oil from Mountain Rose Herbs so I am ordering their whole soapnuts next. I still have plenty from my first order but I really am so excited about them that I want to stock up a bit. I am also ordering extra bags so I can give samples away as Christmas gifts.

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