What on Earth are Soap Nuts?

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, soap nuts pop out of the woodwork (literally) to solve another eco living necessity. But don’t go thinking that because they’re new on our green cleaning scene that they’re a recent discovery. These natural cleaning gems have been around for centuries, native to the Himalayas, parts of China and India, as well as South America and often, and, have been cited historically in folk remedies. We, of course, love them for their eco sudsy superpowers. Here’s how they clean and why you should give them a crack.

How do soap nuts clean?

Soap nuts, also called soap berries are not really nuts but rather the shell of a fruit from trees Sapindaceae family.

These trees need about nine years to mature and then drop their berries naturally for 90 years. The fruit is wild-harvested, the inner seed is then removed and the shell is dried in the sun without using any chemicals. The remaining dried shell is what we know and love as the soap nut.

The shell contains a substance called saponin which works just like a surfactant, basically breaking through the surface tension and able to penetrate the fibres in your clothing and linen fabrics. The dirt remains lifted and suspended in the water and is, of course, rinsed away into your greywater system or the sewage system without any traces of chemical toxins in them. Nifty, no?


The more we can do in our day to day living without creating unnecessary muck the better we’re integrating with our environment. Here are some of our favourite reasons for enjoying laundry days with soap nuts:

  • Leave no trace:
    These nut shells don’t produce any foam or residual compounds that remain in the water. And once you’ve used your nuts they’re good to toss in the compost, providing further nutrition for your soil. And, did you know, on the growing front, these trees are great for the environment because the fruits are quite unappealing to insects and so require no pesticides.
  • Doubles as a fabric softener:
    There’s also no need to remove them in the rinse cycle as the little bit of saponin left over also acts as a natural fabric softener.
  • Hypoallergenic:
    An incredibly gentle cleaning agent, these are a great laundry alternative for anyone suffering from sensitive skin or eczema and psoriasis. They’re even mild enough for your baby clothes and cloth diapers.


It might seem so strange at first to chuck a couple of fruit husks into your laundry so we’ve rounded up some tips on using them to make it, well, seem less weird.

  • Soap nuts work in hot and cold water cycles
  • The saponin in soap nuts releases quicker in hot water than it does in cold water


  • You only need the equivalent of three whole soap nuts per load
  • They’ll release all of their saponin in one wash


  • Use about 5 nuts per load
  • You can reuse them up to 6 times
  • Alternatively, pre-soak your cotton sack containing soap nuts in a little hot water to release the saponin
  • After a few minutes of soaking, add the mixture to the cold-water wash

Soap nuts will last months longer than your normal laundry detergent and just need to be stored in a dry area (so no humid and dank outside rooms) and also out of direct sunlight. Enjoy using these little gems from nature. We’re sure like the many who have already tried to use them, that you’ll find they’re really quite effective and remarkable.

And while money might not grow on trees, it’s pretty amazing how almost everything else we need for a natural health and wealth filled life, does.

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