Week 28: I’m nuts about Soap Nuts!

We’re right in the middle of moving, and I’m just squeezing in this little post about another new acquisition of ours. After contemplating whether or not to make my own laundry liquid, I stumbled across something that made the decision a lot easier: soap nuts!

You might wonder what these are (so did I), and it is exactly what it says on the tin. “Nuts” (alright, dried berries if you want to be exact) that naturally – without us humans doing anything – contain soap. Agitated in warm or hot water, they release this soap, which makes them a perfect laundry detergent.

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Looks pretty nuts.

Is this effective? Isn’t it very expensive? All these questions! I am right now in the process of conducting my own medium-to-long-term study about how well they actually work (i.e. I use them and see what happens). One factor which was highly irritating to begin with was the fact that they don’t leave any smell whatsoever. There is no way to smell-check whether your clothes are actually cleaned. But then we remember that it’s not really the smell that determines cleanness – that’s just a great lie we’ve ingested from chemical-detergent-manufacturers. It was irritating nonetheless, which is why we decided to add a few drops of lemon essential oil to the little bag of nuts, and our laundry came out clean and beautifully scented. I will probably shop around at some point to see what other scents I could infuse my washing with. Having the choice over how your clothes smell opens up whole new possibilities which I find very refreshing!

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The bag comes with the nuts, which I can add straight to the laundry.

As I mentioned, we’ve only been able to use the soap nuts for a few loads of washing so far, and I’m curious to investigate how well they will deal with more heavily stained clothes. It’s very hard to predict the cleanliness, as mentioned, especially if the clothes didn’t have visible stains on them. I will surely keep you updated about this issue.

I’m very happy to say, though, that if the soap nuts continue to work well in our laundry, I will have not only solved my dilemma about making my own laundry detergent, but also invested in a highly sustainable and green product. Soap nuts are 100% natural, and the remaining soapy water from washing can even be used to water your plants, which in my opinion says a lot about their chemical safety.

In order to mention this, there is one downside still, as the nuts are shipped all the way from India to the UK, which means a fairly large carbon footprint in this regard. But, as we are all aware, it is next to impossible to make 100% environmental and ethical decisions, and these soap nuts make the race in every category so far.

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250g cost £7. Seems a lot, but turns out to be a real bargain!

You can check out the website of the company I bought them from here. If they do keep their promises, the nuts will be even cheaper than shop-bought detergent! The tub cost £7 and is supposed to last for up to 108 washes. My non-bio powder which cost £5 apparently lasts 25 washes (even though I use a lot less). And a bigger 1kg soap nuts bag is even cheaper: £12 for 480 washes.

Have you tried soap nuts? How did it go for you? Are there any differences between hard and soft water trials? How did you tackle the no-smell problem?

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10 thoughts on “Week 28: I’m nuts about Soap Nuts!

  1. Nuria says:

    Very interesting to read your blog. I live in Edinburgh and I am very interested on following a zero waste lifestyle. In terms of detergent, I make my own. I use a very simple recipe which so far, has worked great.

    2 cups of hot water
    1 cup baking soda
    1/3 cup salt
    1 cup of Castile soap
    10 drops of lavender essential oil plus any other

    The smell does not last as long as regular chemical detergent but it cleans my clothes well and I only need to use 1/3 or 1/2 cup per load.

    I hope it helps, in the mean time, I’ll keep reading. It is very interesting to find like minded people in Scotland.

    Like

    • Annika says:

      Hi Nuria! Good to hear you’re around. Where do you get your castile soap from? I only ever get unpackaged soap from our Health Food Store, but I’d be interested to try out castile soap.

      Like

      • Nuria says:

        I order big bottles from Amazon, but just recently I started refilling my bottle with Ecoleaf laundry liquid from a bulk shop here in Edinburgh, called New Leaf Co-op. I guess this way is more zero waste! 🙂

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  2. madgoesgreen says:

    I am so happy to read about all of your experiences. I just bought half a kilo of a friend from a healthy living group in Bangkok with the highest hopes that I would have found my washing liquid and detergent solution. So far, the experience has been disappointing. Nothing has really happened either in the washing machine nor as a liquid detergent. I will not give up and continue to try different ways to make them work.

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  3. lethally says:

    I never tried them, but I remember them being around when I was living in Melbourne, which is a decade ago now.

    I didn’t buy them because at the time the cost was prohibitive – about $50 for a bag of them, and we just didn’t have the money.

    I remember some of my green friends buying them, and the results were kind of okay-ish, from memory. I don’t know why any of my friends stopped using them, but they all seem to use powder again now. At home here in NZ, I just use environmentally-safe powder, and am careful about what I buy. Sometimes I make my own, but usually I just buy it, as it’s cheaper to buy than make it (go figure!).

    I’ll be interested to see what your experience with them is, over the long term. Good luck!

    Like

  4. Keen says:

    I like them – was never fond of smelly detergents – but stopped using them because I do all of my washing in cold water. Moreover, I think an important question is to ask what clean even is? I think “clean” as we know it is another great lie. If it’s not visibly soiled, doesn’t feel grimy to the touch, and doesn’t smell, then I’d that not clean?

    Like

    • Annika says:

      Hm, interesting idea. I usually wash my clothes only if they smell (of sweat, usually), have stains or (in case of my jeans/hoodies) when I’ve worn them for more than a week (sometimes two) and it really feels like they might have accumulated enough germs for now. Which means I still use a new top etc. every day. I guess you’re right unless we’re talking about surfaces, where I feel the need to make sure they’re clean regardless of visible dirt. Anyway, I’ve heard soap nuts do work in cold water, too. Maybe just not as good? And what do you use instead now?

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      • Keen says:

        Of course hygenic and clean are different realms – you should wash your hands after using the restroom even if they don’t look dirty. 😉

        The soap nuts I had don’t activate in cold water, unfortunately. We just use Nellie’s these days. If I do laundry by hand, which I still do sometimes, then I’ll just use vinegar and a few drops of Dr. Bronner’s.

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