How to use soap nuts – Nature’s own laundry detergent


After many years (!) of thinking about trying soap nuts and years of postponing it, I’ve finally gotten around to giving them a go.

Well, 4 months with the soap nuts and I’m already a huge fan! They’re all natural meaning they are free of chemicals and other harmful toxins, easy on the skin as well as the environment, super easy to use and then they are cheap! Oh and they work. What’s not to like?

Soap nuts are actually not nuts at all, but berries that contain saponin, which means they should be safe for people with a nut allergy.

How to use soap nuts as a detergent

You’ll need:

  • 4-7 soap nuts (depending on both how hard the water is – the harder the water, the more the nuts)
  • a small cotton or muslin bag with drawstrings (mine came with the soap nuts, but could be made easily)

How to:

The soap nuts are very simple to use:

1. Put the soap nuts in the bag and tie it securely. You could also use one of those big clips to close the bag instead. I do this and it makes it much easier to find the bag afterwards and open it.

2. Pre-soak the bag of nuts for about 5 minutes (optional). This step could be left out, but it gives better results if you don’t skip it.  The pre-soaking will help to saturate the berries.


Pre-soaking the nuts in the muslin bag. Other than tying a loose knot, I’ve used a big clip to close the bag. It’s makes it easier to find it again amongst the laundry – and opening the bag when it’s time to change the nuts.

3. Put the bag in the washing machine and add the dirty laundry afterwards. Just to make sure the nuts actually get in contact with the water and doesn’t hide in a sock.

4. Wash on your regular program. I’ve have had success with every temperature I’ve tried so far, ranging from cold washes to 95 degrees Celsius (203 degrees Fahrenheit) washes.

5. If you’re using a tumble drier remember to remove the nuts from the laundry after washing. It’s really just a precaution. If you forget, the nuts should still be fine to use. It’s just that if you’ve used a big clip to close the muslin bag (like me) it might come loose which means you risk getting soap nuts all over your laundry. I like to try to avoid that.

6.  Either repeat with another load of laundry or let the bag of soap nuts dry until the next laundry session. If you decide to do another load of laundry straight away, you don’t have to pre-soak the nuts again.

The nuts will last about 5-10 washes depending on how hard your water is. Ours is pretty hard and the nuts usually lasts me about 6-7 washes.

  • Doing a cold wash? No problem. Just make sure to pre-soak the nuts in hot water for about 5-10 minutes and you’re good to go.
  • Want to add extra softness to the laundry, but don’t want to use fabric softner?  Use organic white distilled vinegar as you would otherwise use fabric softner. The soap in the nuts should in it self leave the laundry soft and fluffy, but if you don’t think it’s enough you should definetely give the vinegar a try.

If you need that perfumy laundry smell fear not

Just add a few drops of essential oils. We’ve used detergent without perfumes for years now, so for us the smell is pretty much the same whether we use the detergent or the nuts. Both smell clean to me. But if you like the scent of perfume you could easily add a drop or two of essential oil onto the small bag with the soap nuts. I’ve only tried it once (but with success – I just prefer the no-scent option), but know of others who do it regularly.

How do I know if the nuts are still good?

One downside to the nuts are the fact, that you have to keep track of how many times you’ve used them. Or you could just use the below ways of telling whether or not the soap nuts are still good:

  • Feel them: The nuts are slippery when wet. The soap in the nuts makes them slippery. When there’s no more soap, then they won’t be slippery.
  • Smell them: They smell vinegar-like and kind of fruity. The soap nuts have kind of a sweet fruity and vinegar-like smell, especially when wet. If you can’t smell it (assuming you can smell and do not have a cold), then they are no longer good.
  • Look at them: The nuts will change apperance as you use them. You’ll know they’re used up when they start to disintegrate and have become grayish and light in colour, thin in texture, and are falling apart.
  • Test them: When you run the bag of nuts under water and squeeze, little suds of soap come out. It looks kind of like regular soap, but just in a smaller amount.

New and unused nuts on the left – and nuts that’ve been used 7-8 times on the right.

Do they work as great as normal detergent?

Overall I think they do. Everything from shirts and pants, to socks and underwear, to towels and sheets fell fresh and look clean after having been washed with soap nuts.  Even the bibs look clean despite Eva having coloured them with berry juices. The nuts could be better at removing stains, but so could my normal detergent. I actually can’t really tell the difference to be honest.

How to store the nuts?

The nuts need to be stored in a dry environment. Moisture are their biggest enemy and an air tight container might be a good solution. Especially if you store them in the same room as you do laundry. And of course keep the nuts out of reach of children like all cleaning products.

Other uses

The soap nuts could be used for other areas of cleaning. I haven’t tried it myself, but I’ve seen other make:

  1. dishwasher detergent
  2. shampoo and body wash
  3. all-purpose housecleaner

Just keep in mind that the liqiuid you make from the nuts doesn’t keep long, so the shelf life is kind of short.

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