Natural, Chemical-free and Eco-friendly Laundry Detergent Alternative
What are Soap Nuts?
Soap nuts have been used for centuries both in Asia and America. Soap nut is also known as soapberry which is the fruit of the Sapindus tree. The tree bears fruits only after nine years and it will continue to produce fruits (soapberries) for about 90 years. Soap nuts are harvested after they had fallen from the tree. It is a natural process that involves removing the seeds from the shells and drying the shells in the sun.
These dried shells contain saponin, a soap-like substance which can be used as a natural alternative to laundry detergent. Due to their natural form and no manufacturing processes, soap nuts are safe to use and do not harm the environment.
Soapberries can be a great alternative to chemical laundry detergent as they are gentle on clothes and do not cause skin irritation. Soap nuts are also compostable, as well as natural and organic with no harmful chemicals or added ingredients.
How to use Soap Nuts
Place four to five berries in a small bag (the bag usually comes with the soap nuts) and secure it. I like to make a double knot so the nuts don’t fall out during the wash cycle as it can be difficult to collect the small pieces if they do.
Load your laundry as normal, place the small laundry bag with the soap nuts on the top of your clothes, and start the wash cycle. Saponin (soap-like foam) naturally releases from the shells of the soapberries when they are shaken in water.
Soap nuts can be reused a couple of times — I usually reuse them three times. At the end of the wash, remove the soap nuts from the small bag and let them dry.
I have been using soap nuts for years and I have learnt different ways to use them more effectively. In the beginning, I used soap nuts only, and even though it did an OK job, I still felt that something was missing. I now also like to add natural softeners to my wash cycle for extra freshness, like bicarbonate of soda (which also takes away unwanted odours), vinegar, or Epsom salt with essential oils. I am very pleased with the result. It’s a great solution to natural laundry detergent and it’s also an eco-friendly option.
Benefits of Soap Nuts
If you are still not 100% sold on the idea, here are the benefits of soap nuts:
- Natural (no harmful ingredients)
- Non-toxic (no added chemicals)
- Eco-friendly (good for the environment, non-polluting, sustainable, biodegradable, compostable)
- Hypoallergenic (do not cause allergic reactions or skin irritation)
- They are not actually nuts so they are safe even for people with nut allergies
- Gentle on the clothes and do not damage the fabric (also safe for colours)
- Vegan so it’s cruelty-free
- Extremely economical and you can save money by using them (1 kg lasts for up to 300 washes)
Natural fabric softeners:
- Baking soda or bicarbonate of soda – It acts as a natural water softener while removing bad odours from the clothes. Add 2-3 teaspoons in the wash cycle.
- White wine vinegar – Natural softener that removes soap residue from the clothes. You will also notice that your darks become darker which is a bonus. Don’t worry about the smell, your clothes won’t smell vinegary. You can also add a few drops of essential oil, like lavender, to the vinegar. Add this to the rinse cycle (directly in the fabric softener dispenser).
- Epsom salt – Find an airtight container (preferably glass) and mix 200 grams of Epsom salt and 20-30 drops of essential oil together. I don’t usually make more than 200 grams as the essential oil will gradually lose its scent every time you open the container. I like to use lavender oil but try different ones until you find what’s best for you. Add 2-3 teaspoons of this mixture to the rinse cycle (directly in the fabric softener dispenser).
I like to alternate between white wine vinegar and Epsom salt every 6 months. I noticed that my powder and liquid drawer has a mould build up when I use Epsom salt for a long time. Taking a break from salt every 6 months can also keep your washing machine in a good condition.
A simple way to increase the effectiveness of your wash cycle is to put less clothes in your washing machine. You might first think that it’s not environmentally conscious but this is not the case. Clothes need space to agitate during a wash cycle and if there is no space in the washing machine your clothes won’t get cleaned properly. Fabric rubbing against each other helps remove dirt but if there is too much laundry in the washing machine the spinner won’t work effectively. Repeating the wash cycle will cost you more at the end. Overloading your washing machine can also put pressure on the engine which leads to more energy usage and ultimately a shorter life-span of your washing machine.