I Admit I Was Skeptical

I tried something new last week. Soap nuts in the laundry. This is a journal of my very unscientific experiment.

Soap nuts are actually not nuts, but rather the husk of the fruit of the soapberry tree. Wikipedia link.

Do they work? I bought the sample pack, which contained five. The instructions were to use 3 or 4, but what am I going to do with the last one? So, I threw them all in the bag, tossed the bag into my first load of laundry and started the washer on a warm/cool cycle.

Now, I didn’t select any certain laundry, but just threw in a load of “darks”. There were a few of The Man’s work shirts, some socks, some dish towels, a few pairs of The Boy’s jean shorts, etc… A fairly mixed bunch of dirty articles.

This first load of laundry came out surprisingly clean! I gave everything the sniff test and everything, from socks to armpits to dishrags, passed. That is not to say that they smelled good – there is no fragrance involoved here – they just smelled, well, not-stinky.

As far as dirt removal went, that was good, too. The dish rags looked nice and The Boy’s clothes were dirt free. So far, so good.

The instructions say that the same nuts can be used for three to five loads, so I had another go. And the second load, this time pinks (so, mostly the girls’ clothes), was pretty much the same as the first.

The third load of laundry ¬†was where I started to notice a falling off. Everything still passed the smell test, but I wasn’t seeing the cleanliness that the first two loads had produced. But, it was passable, especially for play clothes and a few towels.

At this point, the nuts were getting softer and looked like this:

Looking for a graying to tell me that they were used up and not finding it, I went for a fourth load. This time, I figured I could get away with sheets.

The sheets came out clean, and the soap nuts still frothed upon being squeezed:

…so I thought I’d go for broke and do a fifth load.

The fifth load was, once again, darks. And this time it wasn’t a great result. The Man’s socks and the armpits of my tops retained faint unpleasant odors and the kids clothes looked like they had merely been rinsed out and dried.

So, what’s this gonna cost me? To answer this question, this experiment will have to extend a bit. Right now, I have to buy eco-friendly detergent because our washer is on a grey water system. I spend about $20 a month on laundry detergent right now. So, my next step is to buy a bag of soap nuts and use them to see how long they last and what a month costs.

What else? Environmentally, I am sold. The chance to use a natural product that can be tossed into the compost when it is used up is really cool to me. The fact that I don’t have to worry about the water being toxic to plant or animal once it comes out of the washer is also a huge plus.


1. Soap nuts actually work. And they work just as the literature says that they do.

2. Using soap nuts requires a strategy. The first two loads should be the dirtiest, followed by a load of mildly soiled laundry and possibly finished with a final load of sheets and/or towels.

3. Next time, I will get the essential oils to add to the laundry. I like my clothes to smell good, not just void of stink.

4. Soap nuts are safe for our grey water system and are all natural.

5. Having a bottle of regular detergent for really soiled stuff would probably be necessary.

So, there you have it. My very unscientific experiment. I don’t know about you, but I am going to order some more and try again, this time with some essential oils. To me, the pros outweigh the cons. I will keep you posted.

My sample of soap nuts came from Cheekymaidensoap.com. For more information, visit her website.