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.

12 thoughts on “I Admit I Was Skeptical

  1. I used to use soap nuts for our diapers. But they weren’t getting quite as clean as I’d like. And the nuts kept escaping their bag. Also, if I remember correctly, they work best in warm/hot water. I wash primarily with cold. :/

    Want my bag of leftover (unused) soap nuts? I bought them from http://laundrytree.com/

  2. In my effort to save money, I made my own laundry detergent using the Duggar recipe (I blogged about it). I also made my own fabric softener. My mother-in-law did the math and figured out that I am paying $.06 per load of laundry, and I have enough ingredients, with the exception of the $.97 bar of soap, to make several more batches, dropping the price even more!

    Food for thought…

  3. I felt really underwhelmed when we tried soap nuts. We have ridiculously hard water though and I wonder if that had anything to do with it (usually does). We also tried making our own laundry soap… Ha! At first it was going fine (so we thought) but after awhile things definitely got a little funky.
    Right now we use Rockin’ Green (the hard water formula) and it doesn’t knock me over with its awesomeness but it does work the best of what we’ve tried. What do you typically use?

    • I used to use Tide till we got our grey water system. Since then, I have been experimenting with “green” detergents. Have not really been super happy with anything. We don’t have hard water. Actually, our water is pretty wonderful. 🙂

  4. What’s a “grey water system”?

    I’ve wondered about soap nuts! Hmmmmmm….perhaps we’ll try them…but for the diapers I’m sticking to Rockin Green for now…although… it used to be awesome..and now I wonder if they’ve changed the formula or something…

  5. I loved using soap nuts until we moved to our new house with the super efficient washing machine. The machine sprays water over the clothes, so the nuts never really get wet enough to suds up. Disappointing that I had to trade one green thing (the nuts) for another (using less water).

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