Everything you need to know about soap nuts and how to use them

Nov 25th 2022

If you thought that keeping your home clean and fresh was a more modern pursuit, you’d be wrong.

Of course, traditional soap and detergents aren’t the only way to keep your home and laundry clean and hygienic.

There are also plant-based, sustainable options like saponins. These produce a foamy lather just like soap and are just as suitable for cleaning, albeit gentler and kinder to the environment. There are many plants that contain saponins, including ginseng, soapwort, and even horse chestnut.

However, one of the most well-known sources of saponins resides in the drupes of the Sapindus tree, more commonly known as soap nuts.

If you’ve never heard of soap nuts before, the way you clean your home, do your laundry, and wash just about everything else—including yourself and your pets—is about change.

Here’s everything you need to know about soap nuts; the incredible green-cleaning alternative to chemical-laden detergents and cleaning products.

What are soap nuts?

Soap nuts are produced by trees in the Sapindus genus, which includes many different species of shrubs and trees in the lychee family that are native to China, India, and the Americas.

Trees like the Indian Soapberry, or Sapindus mukorossi, produce small, hardened stone fruits that are rich in saponins, allowing them to create a soap-like substance when used in a specific way.

Our soap nuts products

Soap nuts versus laundry detergents

One of the most common uses for soap nuts is as an environmentally friendly, clean laundry detergent alternative. Soap nuts are also have natural anti-bacteria and anti-fungal properties too.

They can be used for laundry in two ways: either whole or processed to create a concentrated liquid.

Most soap nuts sold come with a reusable bag in which you place around six nuts. You then add the bag directly to your washing machine with your laundry. The agitation of the water by the machine allows the nuts’ saponins to be released and perform their cleaning magic.

Unlike traditional commercial detergents, which contain a range of synthetic chemicals, optical brighteners, and fragrances, saponins leave no residues on your laundry.

This makes soap nuts a good choice for people with allergies or are particularly sensitive to off-the-shelf laundry detergents.

This also means that they can be left in the washing machine for the rinse cycle and then simply removed and dried out after use.

How do soap nuts work?

When you add soap nuts to warm or hot water, they release saponins, which act as natural surfactants – the same group of chemicals found in mainstream detergents that get your clothes and surfaces clean.

These surfactants reduce the surface tension of the water, allowing dirt, grime, and oils to release themselves from the fibers of your clothing and be washed away by water.

Although cold water will stimulate the release of saponins from the nuts to an extent, it may not be sufficient to get your laundry as clean as you would like it.

This means that if you plan on using soap nuts with cold water for cleaning or washing, you will need to expose the nuts to warm or hot water first to release enough saponins for cleaning purposes.

How reusable are soap nuts?

Every bag of soap nuts you buy can be reused around ten times, or until the nuts become mushy and no longer produce any suds when held underwater and agitated.

If you do laundry using hot water, you may need to replace your soap nuts even sooner.

Using warm water with your soap nuts will allow them to last longer while still providing enough saponins to keep your home clean and fresh.

Are there any other uses for soap nuts?

There are many different uses for soap nuts, as they create a gentle yet effective ‘soap’ that’s suitable for use on skin, hair, and more.

Here are our favourite uses for soap nuts to inspire you.

You can use soap nuts as a natural shampoo

Your soap nuts can be turned into a natural cleaning liquid that makes a fantastic natural, biodegradable shampoo. You can create a liquid soap with 15 soap nuts, six cups of water, and a large glass jar.

Alternatively, we make and sell our own soap nut shampoo that’s non-toxic and features added moringa to promote a healthy scalp and encourage hair growth

Our soap nuts shampoo & conditioner

To make your own soap nut shampoo, pour the water into a pot, bring it to the boil, and sterilize your jar with boiling water while you wait.

Add the soap nuts to the boiling water, boil them for around half an hour, topping up the water level if it decreases, and mash the nuts as they become soft to release the saponins inside them.

After 30 minutes, remove your pot from the heat, strain out the nuts, and allow the liquid to cool before adding it to your sterilized jar.

Add the lid of the jar and store this liquid shampoo in the refrigerator when not in use. This liquid cleaner should last around 2 weeks, but you can also freeze it to elongate its lifespan if needed.

Soap nuts make a great natural face and body wash

Soap nut liquid can be used as a skin-friendly body wash that is suitable for people of all ages including newborns.

Add a dash of your liquid soap nut solution to a loofah or washcloth to cleanse your skin during a shower or bath.

If you’d like a fragranced body wash, try adding a few drops of your favorite skin-safe essential oils to the liquid as well, and store it in the refrigerator when not in use.

Food-safe dish soap

Dish soap can contain a variety of harsh surfactants, synthetic fragrances, and other chemicals that you may want to avoid ingesting for a range of reasons.

If you’re looking for a safe and gentle alternative, the soap nut liquid cleaner described above can also be used as an effective dish detergent!

Add a few drops of essential oils like lemon or peppermint for a pleasant smell and added grease-removing power.

Soap nuts can be used to make a great all-purpose cleaner.

Soap nuts’ saponins can be used to clean a wide range of surfaces without damaging them. Soap nut liquid makes a fantastic all-purpose cleaner for kitchens, bathrooms, windows, and mirrors.

If you use soap nut liquid to clean glass surfaces, follow up by wiping the area with a mixture of white vinegar and water for a spotless, streak-free shine.

Powdered soap nuts can be used as a great all-round cleaner

Soap nuts can easily be made into a detergent powder. The key to making soap nut powder is to use a powerful grinder or blender to grind them up into a fine, consistent powder with a flour-like texture.

Soap nut powder can be mixed with water when needed providing a longer shelf-life. Additionally, mixing it with water can make for a great abrasive cleaner - for example as a carpet cleaner to remove stains.

Soap nuts can be used to make a natural pet shampoo

The gentle cleaning action of soap nuts makes this option ideal for use on pets. Soap nut liquid can be used as a nourishing pet shampoo and to launder pet bedding and clean pet toys.

Frequently asked questions about soap nuts

We’ve put together a list of key FAQs when it comes to sop nuts and using them to get the most cleaning action out of them whether you’re using them for laundry or as an all-natural cleaner

What’s the best number of soap nuts per laundry load?

Ideally, you should use about five or six soap nuts per load of laundry.

Do soap nuts work in cold water?

Soap nuts will release some saponins in cold water, but they work best in warm or hot water. If you’re running a cold wash cycle, soak your soap nuts in hot water for a few minutes first to release the saponins and ensure that your laundry is cleaned effectively.

How many times can you re-use soap nuts?

You can reuse soap nuts for about 10 laundry cycles before you need to replace them, although they may need to be replaced sooner if you do hot washes.

If you use soap nuts to make a liquid cleaner, they can’t be reused, as all their saponins will already have been extracted during the boiling process.

Do soap nuts kill bacteria?

Soap nuts are naturally anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and antimicrobial, and can be used to help keep your home and your laundry hygienically clean.

Can soap nuts remove stains?

While soap nuts are great at cleaning, they aren’t very effective for removing stains. If your laundry is stained, it’s important to pre-treat the stains before you launder your clothes using soap nuts to ensure that they come out clean.

Ready to change the way you keep your home, clothes, yourself, and your pets clean? Soap nuts are a wonderful all-natural option that everyone can use.

Are soap nuts safe to use on your face and skin?

Soap nut liquid is a great natural cleanser that’s skin safe. It’s even great for use on newborn skin should you wish to avoid using potentially harmful cleaners from name brands.