How to use soap nuts to clean your clothes, stay toxin-free and save your wallet.

Toxin-free soap nuts.

 If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that Soap Nuts were number 1 on my toxin-free bucket list earlier this year. Which was cheating, because at the time of writing the post, I’d already ordered them.

My soap nuts from SoapNuts Australia had their first run in my laundry last week.

It’s not the nuts, it’s the shells.

The stuff in the bag isn’t nuts, it’s shells. When I first opened my bag of soap nuts to do the washing, I was surprised and a little alarmed to find the nuts missing! Mice? (Yep, Ms Overwhelmed, that’s me.) If I’d read up on soap nuts properly, I would have known that it is the shells, not the berries, that contain the necessary saponin for your wash. So, I’ll give you this little shell of thought for free: if you order soap nuts and get mainly shells, that’s okay. Most of the good stuff is in the shell, so your supplier has done you a favour, sorting the nuts from the mix.

1 kilo of soap nuts goes a long way.

I put a small handful (5 or 6 shells) into the cotton drawstring bag to do the wash. This small handful can be re-used for the next 4 or 5 washes. Wow. We can go through a kilo of washing powder a month with our tribe. When I was told that if I’m just using the soap nuts for laundry then a kilo might last me about a year, the advice was right. My wallet feels heavier already, and I’m happy to carry it! This is an annual $ saving of over 50% on my laundry soap.

Soap nuts are better for the budget, as well as being better for earth and our health.

There’s no fragrance.

I’m usually in fits of sneezes doing the washing, so today’s experience was not only toxin-free, but sneeze-free. Even the organic, earth-friendly washing powder we’d been previously buying has fragrance. And it kills me. Okay, not kills. Irritates. 

It’s such a relief to find a washing alternative that keeps everything fresh and clean, including my nose. I’ve heard you can add essential oils to the wash if you do want fragrance.

Soap nuts are great for travellers.

After I did my washing, I called my mum straight away. Who else would forgive me for being excited over washing clothes? I thought I would enlighten her with my new information that washing soap grows on trees.

Nope. She’d already heard of soap nuts. Her grey nomad friends use them all the time. Like the New Zealand Herald reports, travellers like soap nuts because washing powder is a hazard when it spills through your luggage, which it inevitably does on trips. You don’t have to take too many with you. Like I said above, a few soap nuts go a long way. And, they cut costs. That’s great news for life on the road.

My sheets are on the clothesline, clean and soft.

There’s no difference in the freshness or cleanliness of my wash. Soap nuts work. Every bit as well as washing powder. Cool, huh?

There’s no waste.

Soap nuts grow on trees. They can be used and re-used—in a re-usable cotton or muslin bag, then composted.

I can’t pretend there aren’t carbon emissions involved in their transport. Unless you’re growing your own magic though, buying soap nuts from a supplier who has a strong ethic for earth friendly practices is the most sustainable choice for laundry soap that I know of.


I have a new bucket list.

Turns out, I might need to buy another kilo of soap nuts per year for all of the other cleaning they are good for.  They’re far more all-purpose than I knew. Which will help me save money and go toxin-free in far more areas than I thought.

You can use soap nuts to make shampoo, liquid soap for washing dishes, glass cleaner, body wash and all purpose cleaner. They’re all on my new bucket list. Yes, I’m still working on the old one, and as far as my new soap nuts ambitions go, I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, another little shell of thought to ponder: so much of what we need really does grow on trees.

“The care of the Earth is our most ancient and worthy, and after all, our most pleasing responsibility.” Wendell Berry.

Using soap nuts is another step towards caring for the earth that cares for us.

Yours in the free world.

Photographs credited to shells for free.

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