Soap Nuts – What Are They and How do You Use Them?

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Have you used soap nuts? if not here’s a quick review on using soap nuts in your laundry 

Darlings, I made an amazing discovery whilst browsing in my local health shop before Christmas. 

Soap nuts. 

Have any of you had any experience of using them? They were new to me, so, of course, being game to try anything I bought a bag. 

What Are Soap Nuts? 

Soap nuts are the dried fruit shells from the sapindus genus, which consists of five to twelve species of shrubs and small trees in the lychee family. These shrubs are native to warm temperate to tropical regions of the world. 

The fruit itself is a small, leathery-skinned drupe, 1-2 cm in diameter. They ripen from yellow to blackish and contain one to three seeds. 

The generic name, ‘sapindus’ derives from the Latin words ‘sapo’ meaning soap and ‘indicus’ meaning ‘of India’. 

Soap nuts contain a natural soap called saponin, which is released when they come into contact with water. This helps them free dirt and grime away from clothes, similar to how synthetic detergents work. 

But darlings, here’s the best bit, soap nuts are 100% completely natural, biodegradable, hypoallergenic, organic, vegan, anti-fungal, anti-microbial and safe, which makes them a perfect environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional laundry detergents. 

So How Do You Use Soap Nuts? 

Soap nuts really are a sustainable solution for laundry, as they can be used completely and then composted for a no-waste solution. 

And using them is a doddle: 

  • Put 4-6 shells into the muslin pouch (that is provided) 
  • Tie to close 
  • Place the pouch into your washing machine drum 
  • Select the cycle and wash as normal 

The same shells can be re-used up to three times before you need to put them in the compost. 

Always tie the bag up, otherwise you end up with washing covered in broken bits of soap nuts. Not that I’m talking from experience of course…. 

Pros and Cons of Using Soap Nuts 


  • They work in hot and cold washes, although you may want to soak them in a small glass of hot water before popping them in your washing machine 
  • They are eco-friendly and biodegradable as they produce no contaminated water waste, and you can simply throw them in the compost after
  • They are definitely a cheaper option than synthetic laundry detergent. I bought a 250g bag for about £4, which contains enough nuts for over 75 washes (depending on how often you need to change the nuts). That’s roughly five pence per wash, which is significantly cheaper than even the cheapest supermarket’s laundry detergent which comes in at roughly eight pence per wash. 
  • They are reusable. The soap nuts I used suggested you can reuse them up to three times, other brands I have seen suggest reusing up to seven times before swapping. 
  • They are hypo-allergenic and safe for all skins, including those with sensitive skin and allergies. And because of the safe, mild soap they produce, they are also perfect for your intimate apparel. 
  • No need for added softeners as soap nuts loosen fibres which keeps clothes softer. Hurray!


  • They don’t remove tough stains. Because they don’t have the cleaning and stain removal capabilities of chemically manufactured laundry detergents, tough stains are more difficult to clean. However, you can loosen the tough stains with a combination of bicarbonate of soda and vinegar prior to washing, and/or add salt or bleach-free stain remover to your wash. 
  • They don’t have the manufactured ‘smell’ of traditional chemical laundry detergents, which some people don’t like. However, for scent simply add a few drops of your favourite essential oil. 
  • You have to soak them in water before use and then dry them out afterwards. Yes, it’s less convenient than ‘podding’, but it still takes less time than boiling a kettle. 
  • All soap nuts are imported, so although they may be eco-friendly in one way, there is a debate as to whether this is neutralised by the carbon footprint of importing them. 

What Did I Think? 

To be fair, I haven’t used them yet on clothes, I have stuck to towels and bedding. 

Yes, they don’t have the scent that my normal detergent gives the bedding, however, I live in a ‘hard water’ area which means that towels get hard and end up feeling like Ryvita. After using the soap nuts for a month, I have noticed the towels are feeling softer each time they are washed. Definite plus. 

I have also discovered, that the trick is not to overload the washing machine. With chemical laundry detergents it’s easy to pack the washing machine full, especially with towels, but with the soap nuts I found it easier to split the load into two. So, I’m using more water, which is not so good. 

I haven’t as yet tried the soaking in hot water first, maybe this will help me when it comes to packing the towels into one load? Will try it out and report back.  

My initial impression is that they are a good alternative, if you’re trying to be more eco-friendly. Just don’t expect soap nuts to give you the same result, or smell, as the leading laundry detergent.  

Have you tried soap nuts? If so, what are your thought? If not, here’s a great starter pack in case they’re not sold in a shop near you!

If you haven’t tried them, do you think you might give them a go? Drop me a comment below. 

I’d love to hear from you. 


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