We get so much from nature – our food, clothing and shelter. Why wouldn’t there be a solution for cleaning our clothes?
As it turns out, there is. Soapberries, or soap nuts, are nature’s laundry detergent.
There are a few ways you can make your own natural laundry detergent using the soap nut. The only downside to this process is that the berries are found in the Himalayan mountains and not in the USA or Canada. This means it’s time for homesteaders to start planting their own soap nut trees. (Google “soap nut seeds” if you want to plant them, or “buy soap nuts” if you want to purchase them. They grow best in warm climates.) Once the trees begin to produce the soap nuts, you’ll have the fresh berries each and every year.
Soap nuts are incredibly unique because they contain a constituent called saponins, which are capable of creating suds. And once you have suds, you can emulsify dirt out from fabrics, and you end up with clean clothes.
There’s an additional benefit from using the soap nuts – they also contain constituents that leave the clothes soft, just as fabric rinse does. Yet the soap nuts do not contain any chemicals, preservatives or hormone disruptors. It’s a win-win no matter how you look at it.
There are three ways to make your own laundry detergent using soap nuts:
1. Use the soap nuts directly.
Take a handful of soap nuts and place them in a small cotton bag with a drawstring. Tie the bag closed and toss the soap nuts into the washer. When the laundry cycle is finished, open the bag and pour out the soap nuts to dry them out. When totally dry, place them back into your dry cotton bag, ready for the next laundry cycle. Soap nuts may be used 10 times before they are thrown out.
2. Make your own laundry detergent liquid with the soap nuts.
In this method, you will need a large quart-sized Mason jar and about 10 soap nuts. Soak the nuts in a quart of water, shaking it every few hours when you think about it. The goal is to extract the saponins from the soap nuts.
Let the soap nuts soak for a few hours or even overnight. Then strain the soap nuts out of the liquid and air them out to dry, to reuse when you need more laundry detergent.
Refrigerate the liquid and label it so you remember what it is; this isn’t a beverage to drink! (It’s always good to mark it “laundry detergent.”) Your new laundry detergent is ready to use over the next two weeks.
Some people prefer to boil the soap nuts on the stove before using. This method takes more effort but you may get more suds during the laundry wash cycle. Do remember, though, that the whole idea that you must have a lot of suds while doing laundry is one created by the laundry detergent industry.
When using the boil method, add 20 soap nuts to a large soup pot along with two quarts of water. Boil on low heat for 30 minutes, and then add two additional cups of water. Boil again for another 10 minutes. While cooking, mash the soap nuts, releasing more saponins into the water. Then let the new liquid laundry detergent cool for about an hour. Strain the soap nuts out of the liquid and then pour into a large Mason jar. Place in the refrigerator until you do laundry. Another option is to freeze the liquid and use one ice cube per laundry load.
The amount of liquid detergent to use per load is very little – one tablespoon per small load and two tablespoons per regular load.
3. Make your own laundry detergent powder with the soap nuts.
If you’re used to the idea of laundry detergent powder, you can still use soap nuts. For this option, get out your grinder and grind the nuts. The soap nuts may have a hard pit inside, depending on where you bought them. The pit has no saponins in it and should not be ground.
After grinding the soap nuts, place the powder in a jar.
You may also add additional substances to the powder. For example, if you love the whitening powder of borax, add an equal amount of borax as soap nut powder and then double the amount you use with the laundry load. Instead of one tablespoon powder per load, use two.
There are natural alternatives to the toxic and harmful laundry detergents that grace our shelves at the grocery stores. The little soap nut is truly God’s gift to each and every one of us.
Have you ever used soap nuts? If so, share your tips in the section below: