Soap Nuts: What Are They & What Can You Do With Them?

Rebecca Flad    How To

What Are Soap Nuts?

Soap nuts are known throughout the world by many different names. Some include soapberries, soap nut shells, wash shells, soapberry nut husk, Chinese soapberry and much more. These nuts are the husks, or dried up shells, of soapberries. Just as other nuts do, soap nuts grow from a unique species of tree. Native to many areas in India and Nepal, soap nuts contain a chemical substance called saponin.

Saponin

Saponin is commonly found in various plant species. In soap nuts, saponin causes the nuts to produce a soaping effect, making them a natural detergent. When you combine soap nuts with water, the released saponin produces a lather gentle to the skin. The saponin in soap nuts are 100% natural and can be used to replace many chemically altered, toxic household soap products.

What Can You Use Soap Nuts For?

As common-day humans, the use of soap and sanitizers is a lifestyle occurrence. We shower with soap, wash our hands, clean our dishes, wash our clothes and more. Anything you do right now that involves the use of soap or sudsy products can be replaced with the use of soap nuts instead.

Laundry

Soap nuts are most commonly used for laundry. While you can simply throw some nuts into your laundry loads and let them work their magic, many HE and more modern washing machines won’t be very happy with you.

If you decide to just throw the nuts in, then you’ll want to use anywhere from 1 to 6 soap nuts per wash. This is dependent on your washing temperature. And better yet, these organic nuts are reusable. Simple give them a squeeze after each wash to check for a sudsy effect and toss them into your next wash.

However, if you prefer to make a simple liquid laundry detergent at home from these handy nuts of ours. We prefer to use the recipe found on The EcoFriendly Family’s website. Of course, when you want to add some fragrance to the detergent, simply wait for it to cool and add a few drops of your favorite essential oil.

Dishwashing

You can even use soap nuts in the kitchen. Since the soap produced by these nuts rinses quickly, you’ll find yourself done with the dishes in no time. If you use a dishwasher, you can simply drop a few nuts into the cutlery basket and run the cycle as normal.

There are also a number of recipes for dish detergents made with soap nuts. Most include a combination of baking soda or washing soda, borax, soap nut shavings. We have a list of awesome soap nut recipe resources at the end of this post, so if we’re boring you just scroll on down to the end.

Household Cleaner

Use soap nuts around the house to clean as you normally would. Combine the nuts with other natural ingredients, such as vinegar or essential oils, to create an all purpose cleaner. You’ll want to use the boiling instructions below to form a liquid from the nuts. Once that’s done, simply combine the solution with vinegar and a few drops of essential oil for the perfect all-purpose cleaner.  Plus, you will be able to bottle it up and use for months of cleaning to come.

Car Washing

Easily clean off your car with some soap nuts solution added into your bucket of water. Depending on how soapy you want your water to be, you’ll typically find yourself using less soap than you normally would. Of course, there’s always time for a little fun with the extra suds too!

Replacing Household Products

When you use soap nuts as an all natural cleaner, you’ll find it replaces many of your household cleaners. Don’t just use the whole nut, but extract a liquid form instead and use the released saponins as a solution.

To do so you’ll need to boil 2 soap nuts for every 1 cup of water for at least 30 minutes. This should combine the water with the saponin and create a detergent. After you are done boiling, simply take some cheesecloth and strain the contents, which will leave you with just the liquid. You can compost the soap nuts at this point.

This solution can then be used to replace household products such as:

  • Detergent – Replace both liquid and powder detergents with this natural, organic substance.
  • Dishwashing Soap – Dissolve your soap nut solution in some boiled water to decrease it’s saponin/water ratio and make it less intense for dishwashing.
  • All Purpose Cleaner – Combine your solution with essential oils, vinegar and more to create a natural, all purpose cleaner.
  • Glass Cleaner – Use soap nut detergent with white vinegar to create glass cleaner.
  • Shampoo – Pair with essential oils of your choice to add a fresh scent.
  • Face & Body Wash
  • Jewelry Cleaner

Soap Nut Resources

Here’s a few of the many resources available online that provide a huge selection of recipes for you to try out in your own home!

Using Soap Nuts in the Garden & Outdoors

For using it outdoors, soap nuts come in handy when you’re trying to repel pests. By having this solution sit idly near your outside sitting area, the pests will remain at bay. Mosquitoes and other garden bugs don’t like the scent of saponin, so having it around your garden can decrease their presence.

Then, if you want to use it in the garden, there are a number of ways. Contrary to popular belief, soap nuts will not harm your plants; it is liquid hand soap and other manmade soaps that will cause harm to your plants. Most people use it in their garden to benefit the overall health of their plants or repel pests.

Due to the many benefits of saponin, you are able to use the boiling method described earlier to create a sprayable or pourable liquid to use in your garden. Some of the benefits saponin can provide your plants include, but is definitely not limited to the following:

  • Can be used as a wetting agent
  • Helps to increase nutrient uptake
  • Aids your pesticides in sticking and coating the plant more efficiently
  • Promotes overall beneficial microbial activity in your soil
  • Works as both an anti-fungal and anti-microbe
  • Provides a cleaner way to flush your plants

While there are a number of other organic products that have saponin in them, soap nuts are known for their high amounts of saponin compared to other products. Looking to keep learning about saponins? Click here for an article on the benefits of saponins in the garden.

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