" Blog da Horta Biológica: Soap Nuts: Natural Detergent

Soap Nuts: Natural Detergent

When it comes the time to wash clothes, guess who's in charge...?! Yep ,that's right! That's why today the one who speaks to you is Ana, and only Ana! When looking for the most eco-friendly way to wash clothes I tried a natural detergent that grows on trees, is multi uses, nonallergenic, reusable, does not pollute the environment and is still compostable!! What more can you desire? That's the way Soap Nuts are! Have you ever heard of them? These nuts are the fruit of a tree called Soap Nut Tree (sapindus mukorossi), native to Nepal and India. The nuts contain saponin, a substance that works like a detergent when comes into contact with water. Therefore, it's an excellent alternative to chemical detergents.

Update: We've launched the video: Soap Nuts - 14 Tips To Use

In addition to all these advantages, the soap nuts are also cheaper than conventional laundry products. 20g of these nuts can be used 4 times in the washing machine.

They can also be used to wash dishes (hand or machine washing), make liquid soap, all purpose washing detergent, shampoo, pets and car wash, and sprays for plants.

They are eco-friendly in everyway. They are suitable for people with sensitive skin, they are biodegradable and avoid the use of disposable packages. Most of the time, these nuts are sold in reusable bags, which makes these little wonders a zero-waste product!

On my first experience with soap nuts I used them to wash clothes and I couldn't be happier with the results! 


You just need to put 20g (about 8 nuts) in a small cotton bag or in a sock and place it inside the drum.

The number of times the nuts can be used depends on the water temperature. 30ºC = 4 times, 40ºC = 3 times, 60ºC = 2 times and 90ºC = 1 time. This is because hot water speeds up the process of activation of saponins.

I rarely use high temperatures, so I did 4 loads, 2 at 30ºC and 2 with cold water and noticed no difference in efficacy. Both foamed (although much less than chemical detergents) and washed well.

After being under water soap nuts release a very characteristic smell. I don't know what the smell seems like. It's a bit weird actually!

I used nuts to wash clothes, towels, and bed linen and this is what I noticed:

If the machine is full (but not overloaded) clothes come out with a soft pleasant smell.
If the machine is not full, clothes come out with a faint smell of nuts. This scent disappears after hanging clothes. Smells clean but without perfume.

If you want perfume, you can lay drops of your favourite essential oil in the softener compartment or even in the little bag of the nuts.

At the end of washes, I noticed that both white and coloured clothes came out clean, soft, without odors and with bright colours.

Stain Remover

Soap nuts will not work as a stain remover. Stains should be treated before just like you do when washing with any other detergent.

In this experience I didn't use stain remover.
The natural stain remover is a subject that is still to be studied here at home.


I didn't want to mix nuts with chemicals, so at the softener compartment I tried 2 things: vinegar and lemon (one at a time!).

They say that acetic acid from vinegar has the ability to remove soap residue, soften the fibers, and remove odors. So I tried it! I used cider vinegar, but as I've seen in my research, any type of vinegar can be used, except for delicate fabric (silk and lace).

I don't like vinegar so I might have used a maximum of 20ml.

Lemon can be a substitute of vinegar with the advantage of being more natural.

Neither vinegar nor lemon left any smell on the clothes and both did a good job. I didn't notice rough clothes.

They say that at the end of the uses, when nuts become dry and dark, it is a sign that the saponin has already been removed. I didn't notice a big difference in the colour of the nuts before and after the washes.

At the end of their "lifespan" the nuts can be placed in the compost pile or in a plant foot as a fertilizer.
I put them in the compost pile.
What a wonderful product!

If you have a compost pile or want to give your nuts to someone who has it, make sure you don't use chemical softener and stain remover along with nuts! Other wise you'll be importing chemicals into the garden!

For you to have an idea of the results, here's the Before/After of Luis's work trousers. Luis works in the maintenance of a hypermarket and his clothes come home a thousand times more filthy than when he worked in construction!! Read carefully what I just wrote and read twice if necessary!! Still want to supply your pantry in a hypermarket?

Observe how the soap nuts left the trousers well washed. Only the ink stains were left. The ink dried on the trousers and I was never able to remove it with any detergent.

OK! We're so enthusiastic about this natural product that we're already researching how to plant this tree. It seems like it also grows under the climate of Portugal.

Unfortunately, soap nuts are not easy to find in regular stores. You have to order online. Wherever you are in the world you can find them here.

Try it out! It's really worth it :)

VIDEO - Soap Nuts - 14 Tips To Use

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