What is a Soap Nut?

I discovered soap nuts several years ago and I decided to give them a try. I remember my first question was “What on earth is a soap nut?” I had never heard of such a thing, and my curiosity got the best of me.

Soap Nuts (Sapindus) are a genus of 5 to 12 species of small trees and shrubs in the Lychee family. They are native to warm, temperate climates and tropical regions. Members of the genus are known as soap berries or soap nuts because the fruit is used to make soap. The soap nuts contain a saponin which is a natural surfactant and have been used by native people for thousands of years.

So now that you know what they are, what do you do with them? Well there are hundreds of uses, but in my house I mainly use them for laundry. The process couldn’t be easier. You take 4-5 soap nuts and place them in a small, cloth bag and tie it closed. You throw this bag in the washing machine with your laundry. This replaces your normal detergent, and it is also a natural fabric softener. Wash the laundry in warm or hot water. You will really be surprised by the results. The laundry comes out perfectly clean and soft. You can reuse the same bag of soap nuts for 5 loads of laundry! I figured it out once and each load of laundry costs me .11 cents. My previous detergent was costing me .67 cents per load.

I have purchased soap nuts from 5 companies. The only company that I can recommend is Naturoli. They presort the nuts, and only send you the highest quality pieces. They also select nuts from regions that are sustainably farmed. I have called their customer service twice and they are very helpful and friendly. (i don’t make a penny if you buy from them, just a simple recommendation)

The other uses for soap nuts are vast. They can be used in the dishwasher, boiled to make a liquid soap, ground into a powdered detergent, as shampoo and much more. I like to make the liquid soap because it works great in a cold water wash. Isn’t it amazing that soap grows on trees?

This post is part of Fight Back Fridays sponsored by Food Renegade


  1. seakat said,

    February 24, 2012 at 8:40 PM

    I’ve used soap nuts for a few years now, and have never used them in warm water. Cold water works just fine too!

    • February 25, 2012 at 9:11 AM

      Thats great to know! I prefer a cold water wash for a lot of reasons, the less my hot water heater has to run the better. Thank you for the comment.

  2. March 9, 2012 at 6:02 PM

    […] What is a Soap Nut? (arealfoodlover.wordpress.com) Think someone else would like this? Pass it on!TwitterPinterestPrintFacebookMoreStumbleUponEmailDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  3. Sarah Bosse said,

    March 14, 2012 at 10:25 PM

    Hmm…I love the idea and would do it in a heartbeat if I wasn’t concerned about my tree nut allergies. Do you know if these nuts classify as typical “tree nuts” because I’m allergic to most tree nuts. ?? Curious question, eh? If I can figure this out and they aren’t likely to cause a reaction, I’ll probably take the plunge. Otherwise, I guess I’ll stick with my detergent. I just adore your ideas!!

    Gutsy Girl

    • March 15, 2012 at 9:03 AM

      Sarah, Great question! According to http://www.soapnuts.pro/soap-nuts-nut-allergies/

      “Have nut allergies? No worries.

      A soap nut is not a nut. It is a fruit – a berry to be precise. Many, particularly those in Eastern countries, more appropriately call it a soap berry. While on the tree the soap nut is similar in physical characteristics and appearance to a cherry. So, if you have nut allergies, do not be concerned.”

      I would go to Naturoli and order a sample size if I were you. It only has I think 4-8 soap nuts in it. Then test it out. Let me know how it goes!

  4. April 23, 2012 at 1:56 AM

    […] case you have no idea what on earth a Soap Nut is….read this first. I have been doing laundry with soap nuts for years, and I love them. You can also make liquid soap […]

  5. throve said,

    April 26, 2012 at 10:03 PM

    Fascinating! I will go forth in search of soap nuts! 🙂

  6. May 7, 2012 at 1:05 AM

    […] Shampoo (I use soap nuts liquid) […]

  7. May 26, 2013 at 1:03 AM

    […] is the laundry soap that I used before I discovered soap nuts. See all about soap nuts HERE and other ways to use them besides laundry HERE. I was at my girlfriends house the other day and she […]

  8. C said,

    May 26, 2013 at 7:53 AM

    where do you get the bags for the soap nuts to use in the laundry?

    • June 9, 2013 at 7:03 PM

      Angelmom, I ordered from naturoli and the bags came with my soap nut order. Also they are super easy to make out of old dish cloths or cheesecloth.

  9. Barb said,

    July 19, 2013 at 9:25 PM

    I was looking at soap nuts on Amazon, after reading this I’m going to order the NaturOli package, either 1/2 lb or full lb not sure yet.

  10. marycheshier said,

    September 30, 2013 at 9:21 PM

    Reblogged this on How 2 Be Green and commented:
    Great post. Thank you!

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