I’ve heard of soap nuts for a long time, but the very idea that a “nut” could clean my clothes (and other things for that matter) seemed way too out there for me to believe. In my continual search for an affordable, “green”, and safe options for my family kept bringing me back to this wondrous little fruit. Experience has taught me the hard lesson of not investing a lot in something until I know it will actually WORK for our family, so we bought a TRIAL pack from Naturoli, which included two soap bars (cleanings and shampoo), 1/4 lb of soap nuts, x18 super concentrated cleaner, shampoo and a laundry stick.
I have a few criteria that things must meet before I will “approve” them for long term sustainable use for our family. 1.) They have to be *SIMPLE*. I can’t bend over backwards just to use a green cleaner, 2.) it needs to be safe enough to be used by my children, 3.) it needs to NOT cost an arm and a leg, and 4.) it needs to clean to my acceptable personal standard. Now on to reviewing…
Shampoo: I’ve used this on myself and all my kids so far and I am VERY pleased 🙂 It’s expensive, so I don’t know that it will be a do-able option for us, but it DOES work. It is said that you can use soap nuts to make your own shampoo, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
x18 super concentrated cleaner: I haven’t tried this one *yet* so I’ll get back to that
Cleansing Bar: I’ve used this on both myself and the kids so far and am pleased. It doesn’t dry out the skin & it has a very earthy natural smell. Again, it is on the expensive side, but that may be ok depend on how long it lasts. I’ve got it resting on a wire rack which allows it to dry between uses so we’ll get the most life out of it as we can.
Shampoo Bar: I haven’t used this enough to make a definitive conclusion. Like the cleaner, I’ll get back to you on that 😉
Soap Nuts: Buying a sample size was not cheap, but if these meet all my standards, when purchased in larger quantities they can be a very frugal and green option. The theory is you can throw the nuts contained in a little muslin bag (which are really a dried fruit, not a nut) in the washing machine with your clothes and reuse them 4-6 more times. Soap Nuts contain a natural surfactant (the stuff they use in laundry detergent and other cleaners) which should clean your clothes. You have to make sure not to overstuff your washing machine so the nuts can circulate in the water with your clothing and the natural surfactant can be released. *If you are a information hound like I am, you can find more information on soap nuts here at Soap Nuts Pro.
We do many loads of laundry a day (3-4) and so reducing the size of our laundry load size is NOT an option. Thankfully there is an alternative! You can soak your soap nuts in hot water (or boil), essentially making a “tea” or “extract”, there by eliminating the need to make your laundry loads a little smaller so the soap nuts have more room to agitate. You can also use this “tea” in your dishwasher, as a household cleaner & even a shampoo! The downside is that since it does not contain preservatives, it will spoil fairly quickly and you need to either make it in very small batches OR freeze in ice cube trays for later use. You can make it last a *little* longer by adding preserving essential oils or citric acid and then store it in the fridge. My plan is to make just enough to get use through 1-2 days at a time, adding citric acid (which is a natural preservative & cleaning power booster) so I can just keep this out on the counter as needed if I find that to be more convenient.
I am experimenting with different ways to make my soap nut liquid. The first night I simmered them in water for an hour. Yesterday I just poured boiling water over them into a jar and shook it up a few times through the course of the afternoon and then stuck it into the fridge. Both methods produced about the same colored liquid so I think I might just stick with the jar method for now. The results are promising so far, but not enough to be conclusive. I will let you know 🙂
My “recipe” for making soap nuts liquid:
Ratio of 5 soap nuts to 2 cups of water. After it is done soaking, strain out soap nuts and add 2 tbsp citric acid* (1tbsp per cup of water). I’m using about 1/3-1/2 a cup per load of laundry and about 3tbsp per dishwasher load. I should also mention that it is NOT recommended that you use soap nuts with cloth diapers that are made out of synthetic materials (such as microfiber, fleece & suede cloth), natural fiber diapers are fine. We use pocket diapers made out of synthetic materials, so I am looking for an alternative solution for diaper laundry. We do enough clothing laundry that soap nuts are still a viable option for us.
*Citric acid is the acid that is naturally found in lemons and other citrus fruit. I purchased mine online from AAA Chemicals.