Soap berries: what are they, and how do I use them for laundry? – Kempii

Soap berries: what are they, and how do I use them for laundry?

We know what you must be thinking: what are soap berries, some kind of exotic fruit? Or perhaps you’ve heard of them but don’t believe they actually work. Well, start believing now because soap berries (also called soap nuts) are an amazing eco-friendly way of doing laundry.

Using soap berries for laundry is a game-changer. Non-toxic, sustainable and affordable, you’ll never look at a chemical detergent again! We love using homemade laundry soaps or eco-friendly detergents, but even those result in waste products as they require packaging.

So, what exactly are soap berries?

Nope, not soap in the shape of berries, they are actually natural detergent nuts (technically fruit) that grow on trees (a tree called the Sapindus Mukorossi to be precise), native to India and Nepal. They have traditionally been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat skin conditions, but now are coming into their own as an environmentally friendly alternative to chemical detergents.


How to use soap berries for laundry

Above: Soap berries (nuts) are native to India and Nepal. Photo credit: Dinesh Valke @Flickr

How do they work? Soap berries contain something called saponin, which is a natural detergent. When they’re immersed in water, their shells absorb the liquid and release the saponin.

So, how do you use them for laundry? Simply put soap berries in my washing machine, are you sure? Yup, it really does work! The saponins are released into the washing water, where they circulate and remove stains, dirt and smells from your clothes. While they don’t smell of flowers or fields like many detergents, they leave a pleasant trace of apples and there’s nothing chemical about them at all.

Put between 4 and 6 in a reusable muslin bag to stop them getting lost or stuck in your machine, of course, as breaking your washing machine is not very sustainable! Don’t worry if you don’t see bubbles, that’s normal. In fact, because soap berries don’t produce laundry suds, there’s less residue and they work for all machines. You can use them with cold water as well as hot if you’re keen to save energy in your home.

Above: Soap berries (nuts) are an affordable zero waste laundry alternative

They’re also both affordable and re-usable. You can pick up a bunch for not very much money at all and then use them several times. How many times? There’s not a precise number of cycles that soap berries can be used for, but when the shells start to get soft and look grey, they won’t work as well anymore, so you can compost them (yup, no waste at all!). Usually they’ll last about 3 to 4 washes.

If you do like the idea of your clothes smelling fragrant after a wash, you could add some essential oils to the washbag (only a couple of drops) before you put it in with your washing. Lavender is always a winner, especially on clean sheets!

Once you get into using soap berries for laundry, there’ll be no stopping you! They can also be used to make washing powder, handwash, shaving cream, shampoo and much, much more. One of our favourite things about committing to a zero-waste lifestyle is discovering hero products like these, so we hope you enjoy them too!

Keen to make the switch to soap berries (or soap nuts)? Find them in our laundry collection

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