Soapnuts- The Ultimate Laundry Cleaner For Greenies

We have come across something that ticks every box (with a bold marker pen!) in the quest for the ultimate sustainable, chemical free, affordable and effective laundry and multi-purpose cleaner. People in Asia, India and Indonesia have already been using it for centuries in Ayurveda and as an effective clothing and multipurpose cleaner.

Soapnuts a.k.a Washnuts, Soapberries

The Chinese Soapberry tree (Sapindus mukorossi) grows in the wild from Southern China west to the Himalayas. The tree produces saponin rich fruit the size of a macadamia nut every year. When dried and mixed with water they foam up and act like a surfactant loosening and removing dirt and grease. There are other species of saponin producing Sapindus trees, but none as effective as the mukorossi variety.

From a Renewable and Sustainable Source

Sapindus Mukorossi

The berries are collected from mature wild trees from Southern China west to the Himalayas which keep on producing fruit every year. Because they are a natural product when they are at the end of their cleaning life span they can be safely put back into the earth to decompose and enrich the soil.

Growing your own tree in your back yard is even better! But they live for 70 + years and can get up to 25 metres tall and 5 metres wide if unpruned so make sure you have enough room. The seeds are removed after harvesting and quite difficult to find and buy but every now and then you will find a seed that has slipped through the process. Check with your countries quarantine laws to see if they are allowed in the country or are banned because of a possible weed risk.

Non-Toxic and Hypoallergenic

They are organic with no chemicals added, so are safe for using in grey water that will water the garden, septic and sewage systems, reed beds, and be assured there are no chemicals that will leach into waterways and the ocean.

They are 100% natural and gentle on people with skin sensitivities and allergies. In Ayurveda they are even used to cure eczema and psoriasis.

Proven to be Anti-Bacterial, Anti-Fungal and Anti-Microbial

Soapnuts will sanitise as well as clean your clothes. And if a liquid concentrate is made by boiling crushed soapnuts in water, it can be used as a multipurpose cleaner to clean and sanitise any surface – bench tops and tables and perfect for high chair and surfaces your children eat off.

Other Uses Include:

  • removing lice from the scalp
  • a very effective hair shampoo
  • hand and skin cleanser
  • pet shampoo
  • natural pesticide for the garden
  • put them in the cutlery holder of your dishwasher
  • cleaning jewellery

How Do I Use Them?

They can be used as they are as a laundry detergent and fabric softener or made into a liquid on your stovetop to clean everything else.

To use them in your washing machine

Place 2-6 whole soapnuts in the cotton wash bag included in every purchase of Soapnuts, and place it in the machine drum with your washing. Lingerie bags or stockings can also be used. You will need to use more shells for larger loads, heavy soiling or where hard water is used. You need less shells for smaller loads or water efficient machines. Soapnuts don’t need to be removed during the rinse cycle as there is no harmful or irritating residue as is left over from normal detergents. Your soapnuts can be reused 4-6 times, or longer in cold water, before composting them into your garden. If you like you can add a few drops of aromatic essential oil to the fabric softener dispenser.

Make your own liquid soapnut cleanser

Simmer 100g of soapnuts in 3 litres of water for an hour. The strained liquid can then be decanted into bottles and used instead of liquid soap or cleanser. For smaller quantities try 6 broken-up shells in 2 cups water. The consistency will be thin but its cleaning power will be strong! Add essential oil for a fragrance and dilute as required.

4 Responses

  • Renske Snyman
    January 17, 2012 at 2:26 am


    I came across your website an found the application very interesting. I am living in South Africa and am interested in testing the soap beans. Your website clearly indicates “Australia only”. Any reason for that?


    • January 17, 2012 at 9:25 am

      Hi Renske, yes sorry we only post to Australian addresses to avoid any complications with biosecurity issues in other countries as they are a natural product.

  • August 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Hi Gabrielle, and thanks for your comment. If you look at what soapnuts are on their own without the transport involved, they are the ‘ultimate green detergent replacement’. Organic, chemical free, biodegradable, hypoallergenic… It is a shame they have to come from India, but the plant is currently banned from coming into Australia because of it’s potential to become a weed (or maybe the detergent companys are scared they would lose business?) Any saponin/detergent is harmful to fish if put straight into waterways at high doses. I know some indigenous people throw plants with a high saponin content into waterways to actually catch fish to eat. When using soapnuts you wouldn’t want to drain your soapnut water directly into waterways anyway. I doubt a small amount like that would have any effect anyway. All the artificial detergents going down the drain would have a worse effect on fish. I’m not sure of any scientific research, but if you find some, I would like to see it too! Thanks

  • Gabrielle
    July 8, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Hi! I’ve just discovered “For Greenies” (very cool site btw!) and was surprised to find these soap nuts here being promoted as “the ultimate sustainable, chemical free, affordable and effective laundry and multi-purpose cleaner”. I too was under the impression that by buying these nuts I was being very green, only to one day find out that this maybe wasn’t so much the case. I read on the german wikipedia that the rising demand on soap nuts in Western Europe, and I guess also in the rest of the industrialised world, has made the cost of this product in India rise by six times its normal price, making it impossible for Indians to pay for something they have used for decades or centuries. It also stated that the saponins in the nuts are harmful to fish. I’m not sure if this is all true information, as wikipedia is not always to be trusted, and I haven’t been able to find any of this information in English or any scientific research on this. I’ve also been wondering how eco-friendly it really is to ship soap nuts across the whole world. Maybe you have come across some information on this? Regards, Gabrielle

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