How To Wash Clothes With Soap Nuts In The Washing Machine

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One great way to reduce your household's single-use plastic and avoid bringing chemicals into your home is to switch to the most simple, cheap, and natural way to wash your clothes: with soap berries!

 

What are Soap Berries?

Soap berries (or soap nuts) are an amazing little berry that can be used for all kinds of natural cleaning purposes. They are grown on the Sapindus Mukorossi tree (aka Indian Soapberry tree). The outer shell that coats the fruit contains saponin - a water surfactant that removes dirt and grease from any material. Saponin has detergent qualities and foams when agitated with water.  

Pile of raw soap berries (the brown shells of the fruit)

 

Why Use Soap Berries

Using soap berries to wash your clothes is super easy and totally waste-free! There is no plastic involved when you use soap berries, allowing you to drastically reduce your household waste and impact on the Earth. Soap berries are 100% natural (therefore compostable) so are healthier, safer and better for the Earth than conventional chemical laundry powders and liquids.

The saponin released from the soap berries when you use them to wash your clothes makes them perfect for removing dirt, grease and bad bacteria from any material. Saponin is 100% natural and greywater safe, unlike many conventional detergents which often poison waterways with their chemicals when washed down the drain. 

You can buy organic soap berries in a 250g, 500g, or 1kg bag (we ship anywhere in Australia), or bring your own container to our Perth eco & garden store and get soap berries in bulk.

Organic soap berries in a cotton bag

How To Use Soap Berries In Your Washing Machine

There are two ways to use soap berries to wash your clothes. The first is to use this recipe to make a Multi-Purpose Cleaning Liquid Concentrate from soap berries. This liquid can be stored in glass jars and used exactly like conventional laundry liquid (as well as being useful for all kinds of other cleaning purposes).

The second (and more straight-forward) way is to use the soap berries directly! To use soap berries directly in your washing machine, all you need are some soap berries, a soap berry wash bag and optional essential oils to add a scent.

A bag of soap berries next to a scoop of bulk soap berries available in store and soap berry wash bags for use in a washing machine

Using soap berries in your washing machine is very straight-forward:

  1. Add a small handful of soap berries (around 5-6 berries) to a soap berry wash bag, pull the bag closed and tie tightly (you don't want the berries to come loose during the wash). You can put around 3 drops of essential oil in the bag if you'd like to add a scent - our natural Laundry Tonic essential oil blends can give a fresh, satisfying scent to your clean washing.
  2. Throw the bag of soap berries into the washing machine with your clothes (front loader or top loader machine) and put on your usual wash settings.
  3. Continue to use the same bag of soap nuts for 3-4 loads of washing.
  4. After a few uses, replace the soap berries in the wash bag with fresh berries. Put the used berries straight in the compost!

Important notes:

  • When using this method to wash your clothes with soap berries, switch your thinking from washing "darks" and "colours" separately to washing your dirtiest clothes first (when you have fresh berries in the wash bag) and your least dirty clothes in the last wash (when your bag of berries is closer to the end of its life).
  • Warm water cycles often work best when using soap berries directly in your washing machine as the heat helps to draw the soapy saponin out of the berries.
  • If you have a very water efficient washing machine, you may find that there isn't enough water in your wash to draw the saponin out of the soap berries. If this is the case, you will want to use the aforementioned method of producing a soap berry liquid concentrate to use as washing liquid in your washing machine, rather than the raw berries directly in your wash.

 

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