Anyone who gets excited about finding ways to eliminate chemicals in their home will go nuts for soap nuts. Soap nuts are a 100% natural and chemical free way of cleaning almost everything in your home.
Soap nuts are actually the fruit of Sapindus trees and are therefore not actually a nut at all. As the mom of a child with a nut allergy this was something I researched extensively before bringing these "nuts" into my home. According to the website soapnuts.pro, soap nuts are themselves hypoallergenic and "are wonderful for use by those who are sensitive to the dyes, perfumes and chemicals used in most commercial detergents and cleansers."
In order to get the best value from soap nuts I suggest buying them in their most basic, de-seeded form. These soap nuts will be ready to go for your laundry and will only require a small amount of work to make the liquid you will need for other household cleaning recipes.
The easiest way to start using soap nuts is instead of laundry detergent. When you buy a bag of soap nuts it will come with a small wash bag for this purpose. Simply fill the bag with 5 or 6 soap nuts, drop it in with your laundry and start your machine. That's it! The water and agitation of your washing machine will release the saponin and clean your clothes.
There is no need to remove the bag during the rinse cycle as less saponin will be released in the cold water.
For that reason, when I wash in cold I make a quick "soap nut tea" by placing the wash bag in warm water for a few minutes. Add that warm water and wash bag to your laundry and it will work just as well as in a warm cycle.
Each wash-bag-bundle of soap nuts will last around 6 or 7 loads, depending on size and water temperature. If I'm unsure about using the same soap nuts again, I will make the soap nut tea and pay attention to how sudsy the water is. If it seems weak, simply compost the old soap nuts and put new ones in the bag.
I find soap nuts get my laundry just as clean as I would expect from a commercial detergent but without that crunchy feel in the fabric or perfume smell. However, they are not a laundry miracle - I do add baking soda to whites or use an all natural stain stick on stubborn spots.
The first step to using soap nuts as a household cleaner is to make a soap nut liquid. This is done by bringing soap nuts and water to a boil then simmering until the saponin is released. I boil about 12 soap nuts in 5 or 6 cups of water and simmer for approximately 1 hour. The longer the liquid cooks the more you will get out of each soap nut. It is important to note that soap nut liquid will spoil and after it has cooled and been strained you should keep it in the fridge or freeze it into cubes to use later.
I have used soap nuts liquid on almost every surface of my home. The plain liquid is an effective dish soap as well as a carpet spot cleaner. I find it most versatile in a spray bottle with a few drops of tea tree oil for a general kitchen and bathroom cleaning. There are recipes for using soap nuts liquid as everything from dishwasher detergents to glass cleaners. While I have never personally had any issues with using soap nuts liquid, I do suggest you spot check on an inconspicuous area before you try your liquid on a new surface.
Recipes for using soap nuts for personal care products such as shampoo, body wash and facial cleanser are often based on the same soap nuts liquid mentioned above. I recommend diluting the liquid and patch testing on your skin first and adjusting your concentration. You can also purchase soap nut shampoo and bar soap ready made.
I have not yet successfully used soap nuts in my personal care routine. To be fair, I have had little success with many natural hair and skin care products so don't let my sensitivities deter you from trying!
Anyone wanting to use more natural products in their home should give soap nuts a try. Their versatility means even if you find they don't work as a bug repellent you can always try a recipe for shaving cream! Please share your experiences and successes in the comments section.
Top Image: Bark
Left Image: Sean Hitch
Right Image: Lisa Brewster