*This post has been entered in Works for Me Wednesdays at We are THAT Family!**
I love them. If you’ve talked to me much, you know I do, because I recommend them to everyone. But for those of you who are not at all sure what I’m talking about, let me tell you all about them.
Soap nuts are actually “soap berries,” and they grow on trees in India. The berries contain saponin (soap) and feel a bit tacky and sticky on the outside. These berries can be used to wash your clothes! It’s very simple — you just put a few in a small, draw-string muslin bag and pull it closed, then toss it in the washer with your clothes. Depending on the water temperature, it can be used a few, or even several times (when your soap nuts get all mushy, it’s time to throw them away — or, you can compost them!).
Soap nuts are completely natural, so there is no chemical residue left on your clothes or running down the drain in your wash water. They also get clothes perfectly clean! (Yes, you will need something else for tough stains.)
I started using soap nuts in July ’08, I believe. It was sometime that summer…. I use them on cloth diapers and all our regular laundry. If you didn’t know, regular laundry detergent and fabric softener is created using petrochemicals, and that residue sits on your clothing and is absorbed into your skin. The leftover chemicals also get into the water supply, and are terrible for the environment. Soap nuts, not containing any chemicals, are virtually allergy-free (I say “virtually” because there are a few people who will react to them, just like some people react to any other natural substance. But it’s much, much less likely than if you’re using harsh, unnatural chemicals).
The soap nuts cleaned my diapers perfectly! They always came out of the wash smelling nice and clean, often like nothing at all! It’s the only thing I use to wash my clothes and diapers, unless my diapers need stripping. I find I usually don’t even need something for fabric softening/cling, but if I do, white vinegar in the rinse does just fine.
My general wash routine is this:
*Set water temp (warm for colors and whites, cold for “special care” clothes, hot for diapers)
*Set water level (“small” or “medium” unless I’m stripping diapers or have a really big load)
*Toss soap nuts bag in the washer
*Toss clothes in the washer
*Add vinegar to fabric softener dispenser (only rarely, on diapers)
Then I can just toss them in the dryer, removing the soap nuts bag before I do. It doesn’t hurt to dry the soap nuts bags every now and then, though, because they can get moldy if they stay wet too long. Definitely make sure you lay them on a flat surface (on top of the warm dryer is good) so they can dry thoroughly. I like to load up several bags (1 kg of soap nuts comes with 6 muslin bags) so I always have one to toss in if I only have a minute to do the laundry.
In good weather, clothes can also be hung outside to try, in full sun. This can help naturally fade any stains (and is especially good for stained diapers).
You can learn more about soap nuts, and you can also buy them at a few different places! (Note: I saved almost 60% buying through a coop!)
Soap nuts are worth a try!
What do you use to wash your laundry? Are you looking for a more natural alternative? What alternatives have you tried?
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