Before you ask, no, soap nuts is not the name of a niche-market homoerotic magazine. Soap nuts are real nuts that grow on a tree (Sapindus mukorossi) from Asia. The husk of the nut contains soap in it, and can be used for laundry. They are gaining popularity here in England, and they are very popular in Germany right now, where more than 20,000 kg are sold every month. Recently, we (the Green Society) were giving them out free at our Green Fair, so I thought I would take a few home and try them.
The nuts came in bulk a big plastic bag. They had a slightly gummy texture and a mild, not unpleasant earthy smell. I took about five and put them in a smaller muslin-cloth pouch. I put the pouch in with my laundry in the washing machine, and did not use any detergent or anything else. For fragrance, I added a drop of lemongrass and sandalwood essential oil to the pouch. I considered cedar oil, but I was concerned that if I used cedar I would smell like a giant gerbil. I washed as normal - regular cycle with lukewarm water. It got quite sudsy in there, and definitely looked soapy. When I took my clothes out, I was surprised at how clean they were. They were definitely as clean as or cleaner than with ordinary detergent. They also smelled slightly of lemongrass/sandalwood, but the original mild earthy smell was gone. I can reuse the same soap nuts for three washes before composting them and putting new nuts in the pouch. Although I don't have senstive skin, I have heard they work very well for people who are sensitive to normal soap products. I was very pleased with the results, and will definitely be using them again!
- No chemicals
- Cleans very effectively
- Compostable - no waste
- Using different essential oils allows you to choose any fragrance.
- Supports producers in India and Nepal
- Makes you cooler than your friends
- Only available online and in certain shops
- People not familiar with using nuts as soap may think you are a bit funny.
- Don't taste nearly as nice as so-called "edible" nuts.
The cost is in the UK is about £5 for enough to do 25 washes, though they are probably cheaper in the US. Click here to have a look.