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So has anybody used these for longer than, say, a week?

They're selling dried Chinese soapberry shells (Sapindus mukorossi) in the largest health food store in town, and I promptly bought some.

Pic: Dried Chinese soapnut shells.

The instructions say to crush 5-7 half soapberry shells (= 4-6 g) and put these into a cotton baggy. This then is the amount needed per washing-machine load. It sounds laughably little, seeing that you (or at least, I) use way more washing powder per load ...

... anyway, the leaflet says that these contain 13 % saponins. I'll have to check how much saponin there is in bouncing bet roots (and/or leaf) (Saponaria officinalis), cos they're local to me, and were a very vigorous weed in my old garden; I'm sure the bouncing bet can be enticed to grow lots'n'lots of roots in the new garden as well. (Bummer, Jim Duke's database lists neither Sapindus nor Saponaria.) (Bummer, bouncing bet roots contain only 5 % saponin (gypsogenin + sugar). Of course, they don't say if that's fresh or dry ...)

I didn't notice any cotton bags by the dried nuts, so I've made my own out of an old bedsheet. I've found that tying the bundles up first and using the hammer on them then is better than doing things the other way around.

And I've washed a few loads of clothes with these nuts. The idea of switching to soapnuts completely is extremely attractive, as I'm green (err, that is, I think of the environment rather more than your average Joe).

What I want to know is, how clean are your clothes after a year of using no washing powder, just soapnuts?

Related entry: Soapnut update


clearly, you'll need to self experiment. I propose a month-long trial, in which you engage in enough vigorous physical activity to make you stin... err... to make you liberally perspire each day. Wear the same clothes over and over, washing them each night with your soapnuts, and then, towards the end of each day, sit on a crowded bus next to someone who looks fastidious, perhaps to the point of being anal about it. Try to ascertain whether, and to what degree, they skootch away from you. If, after a months time there is no change, we might assume the soapnuts work rather well. If, however, people go from skootching to getting up and leaving, we might assume that the soapnuts don't really cut it.

How 'bout it?

Jim has a point.

To be honest, most folks really don't need to use that much soap when doing laundry, since they don't generate that much... soil. Quite often, a vigorous rinse is really all your outerclothes need. That may be why you're seeing results with the soapnuts.

Another less odorous test (one that might let you continue to use mass transit) might be to do a sampling test. Get some water-tight containers and small swaths of cloth stained with various things you'd expect (grass, clay, tomato, sweat, etc.) place them in those containers with the soapnuts and agitate. Heck, toss them in the back of the car or a container in your bag and walk around all day. That should be enough agitation.

Then, compare the samples afterwards to see how effective a detergent they were. I'm betting that the first two or three times they'll work "well". Not fantastic, mind you, but better than straight water. I'm also betting that the nuts will probably fade in effectiveness fairly quickly as the fats come out of them.

Still, it's an interesting experiment.

jr's tests are probably more scientific but I have to agree with jim - there's nothing like plunking down on a bus seat next to an old lady after (put your favorite sweat inducing task here) and watching her react to the fact that you have the fragrance of a towel stored in a hot gym locker...:)


I have a serious allergy to a base ingredient in comercial laundry soap - so haven't used it in years. I do use Borax, 1/2 cup per wash. It gets everything out - daily wear, camping clothes, and hubby's car fixing clothes included. I have experimented over the years with glycerins, lye soaps, and saporific plants. I would love to try these.

Do you know the chinese name for these nuts? The "health" food stores around here are all seem to be marketing to bored, rich folk and I would have a better chance at finding them in an Asian grocery.

Jim? Snigger.
JR, your jars sound like too much work right now.
Lee: heh.
Sorry, daubermaus, I haven't seen a Chinese name for it. Search for "Sapindus soapnut", you might get lucky... and these are actually Indian, not Chinese.

how much did they cost? maybe it will be reasonably cost effective even if they do only last a few washes...
i've been experimenting with less and less ecover - i'm down to about two tsp. i use my kitchen towels as my experiment load, since they really show the soil, though these days i just use two tsp for all my laundry; it's successful enough. for stains, i pretreat with some orange oil stuff in water.

speaking of which, i've been wondering about orange oil. it's all the rage, but recently i've been wondering: "natural doesn't equal safe, always. i wonder what the medicinal effects of orange oil are? i wonder if this is actually completely safe..."
more research and i'll letcha know.

Ah, JR, you use a new set of 5-7 crushed half soapnut shells for each new load of dirty washing.
Katja, they were about 20 € per kg, that is, not much at all, especially compared to washing powder. 2 teaspoons a load, eh? Thanks.
Orange oil is a solvent (like all essential oils). And citrus oils are allergenic. Try gall soap for pre-treating stains. For scents, try a drop of lavender oil on a piece of cotton put into your load of washing.

I read a critique a few years ago of those plastic washballs that can be used as a washing powder replacement. The author came to the conclusion that there is enough detergent from previous washes still held in the bottom of the machine to clean clothes adequately for quite some time. Once that surplus is used up the 'magic' wash balls become as effective as plain water. I'm mentioning this because you might want to take the leftover detergent into account with your soapnut experiment.

Ah. Right, thanks!

umm... henriette?

For some reason you didn't seem to think I was serious about the experiment... You can't really go and intrigue us with these soapnuts and not thoroughly test them and share the results with us... and we all know that others can tell when we smell so much better than we ourselves can...

Yes Jim, I'll give them a honest try including no detergent at all for a few weeks, but not right now: things are a teensy bit too busy.

We feel immense pleasure to introduce ourselves as Bulk processors & Exporters of Indian Soapnut Shells that grows on trees used as washing detergent .

We process 200 Metric Tonnes of Soapnuts annually.
We offer soapnuts packing in bulk as well as in 500 gms OR 1 kilo packing.

We shall be pleased to receive your favourable reply along with some requirement of Soapnuts.
(Deleted the rest)

The soapnuts I have are enough for now, thanks anyway. I'm sure that I don't need kgs of them, let alone metric tonnes.

i just started using a device that when installed above the washing machine--i don't have to use laundry soap. something about NASA technology. it's pretty cheap ($490) and it is new to the market and amazing--unreal how great it works. text me and i'll tell you how to get it--chuck

Chuck: snigger.

found this discussion by accident searching for something else, and wanted to let you know that i use soapnuts exclusively for my laundry. for warm to hot washes, 5-7 HALF nuts, crushed, the harder the water, the more nuts you need. these cannot be reused.

for cooler washes 4-5 half nuts, crushed, and if you do a wash right afterwards, you can reuse the same baggie of nuts. if you let them dry out, you just have to throw them out. or compost them ...

i find they wash as well as regular detergents which means i pretreat/soak garments that are heavily soiled or stained. but i did that with my old detergents as well.

soap nuts are a completely renewable resource - the same tree can be harvested year after year - and of course apart from the saponine, they do not contain any of the other chemicals that cause detergent to do the things we want or expect them to do (foam, stay in little granules that can easily be measured, be white etc etc). so they do not 'pollute' as much as detergents, simply because there are less and less potent 'other' ingredients.

i find they are comparable in price to the environmentally friendly detergents i used before (maybe even a little cheaper, tho as a mother i don't really have time for stringent scientific analysis), and of course, i feel much better about using them both in terms of the clothing my children will be wearing next to their skin (from diapers to undershirts) and in terms of the environment.

hope this is helpful.

Yes, very helpful. Many thanks!

Looks like there is only one place to buy soapnuts online from the US:

I wasn't able to find any other online suppliers stateside, and I received my soapnuts from Zamuta in about three days. Looking forward to trying them!

Weird, that. You'd think they'd be found in every co-op.

There are a lot of soapnut in china, we have planted lots of soapnut tree. please visit (www.[deleted].cn)

That's nice.

The name seems to be Sapindus Mukorosi.

I got a bag for 20 Euros in the Dordogne in France. There is an ecological centre which promotes them. Allegedly they are hypo-allergenic, but I have not seen any independent scientific evidence to that effect. You put them in the little cotton bag, and use them till they go grey, then replace. Waste water can be used on plants.

I have been using soap nuts for everything from laundry to washing my car for over a year. There is a 2500 year written history in Ayureveda and Chinese traditional medicine not just for their use as soap but also as treatment for dermatitis and other disorders. They are a renewable, sustainable resource,do a great job getting my clothes clean and are very economical because I can use them over and over.

And, as I see from your (deleted) site link, you just happen to sell them. What a coincidence ... sorry, but that's what I call a vested interest, and that leaves your comment rather less than worthy. And the link deleted, of course.