Since a box of loose soap nuts arrived in store, we have had lots of comments!   Sometimes an ‘Oooh!’ at the pleasant surprise at finding them in a local shop, but often a remark along the lines of “These look interesting” and soon followed by “But what are they…?”.  

Read on to find out the answers to common questions, and if you’re interested in giving them a go, then we have a range of options for you including this handy starter kit. If you’re shopping in store, then you can also buy your preferred amount of nuts (calculated by weight).  Either bring your own bag or box, or purchase from our varied selection.

So what is a soap nut?

To be precise, soap nuts aren’t actually nuts, but actually the dried shell of a fruit.  And to be even more precise, they are a part of the ‘sapindus’ genus, which in simple terms, means that they are related to the better known lychee.  Common in Asia, soap nuts are growing in popularity in the Western world as people look for more natural and less wasteful cleaning solutions. Soap nuts are a gentle, effective and incredibly versatile option which can be used for laundry, household cleaning and even body care.

You can also rest assured that our soap nuts are organic, collected when they naturally fall from mature trees and dried by the sun, therefore are a sustainable and chemical free option.  A truly green clean!

What do I do with them?

One of the best things about soap nuts is that they are so easy to use!  For standard washing machines, simply place about six half shells (three whole ‘nuts’ broken in two) into a small bag, tie it closed, place it into the drum of the machine and wash as usual.  That’s it! Soap nuts are unscented, so if you prefer a more fragrant wash, then you could apply a few drops of your preferred essential oil to the bag before placing it in the machine. The soap nuts do have a softening effect, therefore it is worth trying a wash without fabric conditioner first to see whether you actually need to add it or not.

How do they work?

Soap nuts contain a compound called saponin which produces a soapy liquid when it is in active contact with water i.e. shaken about in a washing machine.  There are no added foaming agents, so don’t be surprised by less bubbles – the nuts are simply cleaning, rather than frothing! The same nuts can be used a few times before they begin to break up and become less effective.  They’re biodegradable, therefore you can put them on compost and they will break down with other organic matter. Zero waste, and good for your garden!

Buy by the kilo or get a starter kit

Organic soap nuts

£13 per kilogram. Lasts for 330 washes which is 4p per wash.

A few more suggestions and recipes

Hand soap

An alternative way to use soap nuts is to make your own cleaning liquid, for example for handwashing.  

Use 10 soap nuts per litre of hot water (from the hot tap, not the kettle), shake it around in a lidded jar and leave the solution to soak until the water colours. You can also add your favorite essential oils to add some fragrance.

Shampoo [1]

Soap Nuts Shampoo Ingredients: 5 soap nuts, 3 cups of water,5 drops of your favourite essential oil

Soap Nuts Shampoo Instructions:

  • Place soap nuts in a small muslin bag, place in a saucepan with 2 cups of water and bring to the boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes
  • Add 1 cup of water and simmer for 10 more minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let cook.
  • Squeeze out the bag until it suds. Rinse with cool water and squeeze in to the pan again.
  • Store in a glass jar in the fridge until use.

To use: Massage a small amount in to hair and let sit for 5 minutes. Rinse well. Can also be used as a soothing wash for skin, especially in those with eczema and psoriasis.

Natural slug repellent

They are also an excellent natural slug repellent that wont do any harm to nature. Once you’ve used your soap nuts a few times you can put them in to a blender with 3 times as much water. Then when you blend them they will create a lot of foam which you can then spread around your plant beds to protect them from hungry slugs.

And while we’re on the subject of laundry, remember we also offer soap flakes, natural stain removers and a whole host cleaning related items in our refill station.  You can read more about our refill station and loyalty scheme in previous blog posts and check out our current refill selection here.  

As always, if you have any questions about the products or how to use them, just ask and we will always do our best to answer any queries so that you can make the best choice for you and your lifestyle.  You can call, email, message us online or come in and see us in our Shaftesbury store.

[1] Shampoo recipe from Wellness Mama