Soap nuts – Nature’s laundry detergent

Soap nuts



What you should know about soap nuts!

Soap nuts are an ecological alternative to synthetic detergents. This ecological form of laundry washing is becoming increasingly popular. But what exactly are these soap nuts and how do they work? In this blog, we will get to the bottom of these and many other questions about the fruit of the soap nut-tree.

What are soap nuts?

Soap nuts are the fruits of the soap nut-tree, whose natural distribution area is in the south of India. Soap nuts have been used for washing textiles and hair for centuries. They contain saponin to protect against fungal attack and predators. These saponins have positive properties that support the washing process:

  • Soap nuts lower the surface tension of the water
  • They foam in contact with water
  • They appear fat-soluble
  • They are gentle on the colour
  • They are gentle on the fibres

Why should you wash your laundry with soap nuts?

The soap nuts are a real all-rounder. However, the washing performance stands out clearly. The saponins contained in the shell not only dissolves fat, but also stubborn stains from clothing and textiles. In the process they protect the colours and are also gentle on the fibres. Soap nuts can be used at all washing temperatures. If you want to, you don’t even have to add fabric softener, because the laundry is clearly softer and smoother than when using commercially available, chemically produced detergents. The ecological advantage of soap nuts is obvious. The fruits of the Reetha-tree are organic through and through. The Asian tree grows wild in India, among other places. The nutshells can be put into the compost after use. There is no harmful waste and you wash without chemicals.

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What are saponins?

Saponins are a class of chemical compounds that are particularly common in various types of plants. They form a soap-like foam when shaken in aqueous solutions. Some of these foams are very stable and therefore have an excellent cleaning effect.

How to use soap nuts correctly?

Soap nuts are very versatile. You can make a brew from the soap nuts or put them directly into the washing machine.

How do I create a soap nut-brew?

You need:

  • 10-15 soap nut-shells (depending on the desired intensity)
  • 1 lt of water

Put the shells of the soap nut into the water and let the shells simmer for about 10 minutes. You can influence the washing effect of the broth by the number of shells used. 15 shells result in a very high concentration. It is best to test different levels of concentration to get the perfect cleaning performance. Then pour the brew through a cotton cloth or better still through a coffee filter. You now have an ecological liquid cleaner that can be used immediately. If you like, you can add a few drops of essential oil to give the whole thing a fresh scent.

Our Tip:

To increase the shelf life of the soap nut-brew, add a few drops of tea tree oil. Tea tree oil has a disinfectant and germicidal effect. Nice side effect: It gives the brew a fresh fragrance!

How do I use soap nuts correctly in the washing machine?

You need:

  • 5 – 7 soap nut shells
  • a cotton bag or alternatively a thin sock

Put the shells in the cotton bag and put it directly on to the laundry. Remember that the washing performance increases at higher temperatures, since more saponins can be released from the shells.

How often can I reuse soap nuts?

High quality soap nuts can be reused very often. How often depends on the washing temperature used.

  • 30 – 45 ° C : 5 – 7 times
  • 50 – 60° C : 3 – 5 times
  • 60 – 90° C : 2 – 3 times

What laundry can I wash with soap nuts?

The cleaning substances of the soap nut are very mild and biodegradable, which makes them ideal for all types of laundry. Both coloured and cottons with washing temperatures between 30 – 90 ° C, as well as wool and delicates made of silk can be washed with it. Functional clothing (e.g. sportswear) benefits particularly from the mild cleaning, the special properties of these fabrics (breathability, sweet absorption, etc.) are preserved.


In the case of difficult soiling and to remove stains, it helps to add a little baking soda to the detergent compartment of the washing machine. In addition, baking soda prevents a grey film on the laundry and cleans the washing machine.

How do I recognize used soap nuts and how do I dispose of them?

Used soap nuts can be recognized by their colour and firmness. They have lost most of their brown colour and are of a soft consistency. You can safely dispose of these soap nuts in organic waste or on the compost.

How do I properly store soap nuts?

Soap nuts quickly absorb moisture from the air. This will make them dark and sticky. The good news is that they do not lose their washing effect, but are difficult to dose. It is therefore advisable to keep the soap nuts airtight.


Store the soap nuts in an airtight container. This can be a plastic container or a tightly closing plastic bag (e.g. freezer bag).

How long do soap nuts last?

When properly stored (see above), soap nuts can be kept for several years. 3 – 5 years durability is not uncommon.

Soap nuts are available here at OQF:

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