All About Soap Nuts
What are Soap Nuts?
Soap nuts are the fruit of the Sapindus Mukorossi, a tree found primarily in the Himalayas (ours come from Nepal). The nut itself is actually removed, and it isn't actually even a nut, it's a pit. Yeah, the name is confusing. Once the fruit is harvested the pit is removed, the fruit is dried in the sun. When you receive the soap nuts, they should be totally dry (not sticky). If they are sticky in spots, this won't make them less effective or unsafe, they're just sticky, which can be annoying.
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How do they work?
The shell of the soap nut contains saponin which works as a natural detergent, great for folks with sensitive skin issues.
Are soap nuts safe for my machine?
Yes. They are a 100% natural product without any harsh chemicals. If you are switching to using soap nuts, they will even clean your machine of any chemical residues from previous washing.
But I have an High Efficiency washer that takes special HE detergent...can I use soap nuts in an HE washer?
Yes, they're low sudsing, and because they don’t create many suds, soap nuts are great for high-efficiency (HE, or front-loading) washers. A front-loading washing machine requires a special detergent, called HE detergent, to allow it to clean your laundry properly. HE detergent is unique because it doesn’t produce lots of suds like regular detergent does. Soap nuts are naturally a low-sudsing product, with no added fillers, dyes or chemicals to create bubbles in the wash. But even without the bubbles, you will find that the soap nuts will thoroughly clean your laundry.
How do I use them to do laundry?
You put about four whole nuts (eight halves) into a cotton wash bag and smash it a few times with your heel or the family mallet, etc. That helps to expose the full nut to the water, without leaving lots of 'pockets' (like when you make mac & cheese with those little shell pasta and the powdered cheese gets stuck in there, you know what we're talking about). The saponin won't clump or anything but it's just better to break the nuts up a bit first.
Then, depending on if you have a front loader or not, you either toss the wash bag into the washer and run a bit of hot water onto them, or you put them into a cup or bowl of hot water for a minute or two while you load the laundry into the machine. Either way you'll want them to sit for a minute to warm up. It's not totally necessary but it helps to release the saponin. After the initial soak, run the water warm or cold or whatever temperature. It's also safe to add washing soda or oxy-clean or anything else you want as a detergent booster.
After that you just run the wash like normal. When it's time to put your items into the dryer you don't have to dig through all those wet clothes to find the cotton bag, it can go into the dryer. The soap nuts were dried to begin with so it won't hurt them.
After 3-4 washes you'll note that the nuts will have shrunk and be less springy just by feeling them through the bag. The shells that are depleted will be thin and dry with no shiny pockets of saponin left in the center. You'll want to replace them at that point. The old nuts are compostable so they can go into the garden or the garbage.
What if I'm on a greywater or septic tank system?
Yes totally safe, they're antimicrobial.
Wait, what's that smell?
Soap nuts are natural so there are no added fragrances, however they do have have a mild vinegar-like scent to them.
So will my clothes smell like that?
No. If you prefer a fragrance you can add 10 drops of your favorite essential oil directly on the cotton wash bag before you toss it in the wash. But even if you don't your clothes won't have a bad smell to them when they're dry, they'll just smell like clothes.
Do I have to remove the soap nuts during the rinse cycle?
No, the saponin in soap nuts is released slower in cold water and most rinse cycles are cold. The saponin released in the rinse water acts as a fabric softener so your clothes are left very soft. Also in areas where water is scarce or in an effort to conserve both water and money, a growing number of people do not even rinse their clothes after washing with soap nuts. Since there are no chemical residues left in the clothes, they are left soft when washed this way.
Can I use soap nuts on delicate fabrics?
Absolutely! Unlike regular detergent, soap nuts do not have a high acid content, which means you can use them to safely wash delicate fabrics such as wool and silk. Their gentleness maintains the fabric structure of the clothes for longer.
Are soap nuts able to maintain the brightness and whiteness of my clothes?
Yes. It is recommended, however, that whites and colors be washed separately. A little bit of eco-friendly laundry bleach (washing soda) added to the wash cycle also helps to keep fabrics white and bright.
Are soap nuts able to soften clothes or do I need to add any fabric softeners?
No, soap nuts will leave your clothes soft and fresh without the use of any fabric softeners.
Are soap nuts safe for people with sensitive skin?
Yes. Because they are natural and chemical free they are gentle on your skin and clothes. Soap nuts are recommended for sensitive skin, allergy and eczema sufferers because they do not have harsh chemicals or scents that are known to aggravate these conditions.
Are soap nuts safe for my baby’s laundry?
Absolutely! Soap nuts are 100% natural and hypoallergenic, and they do not contain added chemicals or fragrances which can often lead to skin irritation in babies and others with skin sensitivities. Soap nuts are especially effective for washing cloth diapers. If you are using commercial detergent to wash your cloth diaper, the fabric is likely becoming more and more clogged after each wash. Commercial detergents leave a residue on the diaper, as they don’t rinse completely. This residue can cause loss of absorbency and even diaper rash in little ones with sensitive skin. That’s why soap nuts are an ideal solution for washing cloth diapers.
Are soap nuts a problem if someone is allergic to nuts?
No. Soap nuts are not nuts. They are a fruit with a pit, like an apricot. The pit is removed and the fruit dried.
Why don’t I see suds in my washing machine?
Soap nuts are totally natural, which means that there are no commercial foaming agents or unnatural chemicals added. Those chemicals, which are commonly used in commercial detergents, aren’t actually necessary for your clothes to be cleaned well. Soap nuts don't create all those suds but still wash your clothes very effectively.
Does it matter that the nuts are in pieces and not as a whole?
No. Actually it is better if the nuts are in smaller pieces.
Do soap nuts have a shelf life?
No. They do, however, need to be stored properly in an airtight container or bag. If they are left open, they absorb moisture and become dark and sticky. This does not effect the product or its cleaning capabilities. They will still wash brilliantly.
Why do people claim that soap nuts are water and energy saving?
Commercial detergents need to be rinsed out of the clothes completely as they leave a soapy residue. Since soap nuts are a 100% natural product with no soapy residue, you can reduce the machine rinse cycles, hence saving valuable electricity and water.
Are soap nuts effective for really dirty laundry?
Yes. Although you may need to reduce the quantity of laundry in the machine to give some room for the clothes to move freely. The addition of washing soda to your wash cycle will help.
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