Soap Nuts — A Natural Detergent

Years ago, my sister introduced us to soap nuts. Sounds crazy, but they are wonderful! They do look like nuts, but they are for soap. You run them through the washing machine just like detergent pods — except you can use the nuts over again for multiple loads of laundry.

You can order them from various natural product web sites, or Amazon offers several options as well. I generally get a two pound bag at a time, which will last for about two years.

Use
The nuts usually come with small fabric bags that you fill with 5-6 nuts, close, and throw in with the laundry until the nuts are used up. They will stop lathering when wet and feel all crushed up when they are done. At that point, you throw away (or compost) the nut residue and fill the bag up again.

They do well with smells and dirt, although I do treat some stains separately as needed.

Benefits
Not only are they a fairly cheap option for laundry detergent, they are all natural and don’t leave residue on the clothes. With sensitive skin myself, I love the non-irritating option every day.

The bag of nuts can even be used as a quick and easy spot remover. Just scrub the spot with the wet bag and then air dry.

A friend even found that she didn’t need fabric softener once she switched to soap nuts. The clothes turned out to be softer than when she used a natural softener. I’ve never used softener, because of sensitivity, but I can also agree I don’t have a need now either. That saves money and additional “stuff” in the load.

Packets
Now, even though the order comes with little bags, I have taken that one step farther to create my own basket of pods. When one is done, I just toss the whole thing and grab a fresh one.

  • First I cut small squares, about 3″ square (like a sticky note), from the cheapest unbleached muslin I can find. They don’t have to look good or be perfectly straight, just roughly match up.

  • Then I take two squares at a time and sew them together on three sides. Again, not pretty or perfectly straight — just together. They only have to make it through 6 or so loads of laundry.

  • Once I have a bunch of those, I fill them with 4-6 soap nuts and sew the fourth side together.

  • Now I have a whole stash of pods to use for laundry.

House Cleaning Tips

A clean house! It’s a lovely sight, even if only for a short moment. If you clean a house (or any living quarters), there are some basic things you can do to work effectively and efficiently.

Work top to bottom. Start reaching up, then move down as you work through the room(s). The floor will be the last thing. This makes gravity your friend, as anything dust or dirt will work its way down as you clean.

Work clean to dirty. Wipe the cleaner items first. This allows you to keep the the worst dirt off of the rag until the end, right before it goes in the laundry. You will have to rinse out your rag or sponge or whatever fewer times as you go.

Restock as you go. Fill up the swab jar, the napkin holder, the extra toilet paper roll stack, etc., each time you clean the room. You may have to do this in between sometimes, but it will guarantee that you are stocked on a regular basis otherwise.

Clean the floor dry to wet. Vacuum first, to pick up the big pieces of dirt. Then dry mop to wipe up the dust. Finally, the wet mop will clean the sticky stuff and everything left. This will keep your mop cleaner and keep you from pushing gravel or leaves around the floor, or stopping to pick piles of dirt up, as you mop.

Build a routine. Remember, habits help.

  • Use patterns. As you vacuum, cover sections one at a time to make sure you touch every part and keep on track without having to think about it.
  • Find a routine and stick with it. If you clean room by room or task by task (dust whole house, then mop everywhere, etc.), find your groove. You will get used to the flow and then sail through the routine without struggling to remember where you are and what should be next.
  • Turn off lights when room is finished. I love to see progress, so I motivate myself by turning all the lights on at the start. (That’s necessary to see, of course, but also essential for the reward.) As I finish a room, I turn the light off on my way out. It’s a little pat on the back as the cleaning wraps up.