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.

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.

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.

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.

Laundry Tips

We all have it — the never-ending cycle of laundry. It can be a real struggle to stay on top of it. Now, it really is just a job that never ends and simply needs to be done, but there are some things that may help you as you work.

For starters, it is a continuous process. It’s not a full-focus activity with modern washing machines and dryers, so it doesn’t need to dominate our time and attention for an entire day. It can fit into small pieces of time all week. Also, letting it pile up may be too overwhelming and hurt rather than help. Staying on top of it a little at a time can keep it manageable.

  • Constant sorting¬†— Don’t let it pile up in the hamper. If you sort on a consistent daily basis or at least often, the chore won’t take long and loads are ready to go when the pile is big enough to throw in the washer. You won’t feel as if you are at the start of a long haul before you even can get a load in the washer.
  • You may want to do one load every day — Start in the morning. Circle back later on to transfer the load to the dryer. At some point in the afternoon, empty the dryer and fold the clothes. From then on, grab a stack to put away every time you walk by. Before you know it, it’s done. You are eating the elephant…
  • If you are picky enough to not be able to go to bed under a pile of clothes, you can drop the freshly-dried load on your bed. It will physically remind you to get them folded and put away before you go to bed, instead of being out of sight and out of mind.

Also, remember many hands make light work — teach your children when they are young to help with the process. They learn a valuable skill, and the load is light for everyone.

Finally, there might be the first world problem of too many clothes, perhaps?¬†Occasionally there isn’t room in the dresser or closet to put all the clean clothes away. This is especially a problem when children are helping with laundry. They will have a much easier task with less to manage while they learn.

If you run into this overload, take it as a cue to look at the bottom layer of the drawer or the back of the closet rod to see what hasn’t been worn for a year or two. Maybe it’s time to donate a few things and make it easier to finish up the laundry and put clothes away.