Sapindus mukorossi, aka soapnuts, are now available at Earth Lore. These little guys are part of the lychee family, and also known as soapberries or washnuts. There are several varieties, native to different parts of the world. Ours come from northern India and the Himalayas.
Leathery nuts, or drupes, contain saponins, a key ingredient for soap making. For thousands of years, Asian natives and native Americans have used them for washing and various aspects of folk-lore. Soapnuts are also used in many ayurvedic preparations, such as cleansers and shampoos. According to ayurveda, cleansers made from the nut are especially beneficial to those suffering from psoriasis or eczema. They are even said to lighten or remove freckles. There is an insecticidal property to the soap nut, making it popular in repelling lice and bedbugs.
When using them for washing, consider whether your water is hard or soft, size of the washer, size of load, how soiled the load is, and the temperature of the load. For an average load of laundry using warm or hot water, use three or four nuts. If using cold water, hard water, or for heavily soiled loads use one or two extra. Place nuts in a tied muslin bag and remove pouch if rinsing in warm water. If you rinse in cold, just leave them in the drum. Reuse this pouch for up to four loads of laundry. When it’s time for a new pouch the nuts will turn gray, mushy, and no longer feel soapy. Please compost old soapnuts in the garden. For hard water, you can add 1/4 cup coarse sea salt or baking soda to the wash cycle.
Alternatively, make a liquid soap. Boil 12-15 nuts with six cups of water for thirty minutes. When boiled down you should have four cups of liquid left. If there’s less than that, add extra water to make it four cups or simply leave it concentrated for use as hand wash or shampoo. When the solution cools, strain out the nuts and store in an airtight jar. Use two to three tablespoons per load. Make small batches, nature doesn’t make things that last forever. I saw a wonderful idea online to freeze the cooled solution in ice-cube trays, simply use two or three ice cubes per load! If you decide to freeze, be sure to label the tray so no one gets a surprise in their drink. Add essential oils like orange, lemon, lavender, or eucalyptus to the rinse cycle for fragrant linens.
Laundry is not the only use for soap nuts. Use the liquid mixture as mosquito repellent, all-purpose cleaner, steam cleaning spot treatment, pet wash and repellent, or houseplant wash. I urge all who try soapnuts to experiment and research others experiences. Happy washing!