Soap Nuts Profile
Also known as
Sapindus mukorossi, Sapindus trifoliatus, Sapindus saponaria, soapberry, and soap pods.
Soap nuts are found in both the eastern and western hemispheres, but are native to India and Nepal. They have recently become a popular environmentally friendly alternative to chemical detergent, and are a gentle option for those with allergies to chemicals in regular detergents. Soap nuts contain saponin, a natural detergent. The soap nut shell absorbs water and releases the saponins which circulate as a natural surfactant in the wash water, freeing dirt, grime, and oils from clothing. PLEASE NOTE: There is considerable discussion as to what variety of Soap Nuts is preferable for use as a laundry soap alternative and any Soap Nut from the genus Sapindus will work just fine as they all have Saponin producing properties, hence the genus name Sapindus. There is also considerable discussion as to what Soap Nut is better; those with the seed or those without the seeds. Through our own laboratory tests and from our own personal experience we have determined that using Soap Nuts which still contain the seed has a better effect on cleaning cloths because the seed inside the shell acts an agitator against the shell wall which releases more saponins into water. We also determined that Soap Nuts with the seed still in them worked marvelously well in cleaning clothes because of the light "beating" action they imparted. All of these qualities are missing when you use just the shells of the Soap Nut.
The whole nut or husk.
Just a few nuts (4-6) in a cotton muslin bag should work for an entire load. There will be little or no bubbles during the wash cycle, and it will smell lightly similar to apple cider. They can be used several times and then composted afterwards. They will look mushy and grey when they need to be changed. They can also be used in a powder form as a cleansing cream by adding a small amount of water.
Soap nuts can be used for anything that you would normally use detergent for-washing the car, windows, etc. Some people have used them as a base for shampoos and hand lotions, and as an all purpose cleaner for around the home. They can be used as an anti-microbial for septic systems. Jewelers in India and Indonesia have used them to remove tarnish from jewelry and other precious metals for many centuries.
Soap nuts are hypoallergenic, and can be used safely by people with nut allergies as they are a fruit closely related to the Lycii/Goji berry. There seems to be little information about the internal uses of soap nuts, although they certainly have been used as a solution to clean fruits and vegetables, so the evidence does suggest that they are of a benign nature if ingested.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.