Greener Home: Washing Clothes with Soap Nuts

August 10, 2014
Washing Clothes with Soap Nuts

Yes, you read that correctly! Soap nuts, a.k.a. soap berries are promoted as a chemical-free way to get your whites their whitest—and more.

When my fiancé and I travelled through New Mexico en route to our new home in Corpus Christi, TX, we stopped in a sweet, handmade soap store in Albuquerque. Gabby’s Homemade Soaps may look like your typical, quaint, kitchen-made body goods shop, but the more time we spent there, the more we realized how both scientific research and knowledge of various wellness traditions informed each product—and Gabby’s offers so much more than hand soap.

From headache soothing oil blends to doggie soap, everything is handmade and 100% natural. The founder, a biochemist, works to create alternative products that are both healthier and more effective than their conventional counterparts. (I can’t help but picture him gathering armfuls of wildflowers to bring back to his teched-out lab.)

After filling my basket with sumptuous-smelling soaps like vanilla sandalwood (currently scenting my bathroom at the moment), a charming, barefoot girl working in the store urged me to try a sample bag of soap nuts

Washing Clothes with Soap Nuts

Only the husks are necessary to create a gentle lather.

Native to India and Nepal, the husks of soap nuts contain saponin, a natural detergent. Six to eight husks in a muslin bag can do up to ten loads, no detergent or fabric softener needed. The saponins loosen grime, dirt, and oil from your clothes and, as we were told, will make our clothes smell like they’d been hung out to dry on a spring day. 

And dryer sheets? You can forget them, apparently. Soap nuts should leave clothes feeling soft and comfy. 

I’m pretty devoted to my Honest Company liquid laundry detergent, but I was willing to give these little soap berries a try. I was especially curious to test out this whole “spring day fresh” business, so I threw the bag of soap nuts in with a big load of our moving clothes—you know, the clothes we wore moving things out of our old third-story apartment and into our new third-story apartment! (Translation: we were sweaty.)

The results? When I held the washed, damp clothes to my nose, they smelled faintly sweet—dare I say like a spring day? While this sweetness didn’t linger on the dried clothes, they certainly smelled fresh and clean. I don’t know if my whites were whiter, but my clothes are certainly soft. I’m pleasantly surprised! 

I definitely plan to keep using my soap berries until they’ve given up the ghost. (When they’re kind of grey and mushy, you know it’s time to toss ’em). Fortunately, Gabby’s ships internationally, so I don’t ever have to be without them–or vanilla sandalwood soap 🙂

Have you tried any adventures in alternative laundry? Do tell!

Also by Mary: Interview – Raw Foodist Sarma Melngailis

Love: When Mr. Right isn’t The One

Natural Beauty: Are Petroleum Products Safe?

Raw Collard Veggie Wraps with Moroccan Nut Pate


Photos: Mary Hood

Peaceful Dumpling Beauty Editor and creator of Bisou du Jour, Mary Hood Luttrell lives with her husband in Corpus Christi, Texas. Mary is a freelance writer and writing and blogging consultant. A lover of whole foods, Mary delights in learning new ways to prepare vegan dishes. Mary also enjoys reading and writing poetry, art journaling, running, and practicing yoga and ballet. Follow Mary on her blog Bisou du Jour, Instagram and Pinterest.


always stay inspired!