The Coupon Lady: Soap nuts get laundry clean without chemicals

I am thankful for the many friends I have made here in Augusta over the years.


I have one friend who is my go-to for information on gluten-free and clean eating because of her family’s allergies. Two more friends readily share their tips on living a lifestyle free of chemicals and preservatives as much as possible because of personal health issues.

Several others are like me and constantly seek ways for their families to be healthier. Their posts constantly inspire me to try new products and do-it-yourself home economic “projects”.

Although I doubt I will ever be good at baking my own bread since any attempt refuses to rise properly, I will at least make sure to purchase bread that is multi-grain and whole wheat instead of white. I’ve also learned that baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice will clean just about anything, and essential oils work great to relieve stress headaches.

A few weeks ago, I shared on Facebook that I have been researching natural alternatives to cleaning products because of my father’s ongoing medical issues, which include skin sensitivities.

One of my friends asked me if I’d ever heard of using soap nuts and wool dryer balls instead of laundry detergent and softening products. I had never heard of soap nuts, and she shared her discovery with me.

Soap nuts are the berry of a plant species called Sapindus. The plant grows all over the world, but the most common ones that are sold on the market come from Asia.

According to Ency­clo­pedia Britannica, the plant contains high concentrations of saponin, a natural surfactant, which is what actually lifts out the dirt in clothing when you wash your clothes.

The Asian varieties contain up to 37 percent saponin in the berry.

The soap nuts are cut in half, deseeded and dried. To use, put five to 6 nuts into a drawstring bag and add the bag to your load of laundry. The nuts will wash between four and 10 loads depending on the amount of saponin in the berry and the water conditions in your area. The berry works in both regular washers and HE washers without difficulty.

Once the berry is used up, it turns from a deep purple or dark brown color to grey. Once the saponin has been removed from the soap nut, you can compost the rest of the material.

When I asked a few of my friends if they had ever heard of soap nuts, I found out that several were already using them.

What intrigued me most is that they all claimed that the soap nuts reduced eczema flare-ups among family members and virtually eliminated diaper rashes on their children.

In addition to being gentle on the skin and environmentally friendly, soap nuts are also economically friendly. A common brand that contains enough nuts for 100 loads of laundry sells for less than $10 on Amazon, so each load of laundry costs just under 10 cents.

What impresses me most about these berries is that usually organic or natural products cost way more than traditional cleaners. This method is cost competitive to most laundry detergents.

When my own package of soap nuts arrived, I was a little surprised when I opened the container. The berry doesn’t have a soapy smell, even after washing. However, the clean smell becomes stronger once the items are dry. I was very pleased after I washed a load of towels. In an HE machine, towels can sometimes get a musty smell that stays behind after washing. The soap nuts removed that smell completely.

In addition to soap nuts, I purchased a set of three wool dryer balls. The wool balls are used to make clothes softer without the use of chemicals. The balls also shorten drying time, saving you money in energy costs.

If you have an HE machine, I recommend six balls for the best results. You can also inject a tiny amount of essential oil into them to scent your clothes naturally if you miss having a scent in your clothing.

I am pleased with my new discovery and will continue to experiment with them.