Updated: Feb 8, 2021
Berry good for you, your clothes and the planet
Soap nuts (also called reetha) are the shells of berries that grow on small trees in the Himalayas. Traditionally they've been used in India for clothes washing and bathing because of the way they lather (the shells contain saponin, a surfactant that can be used like soap). Today they're making a bit of a comeback for the eco-conscious for laundry and home-made shampoo.
Even though there are mixed reviews of soap nuts online, I've found them great. And I particularly like that, because they come from trees, growing them means helping combat climate change.
In my experience soap nuts are:
Easy to use - pop them in a cloth bag and put them in the washing machine with your clothes or pre-make a laundry liquid (see below)
Re-useable - each bag can be used for up to 7 washes
Cheap - around £12 per 1kg bag which will give up to 330 washes
Great for coloured clothes and protecting fabrics - no bleach or harsh chemicals
Non-toxic - I first used them for my baby's laundry, and they were especially good when my daughter had eczema
Amazing at cleaning my washing machine during every clothes wash
Soap nuts are also bio-degradable, so can be composted when you're done, and help keep our waterways clean. They work best at high temperatures (40 degrees plus in my experience), however steeping them for a few minutes in a mug of hot water to form a DIY laundry liquid works well if you want to wash at cooler temperatures. Simply pour the steeped liquid into the detergent draw of your machine and run your eco cycle.
Because they are a natural product, they will not bleach your whites and leave a perfumed smell on laundry once it's dry, but adding a few drops of essential oil to your wash (either to the soap nuts themselves or the 'laundry liquid' from them) is a good way around this. My favorite is a few drops of lavendar.
Give it a go. They're obviously a personal preference but there's no harm in giving them a try. If you feel they don't work well for your clothes, you can always use them to make shampoo - recipe coming soon!
We'll be back next Sunday with another Green Cleaning recipe, in the meantime you can keep up-to-date with us here