Everything You Need to Know About Soapnuts

6 min read
Everything You Need to Know About Soapnuts

Soapnuts are a terrific natural and frugal alternative to laundry detergents and also other household cleaning products.

Many have never even heard of soapnuts before, and there are lots of questions being asked about them.

Here are some answers to some of the commonly asked questions so you can get to know soapnuts a little better!

What are Soapnuts?

Soapnuts are not actually nuts (nor are they related to nuts in any way!) – they are a macadamia-sized berry that is cracked open and dried in the sun, producing a dark golden ‘shell’.

These shells (known as ‘soapnuts’)  contain a very high percentage of saponins (Mother Nature’s soap), a surfactant which removes dirt and oils from clothing when contacted with water.

Where do Soapnuts come from?

Soapnuts grow wild in the Himalayan foothills in India. The berries fall from the trees when ripe and are collected from the ground by local Indian families during Autumn each year.

The fallen berries are then cracked open, the seeds removed and the shells left to dry in the sun. Then they’re weighed and packed into boxes and exported.

Our wholesaler uses village-friendly practices including fair pay and treatment for its workers.

Are fair trade practices used in the harvest of Soapnuts?

Aussie suppliers support small communities in the Himalayan foothills and believe in fair trade practices.

Usually these products are imported via sea freight so as to have a minimal carbon footprint.

Are Soapnuts organic?

Our soapnuts are grown in the wild with no chemicals added such as fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides.

So yes, they sure are, but do not have the Certified Organic classification yet.

Can people with nut allergies use soapnuts?

Yes!  Soapnuts are not technically a nut, but are actually a berry from the Sapindus mukorossi tree, so will not pose any risk to those with known nut allergies.


Are Soapnuts safe to use for those with sensitive skin?

Yes, they are. Soapnuts are completely hypoallergenic, as in, are not likely to agitate or irritate the skin.

They are so gentle that they are recommended for use by people with eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions.

There are rare cases that people can develop allergies to soapnuts, but this is highly unlikely and all in all they are extremely safe to use.

Are Soapnuts safe to use with septic systems and as grey water for the garden?

Most definitely! Soapnuts are totally natural and environmentally friendly and free from chemicals which can damage septics.

Do Soapnuts work as well as normal laundry detergent?

Definitely!  They tend to work better on a normal wash….you may need to use stain removers for more stubborn dirt and stains.

Soapnuts have a weird smell – will this make my clothes smell if I use them in the washing machine?

No – the soapnuts will leave no residual smell on your clothes, linen or towels.

If you want to make your clothes smell nice, all you need to do is add a few drops of pure essential oils in with your wash.

So what do they smell like?

They have a distinctive vinegar smell – and you know how we feel about vinegar here at Stay at Home Mum – awesome stuff!

How many do I use in a wash?

4-6 full soapnuts in a cotton bag or an old sock (and tie at the end)  and pop it in with the wash. 3-4 full soapnuts are needed for a half load.

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When I use the Soapnuts in my washing machine, how do I know when they need to be thrown out?

Soapnuts start off as a lovely deep brown colour when fresh – after a few uses they lose their colour and become more of a light brown, almost grey colour.

If you give them a light squeeze and there’s still a soapy feel to them, they still have some use left in them.

Typically, they will be good for 4 to 6 wash cycles in your washing machine. When they are no longer fresh, just throw them out in your garden or pop them in the compost.

How do I stop the Soapnut shells from sticking to my clothes when I wash them and making a mess in my machine?

It’s best to put the soapnuts in the provided wash bag (muslin or calico is best) or even in an old sock tied at one end – this way they won’t make a big mess!

Can I use them in hot and cold water?

Yes! They are equally as effective in both hot and cold water.

They do tend to last a little longer in cold water as the hotter water activates the saponin slightly more.

Can I use them in any type of washing machine?

Yes! They are terrific in both front loaders and top loaders, old or new!

Can I wash my baby’s cloth nappies/MCNs with Soapnuts?

Yes you can! MCN distributors actually recommend it!

Will they wash my husband’s greasy, grimy work clothes effectively?

Some people say yes, others say not really – our recommendation is that you should pre-soak these types of heavily soiled clothes first or use a pre-wash stain remover , then just wash the clothes as normal with the soapnuts.

How “soapy” or bubbly do the Soapnuts get?

Soapnuts do have a soapy feel when wet, but otherwise when they are first delivered to you they will be either a bit sticky or sometimes they’ll be dry (but the water will activate the soap).

Soapnuts will generate a light foamy bubble (like normal detergents) but this diminishes once the soapnut has been used a few times, and they are low “sudsing” so are suitable for front loader washing machines and dishwashers.

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How do I store Soapnuts ?

Unused soapnuts are fine stored in a ziplock bag in a cupboard. In between uses you can just leave them sitting in your washing machine (in the sock or cotton bag) or you can sit them on a saucer on your laundry bench. They don’t need to be kept moist.

So they are great to use in the laundry, do they have other uses around the home as well? 

They most certainly do! They can be used in your dishwasher and as a general all-purpose cleaner and pest repellent! Check out our Soapnut Recipes!

Where can I buy Soapnuts?

We have a list of stockists right here!

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About Author

Nicole Millard

Nicole is Stay at Home Mum's amazeballs Social Media Manager. She has a wicked sense of humour and terrible taste in sandals. Her temper is legendar...Read Morey and she has the two cutest kids in the entire planet - and the tallest husband! She was a Gympie girl but now resides in Brisvegas and likes a good wine or two! Read Less

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