How to Do Laundry Almost Free, Naturally!

According to statistics, an average American family of four spends around $185 on laundry detergent annually.¹ Add another $39 for bleach, and $66 for fabric softener. That’s a lot of money going down the drain. (No pun intended!) And it doesn’t even take into account the toll all those chemical products take on the environment.

But you can do laundry almost free! Just switch to soap nuts! We did years ago, and have never regretted it! Here in Italy, we pay about €15 ($16) for 1 kilo (2.2 lbs), which lasts us about two years! And that’s a great savings!

Soap Nuts, the only organic laundry detergent that grows on trees:

  • Reusable: each nut can be used up to 6 times before it’s spent
  • Simple: just throw them in with the wash or make into liquid
  • Affordable: less costly than detergents & can replace multiple cleaners
  • 100% certifiably organic: no harmful ingredients, non-toxic
  • Sustainable and renewable
  • Non-polluting: 100% compostable & safe for graywater systems
  • Eco friendly: less processing, energy, and packaging
  • Water & energy saving: require fewer & shorter rinse cycles
  • Vegan: most liquid laundry detergents contain animal fats
  • Front-loading friendly: produce few suds, so perfect for HE machines
  • Antimicrobial: naturally disinfect clothes & surfaces
  • Natural softener: eliminate need for fabric softeners
  • Leave no soap residue: no rinsing required
  • Gentle: safe on all fabrics, even silk and wool
  • Cloth diaper safe: and delicate enough for infants
  • Fragrance free: or add your own essential oils
  • Hypoallergenic: no skin or respiratory irritations
  • Not actually nuts: totally safe even with nut allergies
  • Easy to travel with: no liquids to spill or get through customs
  • Indefinite storage: keep in a cool, dry place

But just what are soap nuts?

They aren’t really nuts at all, but the dried fruit shells of the Sapindus Mukurossi tree. So they are also called, more accurately, Soap Berries. They contain a natural substance called saponin; which is released by warm water and agitation. By the way soap in Italian is sapone! So soap nuts are essentially natural soap, used for centuries in places like India and Nepal for laundry, cleaning, bathing, and dish washing!

2 Ways to Wash Clothes with Soap Nuts:

Method #1 Use whole nuts.

This method only works with warm water of 30°C (86°F) or higher. But it gives you the advantage of reusing them 6-10 times (see below*). Note: they produce few suds. Manufactured detergents contain unnecessary chemicals to make them more bubbly. But suds are nothing more than air trapped in the soap molecules, which do nothing to boost cleaning power!

  • Unlike DIY laundry detergents, there’s no mixing involved.
  • Tear 5-6 of the shells into pieces, by hand.
  • Place in the small cotton bag (included), tie shut, and throw in with clothes.
  • For a bit of fragrance, put a few drops of essential oil on the bag.
  • Leave in for the entire cycle; they leave no residue.
  • Reuse right away or hang bag to dry until next load.
  • If you forget and toss it in the dryer? No harm done, just keep reusing.

*How to tell when the soap nuts are spent? When the nuts become mushy and no suds squeeze out in hot water. Either squeeze the edge of a berry, or squeeze the bag in water to test them. The nuts will also get less and less shiny as the soap gets consumed. Hot water tends to consume them more quickly.

Method #2 Make into liquid.

Check out our simple recipe! It’s quick, easy, and involves almost no mess! Pour ¼ cup of the liquid into washer; it works well even with totally cold water.

How well do soap nuts work?

  • Goodbye fabric softener! Soap nuts naturally soften fabric! Trust us. We don’t have a clothes dryer, but even jeans and towels always come out soft and fluffy! (Although this may change with extremely hard water.)
  • They do not remove all stains. But we’ve never yet found a detergent that does! They all seem to need some help.
  • And one drawback (for some people) is that they’re odorless. They leave absolutely no scent on your clothes. So some people add essential oils. But we find this an unnecessary expense. For us, it was more a matter of getting used to the simple smell of ‘clean’.

So what laundry boosters do I use?

  • Stain removal: a bit of organic, biodegradable dish soap on stains; it’s a great degreaser and safe on fabrics.
  • Whiteners: 1 tbsp gentle, organic lye soap (lasciva, in Italian). Or 1 tbsp citric acid (which also softens).
  • Odor fighter: Rub a bit of dry baking soda on underarm area of dry garments. (Do not use on silk or wool.)

An extra advantage to soap nuts:

Soap nuts are great to travel with. No liquids to spill or cause check-in problems. They’re lightweight, take up almost no room, and a few go a long way!! (Some countries, however, do prohibit the entry of agricultural products.)

We wish we’d discovered them much earlier! And we think you will too!

[Image ©TheScorziellos-Sheila]

Some places to start your research: UK, USAAustralia, or Italia; not affiliate links. I’ll leave it to you to find the best prices for your area.

References: Smartklean, DIY Natural, Sustainable Baby Steps, Eco Nuts.

2 thoughts on “How to Do Laundry Almost Free, Naturally!

    1. You’re more than welcome Cynthia! Hope they work out for you. I love them and would never go back to detergents. My 1 kg bag just lasts and lasts. And breezing right by the detergent aisle is such a great feeling!!


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