Soapberries. You may have heard of them being sold as a natural laundry detergent, but what are soapberries? Do soapberries work? How do you use soapberries? These are all very good questions which we will answer below!
What are soapberries?
First of all, soapberries are NOT nuts, despite sometimes being referred to as soap nuts. They are the shell that comes around the berries/fruit of the Sapindus Mukorossi tree. They are referred to as soap nuts as after they are dried and packed for use they become hard and nut like.
Where do soapberries come from?
The Sapindus Mukorossi tree soapberries come from can be found in various countries. Largely in Asia (India, Nepal and China) but closely related trees can be found in other regions and have been used for similar purposes.
Nepal is one of the most prevalent areas for Sapindus Mukorossin trees. In our opinion they also are of significant quality. That is why we stock Australian brand That Red House. Their soapberries are harvested from wild trees in the pristine Himalayan mountains of Nepal, by small local communities.
Are soapberries environmentally friendly?
Soapberries are incredibly environmentally friendly. They have zero waste, are biodegradable/compostable and won’t release any chemicals into the environment. Purchasing from That Red House creates a demand for their Nepalese suppliers. This helps prevent the deforestation of soapberry trees in Nepal.
They are also sustainably and ethically sourced. That Red House supports the ‘Grow Nepal’ initiative which ensures a fair wage and working conditioners for Nepalese workers/farmers. No pesticides, fertilisers or chemical treatments are used in the growing or storing process. This ensures that nothing but 100% natural organic products are used in your home. That Red House soapberries are certified organic by both the USDA and EcoCert.
How do soapberries work?
The shell is exceptionally high in 'saponin' which is nature's soap. This saponin content reduces the surface tension of the water so it will remove dirt and leave fabrics, soft and clean.
What are the other benefits of soapberries?
- Hypo-allergenic. Perfect for those with allergies or sensitive skin. Safe to use on baby skin and bay clothes.
- Money saving. Soapberries cost around 10c per wash load for a 1kg bag. Compared to conventional washing powders, they can save you a great deal over the course of a year.
- Completely chemical free, grey water safe, septic safe and fully compostable.
- Soapberries eliminate the need for fabric softeners as they leave clothes feeling soft and fresh.
- 'That Red House' soapberries are also certified organic by international certification body Ecocert and USDA. That Red House is also 100% Australian owned.
- Soapberries are very versatile and multipurpose. They can be used as laundry detergent, shampoo, hand wash, household cleaner, body wash and have many more applications.
- Naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.
- Odourless (and kill odour causing bacteria on your clothes).
What are the drawbacks of soapberries?
- Not effective at removing stains. You will need to use a separate stain remover/pre-soak treatment such as Kin Kin Naturals soak and stain remover, which we highly recommend!
- They won't work in a cold wash, which is the most energy saving and cost effective way to wash clothes.You can work around this by soaking in warm water beforehand but a warm wash (NOT hot) is still probably more effective.
- We also don't notice much of a difference in terms of fabric softness despite some claiming it works well as a fabric softener.
- If you leave soapberries sitting in the washing machine against laundry after a wash it can leave a residue/stain, which is especially noticeable on whites. We recommend taking them out right away or at the start of the rinse cycle.
- Some people aren't a fan of the smell. We think it has a fairly plain fresh smell that isn't very strong but this can be a deal breaker for some.
How to use soapberries?
Using soapberries to clean your laundry is easy!
♦ Simply add 5 whole shells (or equivalent) to the provided wash bag, and throw it in the machine.
♦ You can also add some essential oils to the wash to add beautiful aroma to your clothes, our favorite is lavender.
♦Each set of shells will do approximately 5 wash loads, depending on water temperature and wash cycle, etc. Hotter temperatures will make them degrade faster (they may only last 3 washes instead of 5). Cold water may not draw out as much saponin as you would like from the shells. Ideally, we recommend using a warm (not hot – 40 degrees is ideal) wash or soaking in warm water for 5 minutes before using in a cold wash to activate them.
♦ After you use the set for couple of times, just take them out of the wash bag and pop them into your compost or in your garden and let nature take its course.
You can make a potent multi-purpose liquid by boiling the berries for 15 mins, and use the liquid for anything from a shampoo to a cleaner. Check out our guide to making your own soapberry products here.
Did you find this article useful? Have you used soapberries in your household? Want to get started but have more questions? Be sure to let us know! We welcome your comments.