I got excited.
Here was an all-natural, efficient and planet-friendly solution to commercial detergents! It took me all of a nanosecond to abandon ALL of my regular laundry products and replace them with this little bag of drupes – for a full year – for everything I washed.
When I say everything, I mean
and everything else that made its way into the washing machine
'Methinks this woman is mad'. (I clearly heard you think that)
But I learned a whole heck of a lot of things about using soapnuts for laundry. And because you may just find my observations and experiences useful, I'm going to share them with you.
Soapnuts - The Basics
To do a load of laundry, it takes a mere 5-6 nuts (if you have water that is relatively soft). These are placed in a small muslin bag that is tied shut and dropped into the washing machine. (The bag is even included when you buy the soapnuts). One bag will last for 4-5 washes, so they are very economical to use.
Some folks don't like the smell of soapnuts (they are a bit vinegar-like). Adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to the bag before putting it into the washing machine transforms the scent of the emerging laundry to a more neutral soapy-clean scent. Because we have very hard water where I live, I found 9-10 nuts per full load was optimal. I also added the lavender essential oil (as I am not a big fan of vinegar-scented clothes and sheets).
Where They Shine
Soapnuts work well
- for colored silks
- for colored cotton
- for colored linen
- for colored wool
- for colored delicates
I know you're seeing a pattern here, and you are indeed spot-on. Soapnuts are great for natural fabrics that have color.
Much as I hate to admit it, there are things soapnuts really suck at. Washing whites and lighter colors eventually results in 'grays' (or, to be more precise, one might say 'browns'). Well, judge for yourself by checking the bags in this picture. The one on the left has been through 2 washes, and the one on the right has been through about 50 washes. The 'darkening' is a very gradual process. It wasn't until I decided to switch to a new bag that I noticed how much the color had dulled.
Soapnuts have an annoying habit of staining what they come into direct contact with (like the little muslin bags). The higher the washing temp, the more they stain.
This is a good reason to learn how to tie the bag shut in such a manner that the soapnuts have no chance of escape during a wash cycle.
Because if they do – this is what happens to your lovely white sheets (the brown splotches part – not the green rings part. I added those on purpose so you could see the brown splotches part more clearly).
Which is why I have gone back to my old laundry detergent for whites, but still prefer using soapnuts for colored fabrics washed at lower temps.
Have you ever used soapnuts for laundry? What were your experiences with it?
Read more about soapnuts here