5 Reasons to Love Soap Berries + How to Use Them

Note from Naturally Loriel: Today’s exciting DIY comes from Amanda of Refocus on Being. I first was introduced to Amanda through Scratch Mommy’s contributor team but Amanda has quickly become a close friend of mine. She’s written some fantastic posts on Scratch Mommy and is truly knowledgeable in all DIY stuff.

This week has been “Spring Cleaning Week” on Naturally Loriel, and although I love my incredibly easy DIY cleaners, I thought you all might enjoy a little variation in case you’re itching to really get your DIY hands wet.

If you haven’t checked Amanda out, you MUST check out her version of Kid’s Monster Spray and this DIY Essential Oil Diffuser Locket Necklace tutorial. I’m so excited to have you here Amanda — thanks for joining us!

I don’t know about you, but just as I am not interested in ingesting harmful food or using toxic products on my body, I do not want to wash my family’s clothing in detergents that contain irritants and other ingredients that will be rubbing up against our skin and eventually being absorbed by our pores. And the same goes for dish detergent that I am soaking my hands in, and washing my dishes with.

And just how safe are those “natural” detergents anyway? To provide you an example of something that is marketed for those with the most delicate and sensitive of skin, just check out how Seventh Generation’s Natural 2x Concentrated Baby Liquid Laundry Detergent Free & Clear breaks down to receive a D rating from the EWG (Environmental Working Group). I was blown away to discover that some ingredients can cause developmental and endocrine effects! I would want to find something that truly was natural, and as safe as can possibly be.

One of my favorite things to do is peruse Pinterest and save amazing recipes so that I can (someday) make my own homemade detergent. Although I do this with the best of intentions, I have never actually gotten around to making anything. And the closest I’ve come to making natural dish soap has been to use castile soap (Dr. Bronners is my all-time favorite) mixed with essential oils.

Then I found soap berries (or some call them soap nuts). It was like a dream come true. Here was something completely non-toxic, easy to use, affordable, and you can even make a concentrated cleaner with them and really expand their usefulness! Aside from Branch Basics, this is one of the only other cleaners/detergents I would feel safe enough to use on a baby (and everyone else in my family for that matter!).

5 Reasons to Love Soap Berries (Nuts):

1. Truly non-toxic, yet effective: Soap berries contain saponin, a completely natural detergent which is released when the soap nut shell absorbs water. Native to India and Nepal, they are a truly non-toxic and allergen-free detergent and cleaner option (source).

2. No Waste: For those interested in a no waste cleaning option, this is it! After they are fully used, they can be composted, leaving no waste products behind! Now I apparently must start composting (another thing on my to-do list that has yet to be accomplished).

3. Simple: For laundry, it doesn’t get more simple than this: just place 5-6 in the little muslin bag that they come with and toss in the washing machine. They will generally last for about 10 loads before looking and feeling mushy and needing to be replaced (I typically get about 8 loads before I deem them fully used).

I have also read that since they don’t produce suds, they can be used in front loading washers. Take note: if you wash with cold water you’ll want to soak your bag of soap nuts in a cup of hot water for a couple minutes to help release the saponins that don’t release with cold water. I always forget about the cup of hot water, so I end up running a very small amount of hot water into the washer, and then I throw the bag in and allow it to sit for a minute or so before changing over to the cold water setting and adding the clothes in.

4. Affordable: Compared to other non-toxic cleaners and detergents, soap nuts are very inexpensive. Now, I have yet to make my own powdered or liquid detergent, but I have looked at recipes and the cost breakdown seems to be better with the soap berries. And for me, a busy mom of 5 year old twins, it’s easier than having to make my own, which I appreciate!

5. Multi-Use: Once you make a simple and effective concentrated cleaner from your soap nuts, you will find a myriad of uses for it throughout your home. You can use it to hand wash dishes in your sink, to wash dishes in your dishwasher, to clean bathroom surfaces (including your bathtub and toilet) and kitchen surfaces, and even as a fruit and veggie wash (make sure to rinse with clean, cold water after cleaning food)! I was also so excited to come across a DIY natural shampoo recipe that is made from soap berries by Wellness Mama! I’ve been hesitant to try the no-poo method, but this is something I could definitely get behind trying.

When making a concentrated cleaner…

…the basic guideline I have always followed is to use 8 soap berries to each cup of water. Find soap berries here.

I always make a double batch (so, 2 cups of water and 16 soap berries).

  1. Put your water into a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil on the stove.
  2. Once it boils, add your soap berries and turn the heat down to simmer.
  3. Let everything simmer for a total of about 1 hour (halfway through, I usually use a clean spoon to smush them and squeeze the saponin out of them, then allow them to continue to simmer for the remainder of the time).
  4. After about an hour, turn the heat off and allow the cleaner to cool completely.
  5. The best thing to use to strain them is in cheesecloth!
  6. The spent berries are safe to compost or throw away; Keep the cleaner in the refrigerator in a glass mason jar.

You can now use it as an all-purpose cleaner in your dishwasher, for doing dishes by hand, and in your washing machine! And you can have complete confidence that the cleaner you are using is safe enough for all members of your family, and the environment.

If you don’t feel like making your own cleaner, try out three of the easiest DIY cleaners made with Branch Basics soap and essential oils!

Amanda is the creator and writer for Refocus On Being, providing inspiration on living life authentically while pursuing passions and doing what we love. She is an aspiring homesteader living in Maine with her amazing boyfriend, Jedi son and Princess daughter (twins!) and a very furry Maine Coon cat named Simone. After leaving the corporate world to become a work at home mom, she empowers and inspires people to follow their heart and embrace life. In addition to writing about being a highly successful Adult Child of an Alcoholic, she is passionate about being a mom, strives for self-sufficiency, loves to live creatively, enjoys teaching others about healthy living, and has a borderline obsession with all things organizational.

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  1. I love soap nuts!!! How much of the concentrate should be used for the dishwasher, hand washing dishes and the washing machine? Also, should it be diluted when being used as an all purpose cleaner in a spray bottle? Thank you for the recipe.

    1. Hi Laura. Thanks for your awesome questions! Sounds like you love soap berries as much as I do and want to use them for as much as possible. For the dishwasher, I usually fill up the little detergent area (I actually measured today and it came to be about 2 tbsp), and make sure to have white vinegar with a few drops of essential oils in the rinse aid part (I love to use doTerra’s Purify, or Lemon or anything citrusy for this purpose). For hand washing dishes you’ll probably use 1-2 tbsp depending how many dishes you are doing, and for the washing machine probably 2 tbsp (I tend to just use the whole nuts in the small muslin bag for washing clothes, and I put a few drops of essential oils on the bag too). I use a 4 oz glass bottle when I use a spray cleaner and fill it by thirds – 1/3 filtered water, 1/3 vinegar, 1/3 soap berries concentrate (you can even add in some essential oils too, about 10 drops or so, or even omit the vinegar if you don’t want that, I just find it to work well with this combo). You may have to experiment to find the perfect ration for your needs and water type (it does make a difference). Have a wonderful day!

  2. Thank you for this information about the soap berries. I just bought some and this information is a huge help. I would not have known to soak the berries in hot water in advance of washing in cold water, as I wash most loads in cold. Thank you!

    1. Hi there! I am so glad you found this information to be helpful, and it was such perfect timing too! Soaking them first in the hot water definitely is the best method and will allow the soap berries to work their full power to clean your clothes. Enjoy!

  3. I’ve been using them in my laundry and have no objection to their efficiency, but I have a front loading washer and have no choice but to leave the berry bag in for the complete cycle as I have no idea when the wash cycle ends, so I find that the berries only last for a few loads. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Marcy. I actually do the same thing, and I have a top loading older washing machine. To be truthful, I am not really interested in digging through wet laundry to dig a tiny bag out (I’d probably have a hard time finding it!). The guideline I have heard is that 5-6 soap berries in the little muslin bag will generally last for about 10 loads before looking and feeling mushy and needing to be replaced. I find that I get anywhere from 5-8 loads out of each bag. I have started adding a few drops (4-6) of essential oil (a purifying / cleansing blend) that I drop right into the water while it is filling (you could also drop them right onto the muslin bag instead) and I find that it helps with effectiveness.
      As for making them last longer, I am not 100% sure as I just sort of go with it the way it is! I figure even with getting less loads out of each bag than anticipated, that I am still saving money and am using a great, safe, non-toxic product.
      ~ Amanda

  4. Thanks so much for posting this! I’ve been saving my used soap nuts since I heard you can use them to make a liquid cleaner (I was just composting them before). I’ve got the water and berries on the stove and am looking forward to seeing how everything turns out. P.S. Happy holidays to you and yours!

  5. I have been making a soap berry concentrate for my laundry for a couple of years and love it. I take the concentrate and freeze it in ice cube trays, then drop a cube in the laundry (like a Tide pod) and don’t have to worry about it spoiling before I use it all. Then I use the spent (boiled) berries by letting them dry and running them in an old coffee bean grinder to make a powdered detergent for the dishwasher. Doing my best to go zero waste : )

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