What’s wrong with my laundry? Soap nuts are not nuts!

Laundry detergent alternative substitute soap nuts scratchmenot

Before children, my main concern about healthy living was what I ate. Organic vs. conventional was the only decision I needed to make. Little did I know I would have children with eczema that would cause me to question just about anything that wasn’t natural.

There’s a whole world of natural that I’m learning about on the journey. It’s eye opening to learn what exactly we are consuming and placing on our bodies. During our first Eczema Twitter Party, I began to learn more about Soap Nuts. First things first, soap nuts are not nuts! This is very important to know that soap nuts are not related to nuts at all. In short, they are dried Himalayan berries which are nicknamed “soap nuts” that contain saponin, a natural soap that releases when agitated in water.  It’s also disinfecting. I was hearing many moms talk about using these over laundry detergent with the same results. Imagine that. I’ve been using various free & clear detergents and gravitated towards detergents that said “natural” on the bottle, but I hadn’t really researched this as I know my children’s eczema was not triggered by detergents, but food. I contacted Kim who makes Yoreganics Soap Nuts to give me more insight on soap nuts and she also gave me some information about many of the ingredients found in traditional laundry detergents.

What’s inside of your laundry detergent?

Did you know laundry detergents contain cancer causing agents? Formaldehyde & ammonia. I never really sat down to dissect the ingredients of detergent before, nor do many detergents list all of the ingredients on the package. My main objective of purchasing detergents before was to remove odor, stains and to smell fresh. Now I have a new goal, make sure I’m not adding harmful chemicals to my family’s clothes and our environment. But do soap nuts really work? Better yet, will they clean my daughter’s ScratchMeNots & our sweaty gym clothes?

I wanted to put soap nuts to the test. Kim reassured me that it was as easy as putting them in the washing machine in a mesh bag and adding clothes. There was also a natural stain remover and brighten & whitener I could use for spots. When my soap nuts arrived, I wondered if I bit off a little too much of mother nature. I’m nervous, yet excited.

Where’s the smell?

After washing my very first load, I noticed one thing that stood out. There was no smell and no scent. Normally when I take a load out of the washer, I get a nose full of a lovely fragrance that makes me have the “ahhhh” moment. Instead there was nothing more than a slight soap nut smell.

My husband (who washed a few loads with the soap nuts) said he was missing that “clean scent”. In a sense, the scent confirms that the clothes are actually clean. Turns out we aren’t the only one addicted to the scent, take a look at this:

The detergent companies add neurostimulant irritants and central nervous system toxins which produce an addictive-type response that may cause the user to experience a feeling of pleasure when the product is directly inhaled.   This is why so many people are actually “addicted” to the scent, and they’ll keep wanting more and more and they don’t feel “clean” unless they smell this scent.  It’s considered the “nicotine of laundry!” -Yoreganics

Who knew? There’s definitely a science behind making laundry detergents. After relaying this information to him, we quickly realized how irrelevant the scent was.And how we haven’t paid attention to the true ingredients.

Here’s what I did:

I put the soap nuts in a lingerie bag and started hot water, then after a minute or so, I switched it to the proper temperature depending on the load of clothes. I left the soap nuts inside for the entire cycle (even the rinse cycle) and removed them when it was time to dry to the load. When washing the kid’s loads, I don’t use dryer sheets. Soon I will be be using wool dryer balls. Once the clothes were dry, I opened the dryer to light fluffy clean clothes. EASY.  After I tried soap nuts on their own, I added Tea Tree oil as boost antibacterial / disinfecting agent to our sweaty gym clothes. All of the clothes came out smelling like Tea Tree Oil, yet after drying them there was no smell. Which is great, I don’t want to smell like Tea Tree Oil! I also washed ScratchMeNots, whites, & darks with soap nuts alone. Tea Tree oil can be an irritant to baby’s skin.

UPDATE: My husbands gym clothes are extra sweaty and smelly as he’s a runner. We now put them on a soak cycle for 30-60 minutes with the soap nuts and tea tree oil before washing. This knocks the smell right out!

With baby clothes, there’s one thing that happens frequently. Stains! I used Yoreganics Stain Remover containing: *saponified organic coconut, olive and jojoba oils, *organic aloe vera, *organic blend of essential oils and rosemary extract.

Every now and then, my whites need a pick me up, so I tried Yoreganics Brightens & Whitens containing: Sodium percarbonate (solid version of hydrogen peroxide) & sodium carbonate (soda ash) Both of which are non-hazardous. Put them outside in the sun for an additional boost 🙂

How great is this, I know now exactly what our clothes are washed with! This is wonderful news for those with sensitive skin.

My Results & photos:


You’ll see below how soap nuts worked for our baby clothes. The soap nuts cleaned equally to traditional laundry detergent. I added a little of Brightens & Whitens to do just that. To remove spots as needed, I gave the Stain Remove a try.

My results for ScratchMeNots & photos:

Soap nuts worked like a charm for our ScratchMeNots. Unless you have light colored ScratchMeNots, I wouldn’t recommend using Brightens & Whitens for them as it also brightens the color of them. Leaving the Stain Remover on cream/oil stains for a couple of hours helped lift the stains, but did not fully remove them. This is probably due to the excessive amount of creams and oils my daughter needs to use for her eczema. This is about equivalent to traditional laundry detergent. Which means I can now wash our ScratchMeNots knowing exactly what they are being washed in and not miss using laundry detergent. I’m still searching for an all natural way to remove heavy/deep oil stains.

Wild Thing Green Mitten: The dark areas on the right are oil/cream stains.

Final Verdict:

Soap Nuts does the job naturally and is a wonderful alternative to traditional laundry detergent. Our family has made the switch and we aren’t looking back. It’s also neat to see others’ reaction when I talk about using soap nuts for our laundry. Great conversation starter! To learn more about soap nuts or more ways to use them, check out Yoreganics. Take a look at what’s really inside of your laundry detergent.

But what about dryer sheets? We stopped using dryer sheets as well. For the most part, we’ve found we don’t need them. For clothes, blankets, etc that have that static cling, we may start using wool dryer balls. We’re still learning about this natural, toxic free laundry life!

*Should you decide to buy from the links included, I may receive a small compensation at no cost to you. (Probably equivalent to an organic carrot, ha!)


6 thoughts on “What’s wrong with my laundry? Soap nuts are not nuts!

  1. Carrie says:

    I usually use All Free & Clear for all our regular laundry and Planet detergent for cloth diapers. I think I may give the soap nuts a try though. Thanks for the info, Andrea!

  2. Andrea Thomas says:

    No problem Carrie! We’ve been using soap nuts for over a month now and my husband made a random remark. He said after using soap nuts for some time, he can really tell how artificial traditional laundry soap smells. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much
    (if not more)!

  3. travis says:

    I’m boiling soap nuts for the first time: they STINK. Everyone in the house is running out of the kitchen. I’m worried if I use the liquid for laundry, hand soap, etc, I will smell like this. It’s really gross. Any advice for first time user?

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Travis,

      Yes the initial smell isn’t welcoming! I was worried about how our clothes would smell also! I thought the clothes would smell just like the soap but turns out after the clothes are washed they have a slight soap nut smell but once the clothes are dried in the dryer, the clothes don’t have a smell at all.

      I place the soap nuts in a delicates mesh bag, I haven’t tried the liquid soap version as hand soap. I’m looking forward to what others say 🙂

  4. Benjamin Hogge says:

    I just started using soap nuts a few days ago after receiving a case to try for free. I’m just coming off a stint of using detergent from the all natural company Honest.com so I was already use to not having suds or a “detergent smell”. These things actually do what they say and I was pleasantly surprised. We just place them in the little bag and let it sit in the hot water until the washer is 1/4 way full then I add the clothes.

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