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Laundry Tree

SoapNuts

Mother Nature's Detergent

It might seem a little nutty to throw a sack of dried brown things, sprinkled with essential oils, into your washing machine in lieu of regular detergent. But there’s precedent: Soapnuts have been used for centuries in Asia and India to clean all kinds of fabrics.

Despite the name, soapnuts aren’t a nut, they’re the berry-like fruit of a tree (Sapindus Mukorossi) found primarily in tropical climates. Their dried shells
contained saponins, a natural alternative to traditional laundry detergents and cleaners. Lisa Albrecht, a mother from Houston, Texas, learned about soapnuts in her search for a gentle laundry detergent without dyes or perfumes that wouldn’t aggravate her son’s allergies, eczema and sensitive skin. She also wanted a detergent without too many suds (to accommodate a high-efficiency washer) and without harsh chemicals. Soapnuts fit the bill — and then some. Besides being hypoallergenic, they’re also biodegradable and antimicrobial, so they’re better for the environment and a great fit for septic and greywater systems.

Today Lisa is spreading the word about nature’s natural detergent through her company, Laundry Tree. Her starter kit contains enough soapnuts and essential oils (your choice of clean cotton, energy or lavender scent) for about 40 loads of laundry. You’ll use three or four nuts for each load of laundry, and you can reuse the same nuts for up to four loads. We’ve also found uses for soapnuts outside the laundry room. If you soak the seeds overnight in boiled water, you’ll get a concentrated liquid that works as a multi-purpose household cleaner, liquid hand soap, and even shampoo.

The folks at Laundry Tree include a sample bag with their kits, so you can pass soapnuts on to a friend. Lisa knows her all-natural detergent alternative might take a little coaxing to try, but it’s a fun experiment, and you just might decide, as we did, that it’s a great idea.

— Ann
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Laundry Tree Soapnuts

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Grommet Launch Conversation

  • Lisa
    Lisa

    Like you, we're huge fans of Daily Grommet. We love learning about the unique stories behind the products featured here, and are thrilled to be able to share our story with you again!

    We also love learning about our customers -- and the issues in their lives that steer them toward this unique solution for clean laundry!

    One of our favorites: Mike, a long-time LaundryTree customer, tells us that before he started using soap nuts for his laundry, everywhere his clothes touched his skin was red and raw. He'd figured out that he was allergic to detergents, but hadn't found a good alternative. Now, he uses soapnuts to get his clothes fresh and clean, and he's no longer bothered by a painful rash.

    Soapnuts are a truly great product for ANYONE who wants clean, fresh laundry. So... what's YOUR laundry story? Can we help you make LaundryTree SoapNuts a part of it?

  • Aliza Earnshaw
    Aliza Earnshaw
    7/28/10 12:30 PM

    I'm curious about the package that gives you 40 loads. Does that mean there are enough nuts for 40 loads of laundry, using the soap nuts once? Or does it mean there are enough nuts for about 10 loads of laundry, and then you re-use the nuts three more times per batch?

    Thanks!

  • Cathy
    Cathy
    7/28/10 1:53 PM

    I bought these a few months ago and was very disappointed to find that I couldn't use them in cold water until I first cooked them on the stove to make a liquid laundry solution. I use cold water for all my laundry and this extra step just isn't practical for me.

  • Kari Cutler
    Kari Cutler
    7/28/10 8:49 PM

    I love the Daily Grommet! (and, BTW, I love the Grommets, every day!) The soapnuts are a great hit with me, always looking for closer to nature ways to eat, clean, and live!

  • Mary Anne
    Mary Anne
    7/28/10 8:53 PM

    This appears to be a great product, the question I have before I place an order is..I am a caregiver for a man who is undergoing chemo then will have a stem cell transplant if everything goes according to plan, he will not much of an immune system when he gets out of the hospital, is this a product I can use to wash his clothes and bedding etc?

  • Lisa
    Lisa – Special Guest
    7/29/10 12:47 AM

    Hi Aliza! Thanks for your question! Soapnuts can be re-used about three times before they have lost their cleaning power; so we include those re-uses in out total load estimates.

    Cathy - It's true that soapnuts work best in warm or hot water. (It is the heat that makes thhem release saponin -- the cleaning agent). Making the liquid version, which we call soapnut soak, is no harder than brewing a pot of tea. It is an extra step, but not a complicated or time-consuming one. (I like to make enough at one time to do several weeks worth of laundry). And then once the liquid is made, you can use it for all the things Joanne mentions in the video and more!

    Hi, Mary Anne! Thanks for your question. From what I understand, dry, irritated skin can be a side-effect of chemo. If for that reason alone, soapnuts would be a great fit for your friend. Soapnuts are gentle on skin AND clothes -- and they don't have manufactured fragrances that can sometimes be an irritation. Soapnuts are antibacterial and antimicrobial, so they're great for cleansing and disinfecting. In this situation, I'd certainly use soapnuts (using hot water where possible). You could also a little tea tree oil to the wash for a disinfectant boost.

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    7/29/10 12:49 AM

    @Kari - thanks for loving what we do!! We are glad you're here!

  • Amy
    Amy
    7/31/10 11:21 AM

    How long is the "shelf life" of Soap Nuts when they are not used, i.e. do the get moldy or dry up? Also, it is stated that Soap Nuts can be used up to 4 loads of laundry; what about when you "brew" the Soap Nuts to make a liquid soap? Can your still get 4 uses out of the Soap Nuts once your "brew" them?

  • Lisa
    Lisa – Special Guest
    8/1/10 9:29 AM

    Hi Amy, what great questions!

    Soapnuts are not perishable and do not have a shelf life. We recommend that you store them in an air-tight container because when exposed to air and humidity, they will naturally absorb moisture and become dark and sticky. However, this “transformation” does not affect their cleaning capabilities — the stickiness means that the saponin is already being released.

    Our load estimates are based on the soapnuts themselves; you will most likely get MORE loads out of your soapnuts if you "brew" them. (We call the resulting liquid Soapnut Soak). Making Soapnut Soak is the most efficient way to use soapnuts -- as you can keep putting them in hot water until they have released ALL their saponin.

    The best way to tell that your soapnuts are spent is to squeeze them when they’re wet. If you see a white, foamy liquid or a honey-like liquid, they still contain saponin and are good for another use.

  • Laura Kerrone
    Laura Kerrone
    8/2/10 11:43 AM

    I bought a bag of soap nuts about 6 months ago, and I use them off and on. They do work well for lightly dirty things, t-shirts and whatnot.

    However, I have found that for stinky stuff like socks, the soap nuts don't cut it. I don't wash in hot water, warm at best, or cold if I can get away with it, and when I wash the stinky loads, they just aren't clean. :( quite sad, I had high hopes for soap nuts, but I still have to supplement some loads with some form of detergent.

  • Lisa
    Lisa – Special Guest
    8/2/10 1:42 PM

    Hi, Laura! I'm so sorry that your experience with your soapnuts weren't all positive! I've successfully washed some REALLY stinky things with them (think pet bedding, very soured laundry, and stinky little boy socks), and some of our favorite testimonials include descriptions of really dirty cloth diaper laundry. I'd love to help you figure out what's going with YOUR soap nuts, so we can restore your hopes for them!

    The first thing I'd check is where your soapnuts come from. There are some inferior species of the soapnut tree that don't work as well as the fruit of the Sapindus Mukorossi (which is what ours are).

    The other thing I'd recommend is maybe adding a couple more soapnuts to your laundry. We recommend that for big or extra-dirty loads. Or, since you prefer cold water washes (as many people do), an even better solution would be to make Soapnut Soak mentioned above, because soapnuts do their best work in very warm or hot water.

    Please don't hesitate to contact me directly for more help!

  • Maggi
    Maggi
    8/5/10 3:27 PM

    How do the soap nuts or ak work in hard water?

  • Lisa
    Lisa – Special Guest
    8/5/10 6:17 PM

    Soapnuts work great in hard water. Our recommendation is to use soapnuts the same as you would with your regular detergent. Then, if you think they need a boost, you can use hard-water additives (such as borax). If you use vinegar to soften your laundry, you can also use it when you use the soapnuts (although you may not need it!)

  • susan
    susan
    10/19/10 3:57 PM

    SOAP NUTS- I live in super hard water- red clay soiled clothing and soap nuts have changed our lives!

    I use 2 muslin bags per was- and when those 6 washes are over- I dry the nuts so later I boil to make a gray spray. This spray hits the bathtub- shower- toiler- doors any thing needing anti bacterial wash. When done- I pour of the sand showing around the driveway. NEVER will I HAUL in HUGE tubs of chemicals to wash .

    good quality soap nuts keep clothes from fading- I never need a dryer sheet- and the clothing smells like it was hung to dry outside.

    Now if someone can invent a bird drop free clothesline- heaven awaits:)

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    10/19/10 6:58 PM

    @susan Lawrence: Thank you for posting about your experience with SoapNuts! I am with you on that bird drop free clothesline!

  • J Gio
    J Gio
    3/21/11 2:54 PM

    I have been using soap berries for about 6 months and I Love them! I just use about 6 berries in a small muslin bag I will never go back to detergent. We have well water and a gray water well so it was important to me to find a safe healthy solution. I also thing its a huge savings because the soap berries last for a long time.

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    3/21/11 2:59 PM

    @J Gio: Thanks for sharing your story. We're glad that you have found a solution that works for you.

  • Barbara
    Barbara
    4/20/11 3:07 PM

    Can soap nuts be used in HE machines? Do they suds?

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    4/20/11 3:42 PM

    @Barbara : SoapNuts are great for HE machines because they don't create many suds but still thoroughly clean your laundry.

  •  Jane
    Jane
    10/27/12 12:42 AM

    What does the 'energy' essential oil smell like?

  • Chew-Hoong
    Chew-Hoong – Grommet Team
    10/28/12 11:41 PM

    @ Jane: The "Energy" blend is a popular favorite with an amazing complement of essential oils of Peppermint, Rosemary, Lemon, and Eucalyptus, that are refreshing, uplifting and revitalizing.

  •  Jane
    Jane
    10/27/12 12:42 AM

    What does the 'energy' essential oil smell like?

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