Do soapnuts really work?


I have written about soap nuts as a potential variation on homemade laundry detergent earlier. The most typical question you get about these “nuts” is almost invariably: do they really work?

In short, yes they do. At least on moderately dirty laundry – which is what most modern people are washing most of the time anyway – the results are perfectly adequate.

But don’t take my word for it.

Nadiah from Playing Fair has done an extensive experiment on comparing fair trade soap nuts to regular detergent. Her conclusion is that:

“New Internationalist’s Soapnuts are at least half the price of normal laundry detergent, and they are natural, organic, biodegradeable, compostable, and WFTO recognised Fair Trade. Soapnuts also perform just as well as normal laundry detergent for most stains, and perform only slightly worse for bike chain grease. Consequently, the author recommends the use of soapnuts as an ethical and effective alternative to normal detergent for ordinary laundry washing.”

It should be perhaps be mentioned that the “ordinary” detergent she compares to is an eco friendly, fragrance free alternative so exactly how the nuts compare to some of the more mainstream detergents isn’t evaluated in this test.

But it is nonetheless a very good indication on what can be expected when using soap nuts on a daily basis.

If you want a second opinion (or is it third in this case?), Cityhippyfarmgirl has done a similar test. Answering the question whether soap nuts works like this:

Yep, they do. The clean just as well as any other laundry liquid I was using. There is no lingering soapy smell. There is a tiny and pleasant clean, fresh smell when I first get the washing out of the machine. You have to really stick your nose in the fibres to get it though and nothing residual once the clothing as dried. They also leave everything quite soft. No need for any fabric softners, (if you use it.)

If you want to find someone who has something negative to say about soap nuts I’m sure you’ll be able to find them. But it seems people in general are often quite happy with this eco friendly alternative.

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One Response to Do soapnuts really work?

  1. Caly says:

    I was hunting for more scientific studies myself, and ended up reading Nadiah’s test as well. The only thing missing in this test is comparing it to washing with no detergents what so ever, wich is what the Swedish consumerist magazine “Råd&Rön” did (a product copmarsion/evaluation focused magazine, translates to “Tips&Tests” in Swedish)
    They concluded that soapnuts washed no better than using only warm water, and the mechanical processing of using a washing machine.
    They spectrum-analyzed the result of stain-removing and was in many ways very scientific about it, but having said that, I’m not very convinced by their result, mainly because they used a low portion of only 4-5 nutshells, at a low 40 degrees Celcius. I would have wanted to see a comparsion at at least 60C and with a liquid from boiled nuts as in Nadia’s test. They also did not compare smell or softness in their result, so imho we still lack a seriously confirmative test on soapnuts and alternatives, but as of now, I still intend to grow me some Sapindus bushes!

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