Berries aren’t something that you might associate with soap. But soapberries are fruits that grow on the Sapindus Mukrossi tree (the soap berry tree), found mostly in the Himalayas. They’re also called soapnuts. You can use them as an effective natural alternative to conventional laundry detergent.
The soapberry tree fruits are typically picked, shelled, and dried for use. The shells contain a substance called saponins, nature’s soap. These saponins release dirt and grime by reducing the surface tension of water.
Hello Charlie stocks That Red House Soapberries. These are grown and harvested in Nepal and help support small Himalayan communities through the Grow Nepal initiative. Once harvested, the soapberries get transported to Australia by sea to keep a low carbon footprint. They’re certified organic by EcoCert, biodegradable, compostable, and eco friendly. They're suitable for septic tanks and grey water, too.
Why Use Soapberries?
That Red House organic soapberries are multi purpose. There are so many uses for soapberries: laundry detergent; washing dishes and household surfaces. You can even use the soapberry for washing yourself! Choosing organic soap berries means that you don't have to rely on harsh chemical products.
Soap berries aren’t just all natural and sustainable. They’re also perfect for people with sensitive skin, allergies, or skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. They’re also hypoallergenic and gentle enough to use on baby clothes and cloth nappies.
Natural soapnuts are money saving, too. At about 10c per wash load for a 1kg bag, soapberry laundry detergent is cheaper than traditional laundry detergent. Five soapnut shells can last for up to five washes. Unused soap nuts stay fresh for as long as two years.
After using the shells, you can compost them in your garden. Doing this will create less waste than traditional detergent.
Do Soapberries Work?
Yes, you can use them around the house as a natural bathroom and kitchen cleaner. But the main thing people use them for is washing their clothes. Soap nut shells can leave your clothes smelling clean and fresh. They leave no residue on clothes.
They work well in any washing machine, too. Use them without a rinse cycle as this helps conserve water. Soap berry shells also clean well at any temperature. However, soap nut shells are most effective in warm water, at about 40 degrees.
That Red House Soapberries review
If you want to buy soap nuts, Australia has a number of brands available. Here at Hello Charlie, we stock That Red House. We did an in house review and got great results. I, for one, used them in my normal laundry load, and I added a few drops of essential oil. I did three or four loads and they worked as well as my regular laundry powder. Even my sceptical husband was happy with them.
Christine, our lovely customer service lady, used them on her baby's white Wondersuits. One of them had a three day old orange stain, and she said it was mostly gone after washing with just soapberries. She did say that she would normally have pre treated these stains, so she was pretty impressed.
A friend also tried them on her kids' white school shirts. One of them had a tomato sauce stain, that she would normally have used stain remover on. She said that the sauce stain faded, but wasn’t completely gone. The rest of the shirt was clean, and if she'd have used a stain remover it would have been fine.
We all thought that using soapberries for laundry worked as well as normal laundry powder. Given the cost per use and the fact that these are so eco friendly, I was pretty damn impressed. Go soapberries!
How do you use soap nuts in your laundry?
Washing with soap nuts is easy. Just add five whole soapberry shells to the small wash bag and throw it in the wash. If you’re using cold water, soak your bag in hot water for five minutes to release the saponins more quickly and get a better clean. You can add a little baking soda or lemon juice to your laundry to get your whites that bit whiter, too.
Laundry isn’t the only thing you can clean with soap nuts! And there are heaps of ideas for using soapberries all around your house.
Using soapberries, mix your base liquid solution for cleaning just about anything. Here’s how to make soap from soap nuts to get a liquid base, as well as other ways to use these fruits for everything from shampoo to glass cleaner.
Soapberry Liquid Base
Start by making a liquid base (a soapberry soap, if you will!). Once you’ve got the base, add other simple ingredients to make lots of great household and personal cleansers.
- 10 whole soapberry shells
- 1 litre of water
- 2 teaspoons citric acid (optional, available in supermarkets)
- Large pot
- Cloth soapberries bag or old sock/stocking
- Spray bottle or other storage containers
- Combine the soapberry shells and water in the pot.
- Bring the water to a boil and let it boil for 15-20 minutes.
- Optional: Add the citric acid to the hot liquid and stir until dissolved. This will act as a preservative to help your soapberry liquid last longer.
- Allow the liquid to cool.
- Once cooled, strain the liquid through the cloth into a container for cleaning or storage. We recommend a spray bottle for easy cleaning.
- Store your liquid in the fridge to help it last longer. It should last for up to 4 weeks.
For a simple household cleaner, add a few drops of your favourite essential oil to your liquid to give it a fresh scent. My favourite to use is lemongrass or bright, citrussy lemon. But eucalyptus works well, and so does tea tree. Their antibacterial and antifungal properties will help remove mould and germs from surfaces throughout your home.
You can use this liquid base as a laundry soap nuts liquid. Also, add a few drops of essential oil to the soapberry liquid, and spray it directly onto stains as a pre wash stain removing treatment.
Soapberry Glass Cleaner
- 1 tbsp. soapberry liquid
- 2 tbsp. white vinegar
- ½ cup water
- Eucalyptus essential oil (optional)
Tool: Spray bottle
- Combine soapberry liquid, white vinegar, and water in the spray bottle and shake well.
- Add a few drops of essential oil.
Another idea for how to use soap berries is to make all natural shampoo. They’re antibacterial and antifungal, so they kill germs and remove odours. They’re fragrance free, too. But if you prefer a bit of scent to your shampoo, you can add a few drops of essential oil.
- 250ml soapberry liquid
- 1/2 to a teaspoon guar gum (available at health food shops)
- Essential oils
Tools: Handheld blender or mixer
- Add 1-2 teaspoons of guar gum to your soapberry liquid. We recommend 1 teaspoon for a consistency similar to conventional shampoo. If you can’t find guar gum, try cornflour or agar agar.
- Mix the guar gum into the liquid with a handheld blender or mixer until smooth.
- Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil and mix. We recommend lavender or tea tree oil.
- Let the mixture stand until the bubbles disappear.
Be careful not to get soapnut shampoo in your eyes when using it, or it will sting.
Use the same mixture as an antibacterial hand wash, or as an ingredient in soapberry shaving cream (see below).
Don’t make too much of this, and keep it in the fridge.
There are no preservatives, so it will go off.
Soapberry Shaving Cream
- 100ml soapberry shampoo
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Tea tree oil
- Add olive oil to soapberry shampoo.
- Add a few drops of tea tree oil. This is great for shaving because it’s soothing and antibacterial.
- Mix all ingredients in the blender to form a cream.
There are lots of other ways on how to use soap nuts. For a moisturising body wash that’s perfect for babies, use a couple of drops of lavender oil instead of tea tree oil. Remember to keep the body wash away from the baby's eyes.
Soapberry Facial Scrub
There are lots of soapberry benefits for skin care. The lather is pH balanced, gentle and moisturising. It's a gentle cleanser that's naturally fragrance free.Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup soapberry liquid
- 1/4 cup finely ground oats
- 1/4 cup finely ground almond meal
- Grind up the oats and almonds separately, then mix well.
- Mix the oats and almonds with the soapberries until blended.
Choose your skin type below and mix in the ingredients for a customised scrub.
For oily skin:
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon dried peppermint and/or 5 drops rosemary essential oil
For dry skin:
- 1 tablespoon powdered milk
- 1 tablespoon finely ground calendula and/or 5 drops roman chamomile essential oil
For combination skin:
- 1 tablespoon cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon finely ground dried chamomile and/or 5 drops lavender essential oil
Why not use the scrub base and add some larger salt flakes and a few drops of cooling peppermint oil for a cooling foot scrub?
Again, don’t make this in large quantities, and keep it in the fridge. There are no preservatives, so it will spoil.
Shop at Hello Charlie
Wondering where to buy soap nuts? You can buy soapberries online at Hello Charlie with the brand That Red House organic soap nuts.