5 Reasons to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Soap Nuts

We’ve always tried to buy environmentally decent laundry detergent (as in, one that doesn’t fluoresce or have weird carcinogenic stuff in it).

There are about three or four “natural” brands out there and, to quote Michael Kors, they’re all a little … underwhelming. And expensive. And, despite the hand-drawn green leaf on the label, aren’t usually that great for the environment.

So I did some research on what actual hard-core hippies do (disregarding anything that involves handwashing, because homey don’t play that) and found the answer: soap nuts.

Soap nuts are the fruits of this crazy tree that grows in South America and Asia. People have been using them to clean stuff for centuries, but they’ve only recently come into their own as an alternative laundry detergent.

You’re shaking your head. Yes, they are actual nuts that you put in your washing machine. It’s like I’m telling you to wash your tub by filling it with acorns.

Stay with me – there are five excellent reasons to open your mind and try soap nuts.

Reason 1: Value, and Lots of It

Damn, these things are cheap. If you work out the math, it costs ~$0 to do a load. Okay, not $0. But close. And unlike most “natural” things, they don’t come in a teeny tiny doll-sized container. You get a lot of nut for the money.

Reason 2: No Giant Plastic Container
If you buy regular detergent, you end up with this huge awful plastic container to recycle. It’s so big that it fills up your recycling bin, which means that when you (inevitably) forget to take out the recycling one week, beer and wine bottles pile up and take over your kitchen like those houses on Hoarders. With soap nuts, all you’re left with is a wrinkly little nut thing that you can chuck in the compost. EASY.

Reason 3: They Do Work
It’s true; they really do. I haven’t bought Tide in a billion years, but I can confidently say that the nuts do a significantly better job than Seventh Generation or the detergent from Trader Joe’s. They don’t have much of a perfume-y smell to them, but clothing always comes out of the dryer clean and fresh.

Reason 4: Not Labor Intensive
I’m willing to spend a little more time on certain homesteading pursuits (namely, cooking and gardening), but I hate doing laundry with a passion and have no intention of expanding its time footprint. When I first read about soap nuts, I expected you would have to fish the little bag out of your washer between cycles to get an effective rinse. But – yay! – you totally don’t have to! They can stay in your washing machine the whole time without leaving soap all over your clothes. No, I have no idea how it works. It seems kind of magical, but then again so does washing your clothes with a tropical fruit.

Reason 5: Endless Comic PotentialSo, you put the nuts in this little cloth bag, which keeps them together as they bop around in your washing machine. It’s a cotton drawstring thing that the text on the box refers to as a “sack.”

A sack. For your soap nuts.

A nut sack.

You’re welcome.


  1. Tell us where you get these wonderful nuts! I would like to go out and purchase a nut sack and some nuts to go with the nut sack. Does the nut sack usually hold two nuts? Oh boy, this could go on forever 🙂

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