By Contributing Editor
Kristina Strain

I must admit I was skeptical as I extracted four funny-looking, gummy round seedpods from a drawstring cotton bag. These, so-called soap nuts, were supposed to clean my laundry? I poked around in my laundry basket. Blueberry juice. Fry grease. Chocolate. How on earth was a lowly imported plant-part going to handle all this? I sighed, cranked the dial on my washing machine, and started the load. There was only one way to find out.

 

Trial One: Cold Water Wash

After pulling my clothes out of the wash, I was impressed at how clean they smelled. They didn’t smell like Tide, mind you, but they did smell pleasant and fresh. Not won over just yet, I checked on the stained spots. The grease was still there. The chocolate was still there. The blueberry juice, happily, was gone. I sequestered the still-stained items, and began trial number two.

Trial Two: Hot Water Wash

The hot water very obviously boosted the soap nuts’ cleaning power. The chocolate was gone, and the grease stains were definitely diminished. Willing to give it one more try, I decided to cheat a little and employ some chemical warfare on my stains: namely, Shout.

Trial Three: Hot Water Wash with stain spray

Trial #3 did the trick, the stains were gone. Grease is a tough customer. Even commercial detergent needs a boost from stain spray– and soap nuts do, too.

The Verdict: Soap nuts are powerful deodorizers and are surprisingly good at removing dirt. They definitely work best in hot water, but are not very good at removing grease. They are natural, economical, renewable, and 100% compostable. I like ’em. I’ll definitely be using them again, but I think I’ll save the grease stains for more aggressive detergents.

How to Use:

Put four soap nuts in a small drawstring bag (provided with the soap nuts) and toss into the washing machine. Begin filling with hot water. Add clothes, and run the load as usual. Do not let the soap nuts go through the dryer. Soap nuts can be used at least four times before they’re ready to be composted. When the nuts are gray and mushy-looking, they’re worn out and ready to go.