Soapnut or Soapberry is considered the most natural soap in the world. Straight from a tree, the fruits have been used for centuries as a natural cleaner and gentle wash. The trend towards natural ingredients is growing and this vegetable-derived surfactant is gaining popularity today among homemakers and green formulators.
Honestly, the nuts don’t look like much at first. They look like dried up prunes. But put them in a bottle of water, give it a shake and the entire solution bubbles up like magic.
Soapnuts contain “saponins” which are natural surfactants. The seed from the species Sapindus mukorossi contains 10% to 11.5% natural saponins making this species the most sought after soapnut species amongst 12 existing species.
Scientific Name – Sapindus mukorossi
Family – Sapindaceae
Origin – Tropical areas of India, China, and Nepal
Other Names – Ritha/Reetha/Aritha (Hindi), Kunkudukai (Telugu), Boondi Kottai (Tamil), Pasakkottamaram (Malayalam), Amtalakaayi (Kannada), ‘Ritha’ (Bengali), ‘Arithi’ (Gujarati), and ‘Rinthi’ (Marathi).
The fruits of Sapindus mukorossi are small brown dried shells which are 1 cm to 2 cm in diameter. Our soap nuts do not contain seed, only the shells. After all the saponins come from the shells and the seeds only add to the weight of the product without any cleansing benefits.
Soapnuts are hypoallergenic and very gentle on the skin, on hair and on fabrics. The nuts have no odor but once mixed with water, the solution has a slightly cider scent that washes off immediately after. You can also use essential oil to mask the scent.
Using soapnut is easy…
- Soak the soapberries in warm distilled water for a few minutes. Give the solution a good shake. You can then sift out the shells, splash some essential oils into the solution to wash your clothing, as a multi-purpose home cleaner, or to bath.
- You can boil the soapberries in distilled water to help release more saponin. Remove the seeds from the solution and dry them for another round of boiling. Keep this solution in the fridge to prolong shelflife. When needed, remove the solution from the fridge, add in your optional essential oils and use this solution in all sorts of cleaning.
- Wrap the the soapnuts in a sock or a bag and throw it into your washing machine. Soapberries without the seeds also protect your clothes from getting scratched and torn during washing so always pick nuts that are sold without seeds.
- Turn the shells into powder to be added to water during cleaning. Personally we prefer to purchase the shell because we then know it is the original product with no adulteration.
The soapberries can be used many times over until they completely disintegrate. Just keep on adding new seeds to the old batch but make sure you dry the shells well in between washes. Do not soak soapberries for more than 72 hours as they will get moldy.
Soapnuts can be used:
- as a gentle hair wash without drying out the scalp
- as a total body wash that is gentle on the skin
- as tooth cleaner
- to clean baby diapers without any harmful chemicals and perfumes
- to wipe clean baby toys, prams, and furniture
- as an all-in-one household cleaner
- to wash dishes and kitchen surfaces
- to cleanse sensitive or problematic skin without causing reactions similar to those of detergents
- as a floor cleaner
- as a natural pesticide to protect surfaces from insects and plants from attacks.
- as an effective glass cleaner
- to polish jewelry
- to wash car
- and many many more…
Essential oils that go well with soapnuts are:
Tea Tree Essential oil / Lemongrass Essential Oil for all-purpose around the house cleaning
Lavender Essential oil for soothing body wash
Lemon Essential oil cleaning laundry
Chamomile Essential oil for washing baby cloths and diapers
Rosemary Essential oil for a nourishing hair wash
Soapnut Berry Benefits
- Chemical Free
- All natural
- Eco Friendly
- Gentle on skin and fabrics