I recently took a trip to NY with my family and in an IG post I mentioned that my favorite travel friendly way to wash laundry while on vacay is with organic soap berries. Now, I realize washing clothes on vacation may be odd for some but what can I say, I like to come home ready to unpack! Haha Enough about my strange ways and back to nature’s sweet little berry.
What are soap berries?
Soap berries – often times referred to as “soap nuts” – are small brown berries that typically grow on trees native to the Himalayan regions of India and Nepal. Though they are also called “nuts” (due to their shell like appearance) they are in fact a berry and safe to use in nut allergy homes.
The “soap” aspect of the berry comes from its ability to produce a natural foaming surfactant (soap) called Saponin. When the berries are dissolved in water, the natural surfactant they produce has the ability to remove dirt and odor from clothes and surfaces in general. Soap berries are 100% natural, perfect for sensitive skin/surfaces and also contain anti bacterial and microbial properties.
How exactly are they used?
Soap berries can be used in two ways: directly in a cloth bag or converted into a liquid.
This is the fastest and most convenient way to use them. It’s literally as simple as placing 5-6 in a small draw string cloth bag (pictured above) and tossing it into your washer with your clothes. Once the berries are submerged in water they will naturally sud up and work as a detergent. The size of your load will determine how many uses you can get out of one bag but to put in to perspective we get about 3-4 heavy loads with one bag.
When using them this way keep a few things in mind:
- make sure to use a draw string bag and tie it well. If you don’t, you’ll end up with little berry pieces mixed into your clothes once they begin to soften.
- This will not remove tough stains. This is great for a basic, clean wash to remove everyday dirt and odor.
- It doesn’t smell like anything. Because there are no natural aromas or softeners being used, your clothes wont have any extra fragrance to it after being washed.
- These work best with warm/hot wash settings. The soap suds up much more in warmer water temps. If you prefer cold settings I would recommend steeping the bag in warm water before a wash and then adding it OR using the liquid method.
- You’ll know it’s time to switch out your berries when they are smushy and easily fall apart to touch. After each rinse pull the bag out of the machine and allow to dry or use immediately into your next load.
- This is most ideal for travel as you only need to bring one small bag filled in your luggage.
Using this method requires a little more effort but can be beneficial as it also doubles as a surface cleaner. This can be used just as you would a normal liquid detergent and is less sensitive to settings as it works in both cold and hot. You can also add essential oils to this if you prefer your clothes to smell a certain way after wash/dry. Here’s how you make it:
What you’ll need:
– 15-20 soap berries
– 2 cups of water
– 8-9 drops of preferred essential oil (optional). I always recommend using 100% organic grade oils.
- Add soap berries and water into a pot and bring to a soft boil. Keep your eye on the pot so the suds do not overflow.
- Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer (covered) for 40-45 minutes.
- Once the time has passed, allow the liquid to cool, then strain the berries from the liquid into a large jar. You can now add in your essential oils if you wish. Seal with an air tight lid. Your liquid should be a dark brown watery color.
I don’t currently have enough berries left to make a batch but I’ll be sure to update this for visual purposes once I do.
When using this method keep in mind:
- You can store your liquid detergent for about a week at room temperature, roughly 3-4 weeks in the fridge and indefinitely in the freezer. Using ice cubes is best for this.
- Every machine is different but you will most likely need roughly 2-3 tbsp of detergent for one load.
Where do I get them and which should I buy?
When purchasing soap berries I highly recommend going with the certified organic Eco Nuts brand. This company ensures that the berries are sterilized, contain the highest amount of soap and are overall high quality. This is what the box looks like (the cloth bag is included) and you can purchase them in different size options here: Soap berries
If you’re lucky you can also score these at Ross or Marshall’s sometimes for a couple of bucks to avoid shipping 😊
If all of this seems overwhelming and you’re more of a baby step kind of person, I also recommend this brand as a better alternative to conventional brands when transitioning.
Let me know if you found this helpful and if you decide to give these little guys a try!
Til next time,