Soap nuts, or more accurately, soap berries, are from a tree grown primarily in India and China, though there are species grown in all the tropic and sub-tropical parts of the world. They contain saponins, which are a natural surfactant. They have been used for thousands of years for cleansing and purification purposes related to religion, as well as used for general health and medicinal purposes.
I wanted to share these with you since many homesteaders and people with allergies desire more natural alternatives to commercially available detergents. Soap berries are simply one of the easiest ways to do this, and for that reason they seem to be catching on like wild-fire, at least when one is willing to do a bit more than pop the top on a bottle.
First, soap berries have multiple uses. I mainly use mine for laundry and bath, but you can use them for cleaning almost anything. Some people use soap nuts in herbal home remedies, but I would recommend doing so only under the advisement of an holistic health practitioner or other medical provider.
Before buying them, you should note that there are many varieties of soap nuts, or soap berries. They are sold by weight, and you need to be sure that you are purchasing berries that have had the seeds removed, or you will have to do this yourself and will pay more for them because of added weight. The best variety of soap nut is the Sapindus Mukorssi. With it you will get the best cleaning results.
When using soap nuts, I find the best thing is to boil 12-15 in around 6 cups of water for an hour. I then strain the berries out and keep the concentrate in a glass jar in my refrigerator. This allows me to get better results when I wash clothes in cold water, and it gives me the concentrate I need for making bath products. I can use a small amount as a shampoo, or I can add things to it to make more complex soaps and skin purifiers.
One of the first things you will notice when handling soap nuts is that your skin becomes softer. Hair will too, and since soap nuts are a natural insecticide they will help repel bugs when you use them in your bath. You can even use the concentrate to make bug-spray to use when going out in the woods or to ball games, and it’s safe to use on animals and children. In fact, it’s considered 100% hypoallergenic, and is extremely gentle to skin.
Here are some interesting sites with both information about soap nuts and how to use them, and businesses I think are legitimate. This is just a sampling of what is out there, and meant to get you started in your own research.
*I bought mine from NaturOli and have been very happy. I have not ordered from anyone else, but all these links to businesses seem legit.
I will note that as with any plant, the chance does exist for an allergic reaction, but from the reading I have done there are only 2 known cases out of thousands of people using soap nuts. Also, they kill parasites such as lice and mites. I had mites on my scalp after a run-in with the perch in our chicken house, and when I used the soap nut concentrate on my hair the mites (which I was allergic to) went into a frenzy and caused a major reaction.
Note: I am not selling this product, nor am I a doctor or health advisor. Use this plant and any information contained in this blog at your own risk. I am only sharing with you my thoughts and what I do. These may, or may not, apply to you.