Why I Don’t Make Laundry Detergent

I love making DIY Home Products, but one thing I DON"T make is laundry detergent. Find out why and find out why I LOVE soap nuts and read my soap nuts review.

You know by now that I get a real kick out of MYO (Make Your Own) projects, right?

My husband says I get this little mischievous smile on my face when I figure out a way to make something that we’ve been buying (or not buying because it is just way too expensive :-)), or even when I just think I’ll be able to do so.

I really feel like I am beating the system or something.

Kind of like winning a mini lottery!

Today I am going to tell you one thing that I do not make – and that is homemade laundry detergent.

Here’s why.

Years ago (too many. I’d really rather not think about it :-)) when we lived in the Chicago area, we were living on very little money (ummm..like $13,000 per year).  Let’s just say that $13,000 a year doesn’t go very far in Chicago :-)!

My oldest was born and I was forced to leave my job.

Well, really I chose to.  My boss reneged on a work-at-home offer and so I quit, not wanting to leave my son with anyone else.

So saving money was a really big deal to me.  Really big.

I was buying the loss leaders at the grocery store (we got a lot of funny looks and stares with our grocery cart full of 10 cent oranges or 10 cent yogurts :-)), buying nothing new, and we even lived with my inlaws for 2 years.

Anyway, I had a friend who made her own laundry detergent and for some reason it really mystified me.

I have no idea why, but there are sometimes projects that stump me for awhile.

I feel like I just can’t get myself to do them for some reason.

Other things like that have been :

making bread (I ended up with the most amazing whole wheat bread recipe – in our pre-gluten free days)
making candy (I finally ended up learning how to make lollipops in our pre-sugar-free days)
making lip balm or deodorant (this is coming soon!)

Laundry detergent was one of them.  I would just buy an allergy free brand at a local store and make it last as best I could.

Well, fast forward about 8 years to our home in Michigan.

I finally got up the gumption to make my own homemade laundry detergent.

I bought myself some Pure Kirk’s Castille Soap (because those recipes featuring Fels Naptha just wouldn’t cut it for this all natural gal.  That soap has colors and chemicals and a pretty intense artificial fragrance that really throws me for a loop.  Ick.

I grated that soap (I think my grater is permanently soap flavored now), heated it all up in my now soap-flavored calphalon pot (:-().

And used it.

And hubby wasn’t happy.

Maybe it was the lack of fragrance, but he really wasn’t happy with what was going on with his t-shirts.

And I didn’t like making the soap.  I got pretty depressed when I saw the bucket was almost empty.

So I tried something new that I am going to introduce to you today – soap nuts!!

What?  Nuts that make soap?

Yes.  Really.  And they work (i.e. no more complaints from hubby).  Actually it’s the hulls that make the soap.  Pretty neat eh?

And it’s more than just interesting, it’s good for your wallet because there is a great 20% off sale going on right now that you can take advantage of through tomorrow.

First, a tutorial of sorts on Soap Nuts…..

What are Soap Nuts?

From Naturoli’s website:

soap nuts are the dried shells (or husks) from the soapberry (or soap berry nut). These berries are the fruit from a quite unique tree species. These shells contain a substance called saponin that produces a soaping effect. Saponin is a 100% natural alternative to chemical laundry detergent and cleansers. It can replace many chemical detergents such as those containing sodium laureth sulphate (SLS) that are becoming well known by consumers for being a skin irritant and health hazard.

NOTE:  Soap nuts are not nuts – they are fruits.  So even if you have an allergy to nuts, soap nuts should be just fine for you :).

Why I Love Soap Nuts

1.  They are all natural – no chemicals going on my clothes, on my family’s skin, or into our environment.

2.  They are very reasonable.  Just pennies per load, especially if you buy the larger bulk sizes.

3.  They are super easy to use!  And my pots and graters don’t end up tasting like soap!

4.  The resulting used-up soap nuts are compostable :-)!

5.  Soap nuts leave no smell.  I mean, I like nice smelling things, but this way, all you get is clean.

How to Use Soap Nuts?

1.  Put 4-5 soap nuts in a small muslin bag (you buy some of these with your soap nuts).

2.  Put a large clip on the bag (this is my handy dandy idea – keeps that soap nuts bag closed tight and keeps it from getting lost in the wash.)  I LOVE the large Twixit Clips for this purpose.  See below for more info on these great clips!

3. Toss in washing machine before your clothes go in.

4.  Remove from laundry after washing (Naturoli tells me it’s really OK to dry them if you miss this step!)

5.  Re-use 3-5 times.  Well, truth is I use mine about 6.  Cheapskate frugal mama!  Told you I like to save money.

6.  The above directions are for a warm or hot water wash.  If you are going to wash in cold water, soak the soapnuts in a cup of hot water (from the tap is OK – thanks for the tip, Katie of Kitchen Stewardship…Silly me – I’ve been heating water in a pan.  But then, especially in the winter it can take awhile for our water to heat up) for about 3-8 minutes prior to using to activate the saponin.

Below is a handy dandy photo of my tiny bag of soap nuts secured with the Handy Twixit Clip and my “heavy duty” plastic container that I use:

How to Use Soap Nuts

Tips for Using Soap Nuts:

1.  The biggest tip in my mind is using the Twixit Clip on the bag.  Otherwise I can only imagine how many lost soap nuts bags I’d still be looking for (they’re not very big!)  You can use the Twixit Clips for so many other things around the house that it’s great to buy the whole set even if you’re only using one for your Soap Nuts bag.  You can see more ways I use them in my posts on How to Store Nuts and Seeds,  The Easiest Way to Freeze and Store Berries, and Easiest Sun-Dried Tomatoes.   No more pesky twist ties!!

2.  I use about 6 soap nuts because I have a front loader and it washes a bigger load.

3.  Use a heavy duty container for pre-soaking your soap nuts if you are using cold water for washing.  I once decimated a plastic container since it couldn’t stand up to the hot water :-(.

4.  After loading the soap nuts into the washing machine, I set the plastic container on top of the washer.  Then when the load is done I just find the little bag (with the help of that big clip) and drop it in the container, all ready for the next wash.

5.  When it’s time to pre-soak the nuts, I just fill up the container with water, drop it in a saucepan, heat it up and pour it back into the container.  Wait a few minutes and run it down to the laundry machine.

6.  You can tell the soap nuts are done when they look grayish and are falling apart.  Sometimes this frugal mom tries to get just one more load out of them though :-)!

7.  Thanks to a reader asking….soap nuts can be used in HE machines.

Why I Use Naturoli’s Soap Nuts

There are a bunch of soap nuts companies out there.  I spent a bunch of time researching them (what else is new???) and found that though other brands are cheaper, they may not be real soap nuts.  They may not clean as well and they are sometimes not deseeded, meaning that they weigh more.  That means you are paying for the seeds as well which do not do the cleaning.  For me, I chose to purchase these since they appeared to be a great value and I have been pleased with them.

Well, that’s it.  Except there is better news.

A whole bunch of the most popular products at Naturoli are on sale right now, through midnight, MST, Tues., Aug. 28th.  Even if the items are already on sale you can get another 20% off using CODE SoapNuts20.


UPDATE -8/29-  THE SALE AT NATUROLI IS OVER – But you can still get a great deal on the same Soap Nuts by purchasing them through me – I am an authorized retailer.  Just see my Store Page for pricing and info.  The prices are great!

(While you are there, you can check out the other items I have – especially the Glee Gum – great clearance prices :-)!)


Just go to the Naturoli site, click on the “Soap Nuts Sale” link on the left hand side of their store and you will see everything that this extra 20% off applies to.

Also, orders over $100 ship for free.

There are some really great deals over there.

So….I don’t make laundry detergent, but I do make…….

Top Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/sophistechate/3015591720/

This post contains affiliate links.  All opinions are mine.  Please read my disclaimer here.

What are you using for laundry detergent?

Healthy Living Information You Can Trust

Delicious recipes and nutritious knowledge delivered fresh to your inbox.


    Speak Your Mind


  1. Christine P says:

    I just want to know what the whole wheat bread recipe is.

    I have tried Soap Nuts in the past and really couldn’t tell any difference in my laundry. Couldn’t tell it was any softer or cleaner. Maybe because we wash in cold water and I didn’t heat the nuts up first.

    • Oh my – I have to dig it up – you could email me in awhile if I haven’t gotten back to you. You really really have to heat up the nuts first or they won’t work so I would try them again :)!

  2. These did not work for us for our cloth diapers. But, they work ok for our clothing. Just my experience.

  3. I like ur soap nuts as an alternative however I just came across this laundry all they were selling at the recent greenfest in Los Angeles this weekend., they claim one ball at a cost of $45.00 will handle over 300 loads. T What are your thoughts on this as a viable alternative to detergent

  4. I don’t know where your water heater is in relation to your washing machine, but mine is right next to it. There should be a valve on it so that you can pull straight not water from it. I keep a glass pyrex measuring cup by the washer and fill it with water from the water heater and let the soap nuts soak while I load the washer. Then I put the soap nuts in and pour the hot water into the washer. It takes less time than standing there waiting for water to heat or for the hot water to get to the faucet.

  5. Amber Shipley says:

    I know this post is old, but I found it on Pinterest and various links from your blog led me here. This sounds like a great idea, but I wonder about fabric softener. Not just for it’s intended purpose, but I’ve noticed that it’s where most of the scent in our laundry comes from. I was wondering about making my own using essential oils or something, because I really like the scent of our current brand of detergent and softener.

  6. Katrina Dorn says:

    I now use a liquid made from soapberries (am I allowed to say the brand name?) it’s $16 when on sale at Abe’s Market online and about 80 loads. So 20c./load – nuts make more sense, but I’m preparing for a life of sailing, and need everything as small and concentrated as it can be. Too bad I can’t concentrate vinegar :). I made DIY laundry detergent ONCE. Hated it. Similar ingredients to my MYO dishwasher soap, which I LOVE. BTW – saw your vinegar rinse aid post – I don’t think you even need the cup, I just splash some in. Thanks for sharing what you learn. I research so much and love when someone else has done the work for me and blogged it – I’m hesitant to take time away from parenting and researching in order to do something like this, and I really appreciate you doing it!

    • Thanks so much for your oh so kind words! I don’t mind your sharing the brand names – links get on my nerves depending on the purpose – if it’s folks trying to get links to their site, etc, then that’s not OK :).

      It is hard to balance the time – trying to make it work! My boys do help w/ it so that way they are learning too.

  7. I ran across your blog as i was researching essential oils. Thanks, by the way, for your research. As i was browsing other topics on your site, i came across this post. I had to stop and leave a comment. I grew up in India and remember my mother using soap nuts to shampoo our hair. The way she did this – the hulls were separated from the nuts (you can crack them open using a mortar and pestle and peel the hull off), soaked in hot water for a half hour and the juice was extracted by squeezing it out through her fingers. She used this in our hair like shampoo. If the juice got in our eyes, it stung, so I remember keeping my eyes shut tight. The juice also tastes bitter, but our hair was clean and shiny after, so worth it. I didn’t know I could find soap nuts here in the US, so thank you for posting!