Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Thu, Jul 11, 2013 - 7:45am

Wingnut Soapberry

Here's a weird one: berries with a natural surfacant that you can toss in the wash to do your clothes. All you need is a small Soapberry tree or shrub. Soap Nuts are berries harvested from the soapberry. These are actually used all around the world for their cleaning properties.

The above link will give you species that grow all aroud the world, but I want to focus on the two that work in North America. The eastern varainat is Wingleaf Soapberry, found almost exclusively to far south Florida in the United States but also occurs in an isolated area of coastal southeast Georgia. It is also found in the Caribbean, Central and South America and island of Hawaiʻi. West of the Missisipi, Western Soapberry is native from Arizona across to Louisiana in the south ranging north to Kansas and far southwestern Missouri in the north. It is also native to the states of Sonora, Chihuahua, and Coahuila in Mexico. They, like most nut trees, take ten years to start producing.

Please do not ask me where to buy one: growers do not seem to carry them and you need to identify them in the field and transplant one near your property, I guess. But there are lots of places to buy the actual berries online.

My understanding is the soap nuts only really work with hot water, but they soften your clothing, protect clothing colors, neutralize odor, are safe for your septic system, are hypoallergenic, and are simple to use. You just place 5 whole or 10 half soap nuts in a cotton bag (tied shut)  and soak the soap nuts in hot water for 1-2 minutes and then just toss them in you washer...bag and all. They will wash multiple loads, usually four loads, and then you can compost them.

Just another alternative to your eveyday plantings. Share if you have them on your property. I suspect that a nursery that started carrying them would make some serious money.



cgolias's picture
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: May 13 2011
Posts: 34
Soapberry Sources

Its not our native Sapindus saponaria but it is similar in many regards including its ability to make lather. Sadly it is only hardy to zone 8 rather than 6:

Chinese Soapberry for sale:

Sapindus saponaria is currently out of stock, but here is its page if you want to check back.

Or you could trade plants with someone on Dave's Garden:

I've also read that the seeds in the berries, if ingested, are toxic to people and livestock. Plant accordingly!

Tycer's picture
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 26 2009
Posts: 617
One of my neighbors

One of my neighbors has turned us on to these. She's importing these nut by the container load and making products from them. They really work well. 

I'll contact her and see if she'll post more about her experiences with the nuts and what she's doing with them.

Shecology's picture
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 19 2013
Posts: 1
Soap Nuts

Soap Nuts (Sapindus Mukorossi) are actually FRUIT that is wild harvested in Northern India and Southern Nepal and then imported into the U.S. because this variety which is loaded with the natural surfactant "saponin" does not grow on this continent. There is a lot of misinformation and confusion surrounding this natural cleaner due mostly to people who import them but do not know their supplier, what variety of Soap Nuts they are getting, and how to get this agricultural product into the U.S. without being sprayed with ozone depleating Methyl Bromide. Some of the Soap Nuts are organic, safe, and an excellent replacement for almost every toxic cleaner in your household (not just laundry) and some of them are cheap, chemical-laden imposters. 

Soap Nuts can be used as mentioned above for laundry or if you're willing to simmer a handful of soap nuts in water for 1 hour they can be used as an all purpose liquid concentrate. With the liquid concentrate one can clean floors, counters, stovetops (it's a degreaser!), toilet bowl, grout (on tile floors and walls) children's toys, dishwasher, and even as a personal body wash, shampoo, and pet shampoo! People in India even simmer them to make a tea to drink for digestive problems! 

My business is focused on all natural cleaning and the incredibly powerful soap nut. I recently had them tested for their anti-bacterial qualities at a 3rd party laboratory (BioNetwork BioBusiness Center in Asheville, NC) and they surpassed even my expectations! The certificate of analysis revealed that my soap nuts took out Aspergillus niger (Black Mold) Candida albicans (Yeast) Escherichia coli (E. Coli) Salmonella typhimurium (Salmonella) AND Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA is a strain of this nasty antibiotic resistant bacteria.) But I will reiterate that there are many different kinds, qualities, and suppliers, so my results do not mean that all soap nuts can make this claim.

I would love to share more info on soap nuts if anyone is interested - just let me know. I am developing a whole line of easy to use cleaning products based on the soap nut because they work!!

Tycer, my neighbor, alerted me to this disucssion and I appreciate the opportunity to share my soap nut story and expertise with people who care about their health and the health of the planet!! Now Go clean something with soap nuts :-)












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