Months ago I found a good deal on laundry detergent, about $0.07 per load. I use cloth diapers and my baby's skin was getting rashes more frequently than seemed normal. Of course, the "natural" chemical laundry detergents were often more than $0.30 per load, and I didn't want to go back up to $0.10 per load detergent, as I was worried my baby was developing sensitive skin. I had heard about soap nuts from Passionate Homemaking and looked into it.
After a little investigating, I found NaturOli brand to be the cheapest because they use pieces of the nuts, instead of selling the whole nut in tact.
How does it work? Well, you get this big bag of nuts and a little canvas bag. You put five nuts in the bag, and throw it in your washing machine in the place of laundry detergent. Hang it up to dry between loads and those five nuts are good for five loads. Or, you can boil it down to an extract, which I do, and I get ten loads out of five nuts.
NaturOli says you can get 5 loads out of 1/2 ounce of soap nuts, or 5 soap nuts. That is 800 loads out of my 5 lb bag. I paid about $65 for my bag or about $0.08 per load. Where I make the extract, I get my loads for $0.04 per load.
If you have been making your own laundry detergent from bar soap, which there are many online recipes for, you are paying anywhere from $0.03 to $0.08 per load, depending on where you got your recipe. I don't have a food processor, so I never tried the homemade detergent, which usually requires a bar of soap to be grated finely.
The work involved in making the soap nut extract is pretty simple. I put eight soap nuts and and four cups of water into my crock pot on high for six to eight hours. This boils down to about three cups of the concentrate. I use two or three tablespoons of the concentrate, as recommended by NaturOli, depending on the size and dirtiness of the laundry load.
Do they work? I haven't had any problem with the washing. In fact my husband's work pants are cleaner now than with our old detergent. Also, there is no soapy build up on cloth diapers, which makes the diapers more absorbent.
The downside? The downside I have seen people online complain about is that there are no suds. I do get some suds, though, since I use the extract, but not nearly as much as with store bought laundry detergent. I think results are better measured in how clean the clothes are, but if you are emotionally attached to the sudsy water in your washing machine, these may not be for you. They also are not scented. Your clothes will smell like nothing. Some people put a fragrant extract in with the nuts, but I don't bother. I don't mind the smell of nothing.
One odd thing is that the soap nut extract can rot, since it is an actual nut. You need to keep the extract in the fridge, but the bag of nuts is fine in a cupboard. I've never had any rot on me, and it usually takes me two to three weeks to go through my jar of extract, so I don't think this is too common if you take care of it.
Soap nuts are also good for general household cleaning. I've been using a water and soap nut extract mixture for scrubbing as I've had some pregnancy nesting instincts lately. There are several other household uses I'm looking forward to use them for, including dish washing detergent. I've been using them for laundry for about three months. I'll keep you updated about new uses for soap nuts I try and love, or uses they don't work for.
Where do you get them? NaturOli soap nuts can be found at their website. You can also find them on Amazon.com. What I did when I purchased my 5 lb bag was a search of "Naturoli coupon code." If there is a valid coupon code going for NaturOli's store, it may be cheaper than Amazon's price, but it is wise to compare prices. I had a swagbucks gift card for Amazon, so I bought them from Amazon. It also looks like Amazon's price has gone down since I bought from them. I paid $65 for my 5 lb bag, shipping included, but now it is going for closer to $55. If you get a smaller bag, it will cost more per load. But if you are not comfortable shelling out $55 up-front for a large bag of something you don't trust, it is worth getting a smaller bag first to see if it works for you.
Has anyone else tried soap nuts? What do you do for a frugal or natural laundry detergent?