• Best High Efficiency (he) Detergent

Hands down soap nuts (a.k.a soapnuts, soap berries, wash nuts, etc.) are the best HE (high efficiency) detergent or laundry soap available anywhere at any price. Period. Soap nuts actually accomplish everything that the HE chemical detergent producers are still trying to accomplish – and soap nuts do it even better  completely naturally – and totally green.

Typical he front loading washer.

Typical he front loading washer. Stock photo.

Soap nuts release precisely what the chemists at the major detergent producers are struggling to develop. Soap nuts simply accomplish it naturally and synthetic chemical free. A low sudsing, effective surfactant is the objective of any good HE detergent. Such is saponin – the all-important active ingredient that the soap nut releases to produce the “soaping” effect.

(Just in case: A surfactant is an agent or substance that reduces the surface tension of liquids so that the liquid spreads out, rather than collecting in droplets, hence allowing easy water flow through the soiled fabrics and facilitating the removal or release of dirt, oils, grime, etc.) Saponin does precisely that!

Soap nuts also come with some truly major extra benefits. They are naturally anti-fungal, antimicrobial, biodegradable and hypoallergenic. Plus to top it all off, used properly they are by far less expensive than the commercial chemical detergents. Geeez…what more can we ask for? See the article on affordability.

Virtually everything written in this article applies to all front-loading washers. Front loading washers are essentially HE washers by design. Newer front loaders that are called HE are simply more efficient than older units. They use tumbling as opposed to agitators to clean your laundry and use less water. Tumbling the laundry is the ideal way to agitate the soap nuts. It further enhances their release of saponins.

A very interesting point to be noted is that most HE washers have a maintenance cycle that is required to be run to keep the machine operating at peak efficiency. I very recently wrote an article specifically about purging and cleaning your machine using soap nuts (regardless of machine type). See the article on cleaning up washing machines with soap nuts for more detail. Soap nuts do not leave the residues and build ups that chemical detergents do (even the so called “green” ones). They actually break down such residues. Given that much less water is used in HE washers, a good “flushing” of the detergents, residues and additives out of your laundry and your machine is not achieved. Hence this newly found need for a maintenance cycle to help clean it out periodically.

Chemists are struggling to keep up with the washing machine technologies, and not doing a good job of it. Most of those I speak with that own HE and front-loading machines are not happy at all with the commercial detergents. As the founder of NaturOli, I speak to a lot of people every day about different detergents and the effects of using soap nuts. I routinely hear stories of these nasty odors and gross build-ups – and how well soap nuts work to eliminate the problems.

So, if you have a new or old HE washer (either top or front loader) simply try using soap nuts. It’s my bet that you will be totally astounded. You’ll love what they do for your laundry, your machine and your pocketbook, too!

Electrolux 2007 Design Lab winner. Soap nuts washer prototype. Photo courtesy of Electolux.

Electrolux 2007 Design Lab winner. Soap nuts washer prototype. Photo: Electrolux.

I’m certainly not going to try to address every single machine out there. They all don’t operate alike. Fundamentally they are the similar, but there are differences. It is very important to realize that the machine manufacturers are working with the chemical detergent producers and writing their manuals accordingly. They are certainly not addressing soap nut usage. Soap nuts are not even on their radar screens. As of 2009, it appears that only one European manufacturer, Electrolux, has actually demonstrated their foresight and vision by addressing soap nut usage.

Soap nuts are a 100% natural alternative to the synthetic, chemical detergents. Using soap nuts in a wash bag is such a radically different way to wash laundry, some experimentation on your part is going to be needed for you to determine the best method to achieve the best results using soap nuts in your machine. But, that’s part of the fun of them. Soap nut liquid and powder are used much like you would use any other liquid or powder detergent.

When using the wash bag method just forget about the compartments. Even if using liquid or powder, I recommend not using the compartments initially. Simply add the soap nuts (in whatever form) directly in with your laundry. Experimentation over time is the only way to know what works best for YOU. Since washing machines function differently the compartments and their dispersion methods introduce variables. As any good scientist will tell you, if you want to learn more and learn faster, minimize variables. Forget about the fabric softener department, too, since you normally don’t need fabric softeners when using soap nuts.

If you are using soap nuts in the traditional method (soap nuts in a wash bag) and washing in cold, definitely make a cup of soap nut “tea” and pour the tea and bag right in with your laundry. Heat helps to activate the release of the saponins. The starter “tea” method works great. You usually don’t need to make the tea again when doing loads back to back. Alternately, just boil some soap nuts and make a liquid, or grind them to a dust-like ultra fine powder. How you use soap nuts is purely a matter of personal preference. All methods work.

An exception regarding compartments: If you are using EXTREME 18X, dilute it as instructed to whatever amount of liquid is typical for your machine. Use both the wash and pre-wash compartments. It is very pure and void of any oils, hence it works great using the compartments – and immediately starts to work clean up your machine’s internal plumbing.

All in all, simply use good old-fashioned common sense. Know that heat and agitation help to release saponin from raw soap nuts. Using powders and liquids are simply convenient alternative methods. Many people really enjoy producing their own homemade detergent concoctions.

What’s most important to know and understand is that you have available to you (right now) the absolute very best HE detergent you will ever find – soap nuts. Soap nuts are the perfect HE detergent in every way – and again – more affordable, too! I guess Mother Nature is a little smarter than all those laboratory chemists. Why am I not surprised?

49 replies
  1. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    A very interesting post thanks for writing it!

    Everything about soap berry is interesting. It’s so intriguing. That’s what keeps me writing – and I am only scratching the surface of all the uses and benefits of these little soap nuts. Thank you!

  2. John
    John says:

    Valuable thoughts and advices. I read your topic with great interest.

    Thank you, John. I am glad to add value for you. Soap nuts (soap berries) are going to change how the world thinks of laundry and cleaning. Finally we have genuinely “green” cleaning options.

  3. donna
    donna says:

    I have a front loading he washer? Do I need to remove the wash bag of soap nuts before the rinse cycle?

    Absolutely not. I prefer to leave the soap nuts in for the entire wash and rinse cycle. Since soap nuts leave no chemical residue and have fabric softening properties, I have found that I prefer the results of leaving them in the laundry until pulling them out for the dryer. I think I’ve addressed this in FAQs, too. You may not get as many loads from the soap nuts, but I have not noticed an appreciable difference. Since HE machines use less water than standard washers you get more loads from a bag of soap nuts to start with. Who wants to be checking on the cycles and take the time to find the wash bag after the wash cycle. Not me. Using soap nuts is easy. I recommend keeping it that way. Enjoy!

  4. Frank
    Frank says:

    Where do you get all this info about soap nuts? Do you have copywriter for such good articles? This really rocks! 🙂

    It’s all just me, Frank. I do my homework – a ton of it.

  5. jessie
    jessie says:

    my whirlpool washer stunk awful. i started using extreme 18x soap nut liquid. i wanted to share this because the service guy that came out once said it was very common. he said whirlpool was not able to do anything about it. my washer smells like brand new again. all the nasty stuff built up in the compartments and on the door are gone. i mean gone, gone. i am soooo pleased.

    Very cool! Many have this build up, mildew and odor problems. I like to recommend first time soap nut users (regardless of soap nut form) to run two or three empty loads or with some old rags first. This really helps to clean up the machine so the old crud doesn’t end up being redeposited onto your good laundry. It’s nice to start fresh!

  6. Reda
    Reda says:

    Soap nuts and soap berries have baffled me and you clarify virtually everything. I’ve been making a lot of mistakes. I think I finally get it! My laundry results have improved dramatically and my costs for detergents has dropped! Thank you! I’m so glad to have found your site.

  7. Martha
    Martha says:

    I just bought a new Whirlpool high efficiency washer. It states to only use high efficiency detergents. I also live in a rural area and we have a septic system. Even though some of the HE detergents state they are environmentally friendly, the ingredients in them seem far from that. We have a nice pond in the watershed downhill from house and septic that has a lot of fish, and is used by dear, waterfowl and other wildlife that come down to drink. I’m VERY concerned about everything we use and don’t want to upset, harm or change anything. It’s so nice. Will soap nuts work fine in our situation? Is there anything special I should do or be concerned about? I already make a lot of my own natural soaps and detergents. Soap nuts seem fantastic. I just want to be certain and can tell you’ll be honest about it. Thanks in advance. God bless.

    Hi Martha!

    You may feel completely comfortable in using soap nuts in any form in your HE machine. (Please read my article(s) about usage carefully.) Most equipment makers don’t even understand soap nuts and all their benefits yet. In time they will for they are so perfect given the requirements of a good HE detergent. They will even help to keep the machine from getting musty, moldy and building up chemical residue – a huge service problem with HE units. If you are making you own natural soaps and detergents, do experiment with soap nut “tea” and powder as ingredients, too. Just think of it this way. Soap nuts are purely a natural surfactant as opposed to a chemical one. They are Mother Nature’s soap-producing fruit. They will biodegrade just as any fruit will. I bet you compost, too. The spent skin and pulp are great for composting. Vegetation seems to love soap nuts greywater. My yard and plants are greener and lusher than ever.

    You remind me of someone I spoke with a year or so ago who had a virtually identical scenario. She even reported back that her lake was healthier – and less mosquito infested. A nice plus that makes sense given that saponin reduces water’s surface tension which would cause mosquito larvae on the surface to drown. Very cool! Please write back again or call. I’ll email you my cell number. I’d love to hear more as you transition over to a far better alternative! I’d love for you to keep some notes about your experiences. I would enjoy writing an article about all the benefits of soap nuts for rural homes and communities. Your first-hand experiences would be great material to reference!

    Welcome to SoapNuts.pro!

  8. EnviroFusion
    EnviroFusion says:

    Mahalo. Lots of helpful and great information.

    Mahalo! Wish I was there! Welcome to SoapNuts.pro!

  9. Judith
    Judith says:

    Good tips and advice to follow throughout this site. This is the best information about soap nuts I’ve EVER found!

  10. Matthew from Anaheim
    Matthew from Anaheim says:

    Now I know why so many people love this site! Friends at church turned me and a bunch of other friends onto soapnuts, and recommended that we all read about them here. That was great advise. I didn’t really get it all at first but so much makes more sense now. Using them has become very simple after reading these articles. A lot is really common sense once you understand certain things. We are all big fans of NaturOli’s organic soap nuts and their other products as well. Between NaturOli products and this site, I’m totally hooked! Soap nuts are totally amazing! I’ve been sending other friends your way now too. Please keep up this fantastic work!

  11. john and ellen
    john and ellen says:

    It’s helpful to find articles about soap nuts like the ones you post on your site. Very informative reading. We will keep you bookmarked. Thanks!

  12. Stacey
    Stacey says:

    Just wanted to thank you for your cool post; this is the type of thing that keeps me encouraged throughout my day. I’ve been looking around for this site after I heard about soap nuts from a friend and am delighted. I’m glad to see others taking initiative and contributing to the community. Just wanted to show my appreciation for all these posts as it’s actually very informative. Most information online about using soap nuts is all about the same basic stuff. This is MUCH, MUCH better. I’ll be back to read more and will refer more friends here. Have a great day!

  13. Diana
    Diana says:


    I agree with you about soap nuts for HE washers. They are perfect!

    I hated the stench in my laundry room and my washer was getting really gross with nasty gunk around the door. I was so fed up with trying the usual HE detergents. I bought the supposedly best brands I could buy. It was costing me a fortune. I ran the maintenance washes per the manual and as directed.

    I finally called Whirlpool for service. The serviceman said there was nothing else I could do and it was a typical problem because of using less water. I resorted to running a couple empty hot loads using only vinegar and water in the dispenser about every week or so. That’s what I do with my coffee maker but I only need to clean it a couple times a year. This helped, but so much for high efficiency and saving energy and money! 🙁

    Then I discovered soap nuts. I prefer using the Extreme 18X liquid soap nuts because a squirt in the dispenser is so convenient. But I alternate between it and the regular soap berries in the bag. If I don’t know if I’ll dry the laundry after washing, then I always use the liquid. That way I don’t need to think about removing the wash bag from the wet laundry.

    My washer looks and smells like new! Thanks for writing this blog. I’ve learned a lot about soap nuts and picked up some great tips. I wish you all my best, and have been sending all my family and friends your way!


  14. Frank, Josh and Amy
    Frank, Josh and Amy says:

    We’re learning how to use soap nuts and organic detergents. Soap nuts are the best option for a REALLY green detergent out there. Came across you on Bing, am so happy we did. We’re taking in as much info as we can. VERY nice web site. Thank You! We’ll be back!

  15. Ursula
    Ursula says:

    Excellent article. I am using soap nuts for all my organic detergent needs. Your posts have been immeasurably helpful. It’s the best information on soap nuts I’ve found. I love your thoroughness in explaining things. It really helps!

  16. jeffrey
    jeffrey says:

    I sell soap nuts at shows around town and do very well. My customers love them. I would like to become a preferred soap nuts seller of soapnuts.pro. I refer my customers to your site all the time. What do I do?

    Hi Jeffrey! Thanks for the referrals. You probably already meet the basic soap nuts “preferred” seller criteria, or you wouldn’t be sending your customers here. You’ll be able to apply right here soon. We’re building the pages and forms needed right now, but you can just send your info to [email protected] in the meantime. Be sure to include your contact number. I’m so pleased you are spreading the word about using soap nuts – and making a few bucks while you’re at it. That’s very cool!

  17. Sue M/
    Sue M/ says:

    I just wanted to tell you about my experience with soapnuts. My husband works maintenance in a factory and comes home covered in dirt and grease. I have used Shout and Zout to try and remove stains. They work okay using both. I am out of Shout (and can’t find the one I use in stores) so I grabbed the bottle of soapnuts for the bathroom I had made and squirted my husbands jeans while sorting laundry. I figured can’t hurt. I did spray with some Zout when putting jeans in washer, but I must say. The jeans came out cleaner than they ever have before. I was so impressed with the way soapnuts worked as a pretreatment spray. May be because so much was used and concentrated on the stains. Don’t care why only care about the results. I LOVED it. Finally my husbands jeans came clean enough he can wear them when we go somewhere not just back to work. I just wanted you to know about the great experience I had using as a pretreatment and stain remover. I will now keep a bottle of soapnuts “soup” with my laundry to continue using as a stain treatment.

  18. Belinda
    Belinda says:

    I’ve got to try soap nuts. My laundry room stinks of mold from my HE washer. If all I’ve read here and elsewhere is true, I’m sold!

  19. Otto
    Otto says:

    Excellent content. Thanks for posting. I’m using soap nuts and getting fantastic results with my laundry! And you are right – soap nuts remove that nasty mildew odor in the machine!

  20. Melanie Bennet
    Melanie Bennet says:

    I’m kind of new to soap nuts, but so far so good. I was starting to hate my new HE washer, but soap nuts made a big difference. The laundry is much nicer, softer and smells very clean. I like the convenience of the 18X liquid, but have been experimenting and comparing. Nice tips about how to use soap nut powder. That makes total sense.

    Oh, it was my sister who turned me on to soap nuts. She’s been using them for awhile. She has an older high efficiency washer (one of the first ones I think). She had a serviceman out to fix a motor or something and the guy asked her how she kept her washer so clean! Trust me she doesn’t spend time cleaning anything she doesn’t have to. lol! Just teasing, sis! The guy told her he never heard of soap nuts before but would try them. The HE washers PER THE SERVICEMAN have lots of problems because of not rinsing out as well as regular machines. They get all gunked up, something breaks, and then they blame it on lack of maintenance. HA!!! The guy was obviously a nice honest man.

    How come there’s nothing in the owners manual about soap nuts? I think somebody is getting some big kickbacks from Tide! Seems like all big business is crooked these days. It would be just like them to try to keep soap nuts a secret. If they can’t make money on it, [the heck with] us! If you have an HE washing machine then try soap nuts!

    Thanks for this great blog!

  21. Abs Man
    Abs Man says:

    Glenn Beck was the big kid everybody picked on in school now using his mouth to try and get back at them. I can’t consider anyone believes any of the [deleted] that come out of the mouth of this right winged fool.

    I am astonished by the minds of some. It is entertaining and amusing to see pure idiocy hard at work. Hence, your comment (sans the expletive) has been shared. btw: This site is about soap nuts. (But a little comic relief never hurts.) Hey, if you would like to bash Glenn Beck, I invite you to join the 200,000+ folks gathering in DC this week. They would all LOVE to meet YOU. Be sure to do LOTS of tummy crunches first… 🙂
    Chris / moderator, SoapNuts.pro
    P.S. No need to thank me for deleting the url to your…ummm… web “site”.

  22. Regina Coria
    Regina Coria says:

    A big thank you for your blog article.Thanks Again. I’m getting much better results with my soap nuts now. Really Cool.

  23. Luis
    Luis says:

    Thanks for the share. It’s funny when you have to use your brains just to do laundry. Or, I guess your point is that we shouldn’t need to, but we have to. Ironic… I’ve gotten much better results from my soap nuts since reading your posts. Love em. I don’t itch anymore!

  24. friend in wisconsin
    friend in wisconsin says:

    This a very good write up on HE detergents. Never heard of soap nuts until recently. Looking forward trying them. Everyone seems to love them!

  25. Hal
    Hal says:

    Hi there, just stopped by doing some research for my Whirlpool website. Truly more information than expected. Soap nuts really do help keep washers very clean! HE washers can get bad residue buildup and smell moldy and musty. Soap nuts clean them out very quickly. Cool product!

  26. Pearl
    Pearl says:

    I was looking the some helpful information about using soap nuts, and this article was the most helpful so far. Thank you.

  27. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    I really enjoy your post, especially the “examples” which made it really easy for me to SEE what you are talking about without having to leave the article. Thanks

  28. Chris
    Chris says:

    I used two soap nuts in a small bag in my HE washing machine for a pair of blue jeans on express wash but the pants still smelled after they were done. Why didn’t the pants get clean?

    Hi Chris,
    Two soap nuts in an HE washer using a “quick” wash cycle would probably never work. It may if you pre-soaked the soap nuts very well first, but two is too few. You should always use at least 4 or 5, and be sure they are seedless. Breaking them into pieces will help to quicken the release of the saponin. That’s the problem. Too little and too quick. It’s not good to try to hurry doing your laundry when using soap nuts – particularly with HE washers. I never even try to use the quick wash cycle with my HE unit anymore. Even with conventional detergents, the laundry never get rinsed thoroughly, hence it comes out loaded full of the detergent.
    P.S. Using EXTREME 18X would be your best bet to get decent results given what you are doing. Hope this helps!

  29. Sabrina
    Sabrina says:

    Can you use soap nuts when washing workout gear or will the softener destroy the whicking function of them?

    Good question! It will depend upon the specific fabric. Saponin will purge fabrics of detergent residue that creates wicking and reduces absorbency. Hence, why fabrics come out so soft. Whether or not your workout gear will like that or not is the question. Klienert’s shields (the largest manufacturer of anti-sweat/ anti odor pads and fabrics) specifically recommends and sells NaturOli’s EXTREME 18X. They sell such materials to film companies, sports / athletic teams, and theatrical companies of all kinds. You will see an ad of theirs in the sidebar. (they previously recommended Woolite, but found EXTREME to work better.) EXTREME is basically an ultra-high soap nut concentrated liquid. My guess would be that it would work GREAT, but I’d test some first. A couple brands of the new-fangled “cloth” diapers have had issues with some of their esoteric materials causing them to leak. It’s rare, but better safe than sorry! Good luck! Let me know!

  30. Corporate Industrial Photography in Pittsburgh
    Corporate Industrial Photography in Pittsburgh says:

    Hiya, I’m really glad I have found this info. Today bloggers publish only about gossips and web and this is really frustrating. A good site with exciting content, this is what I need. Thanks for keeping this website, I’ll be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Can not find it.

    Hi Jim, Thank you! It’s rare that I will publish ones web site. However, you’re an exception – big time. Your work is utterly magnificent. (Plus I agree with your comment of course. lol!) Hope I can send some business your way. No, I don’t do newsletters. NaturOli does from time to time. I hope you will visit there, too. Hey, and cast a vote for them! They’re around 50 votes away from receiving a $250,000 NON-government private grant through Chase and LivingSocial! There’s only hours left to cast votes! Go to: https://store.naturoli.com/offers.php?mode=offer&offerid=60 to learn more. THANKS, AGAIN!!!

  31. Meredith
    Meredith says:

    A very pleasant surprise to find this site. It occurs seldom these days, but you offer a real bonus for those persons who read and wish to understand more. Soap nuts (saponin) are fascinating. I think we will see much more done with them in the near future. Brilliantly executed web site!


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