The Most Common Problems Users Have When Using Soap Nuts To Wash Laundry.

PREMISE: Albeit similar to the article “The 12 Tips on How to Buy Soap Nuts” in that there is some overlap, the focus here is YOU. The “Buying Tips” is slanted towards making you aware of what sellers often do, and helping you make better decisions. Here we’ll assume you’ve made a good purchase, and now let’s look at what issues or problems you may still have or encounter.

1) Overly high expectations of results.

Much of the blame for this is upon the brand and/or retailer when the soap nuts are OVER SOLD. And I’m not referring to common exaggerations of yields and loads (which is plain ole’ common sense). In this case, I’m referring to the numerous other issues – the subjective ones – not simple arithmetic.

A humorous reminder that we can't believe everything we are told. (Courtesy of The Washington Post)

A humorous reminder that we can't believe everything we are told. (Courtesy of The Washington Post)

Soap nuts usually do all the wonderful things that most retailers feature, however in many cases, they may not do some things as well as chemical detergents. Remember that we are comparing all-natural, and or organic products. If you expect the IDENTICAL results as toxic Tide or any similar commercial brand, then you’re expectations need adjustment. (Note: “Free and Clear” does not mean chemical free – far from it.) Although efficacy test (cleaning power alone) between EXTREME 18X soap nuts liquid concentrate and concentrated commercial brands are very similar, there’s many very distinct differences in the end results. There are pro and cons to virtually everything. Establish your goals. If you seek to avoid toxic cleaners, you may have to sacrifice something somewhere, and/or learn the workarounds for some common washing/cleaning issues.

Ironically, soap nuts will do many things far better – without exposure to toxic chemicals, and without causing irritation, itchiness or rashes. But be realistic. There are no bleaches or optical brighteners in saponin. If you desire ultra bright and ultra white, learn to use some natural supplements. There’s many. Vinegar, salts, sodium percarbonate (washing soda), lemon juice, citric acid, etc. Just to start., a lot has to do with your specific water hardness and pH levels. Water is different all over the country. Test your water. Learn to adjust the hardness and pH as required. It’s not difficult. There’s a ton of info online, and there’s very simple, cheap, at-home remedies for problematic water conditions. You don’t need an expensive water conditioning system if we’re simply discussing clean laundry.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with occasionally using chemical products. Be it Tide, Clorox, Spray N’ Wash, or whatever. Saponin will have a tough time cutting through waxy deodorants for example. I’ll usually use EXTREME 18X full strength or a natural stain stick on armpits that are showing their age. However, I’ll break out the Spray N’ Wash in a heart beat if they need a solvent (that’s basically what Spray N’ Wash is). For my nicest bright white dress shirts that I want to shine on a night out, will I break out the real bleach? You betcha’.

Misrepresentation of load yield.

Here are two 100 gram (3.5oz) bags pictured. The soapberries look okay to me (probably ~35 actual berries per bag), but the seller claims one bag to yield 100 loads. 35 (or up to 50 loads tops) is realistic. That's two - three times actual yield.

Important: This isn’t an “ALL or NONE” scenario. Do as you need, when you need. And the sheer beauty of it is that even if you have bad sensitivities, you can start over with your next load! Saponin works quickly to purge the fabrics of the undesirable toxins. After your night out or special affair, you’re only one load away from feeling all soft and comfy again.

Saponin is a miraculous gift straight from Mother Nature. It is a genuinely safe, natural surfactant that replaces a plethora of toxic sulfates. But it’s not some do-all “infomercial” type “miracle” product. In some areas, saponin will fall short of the perfect product. So what? It’s no big deal if you didn’t expect absolute perfection in the first place. (Frankly, I don’t think that’s even Mother Nature’s way.)

So, be realistic, and be prepared to learn a few new tricks. Have a little patience and experiment. Don’t expect to do one load and start jumping for joy. You may – and many do. Just don’t expect it.

Interestingly, the focus of this is laundry. Most consumers first try soap nuts for laundry purposes. Laundry is only the tip of the iceberg. I’d be using soap nuts for household cleaning, personal hygiene, and hair care – even if they didn’t work as a laundry soap.

Now, a last note AGAIN about the number of wash loads (yields): It’s often not your fault that you don’t get what you expected from your purchase – except if you weren’t paying close enough attention to what you were buying. Sorry, but you always have to check a few things. It’s not tough if you don’t let the seller trick you. (And many will try.)

Some brands and sellers seem to lose all sense of reality when marketing their product(s). There’s a ridiculous example in the photo at right. This seller markets a 3.5 oz bag for about $12 – $13 and claims that it is a 100 load bag. As stated elsewhere, 100 loads is a LOT to expect from 5 to 6 ounces – much less 3.5 ounces. That’s simply crazy. Do yourself a favor and stop believing all the claims, and just buy by weight – It’s Tip #1 in “How to Buy Soap Nuts” for darn good reason. (Don’t forget Tip #2, also, – Buy them de-seeded. Seeds double the weight – and they’re useless for cleaning.)

In the example shown, your cost is over $3.50 per ounce! That equates to almost $60/lb or over $126.00/kilo. Yikes! – Just do the math. Regarding “high expectations”, you should also find the post, “Soap Nuts Scams – EXPOSED!” an insightful read. It drills into and explores the sources and rationale behind them from a different perspective.

2) Over-stuffing loads, and rushing through laundry day.

This is a big problem that is only compounded by our hectic, fast paced lifestyles. One thing the commercial detergent producers got right was developing detergents that would allow us to squeeze four or five loads into three or four. Chemicals enable such things to be done, and done pretty well.

However, time will always be our friend when it comes to good results doing laundry – regardless of using natural or chemical detergents. More time yields better results. Period. With soap nuts it is even more important. We aren’t using any of the chemicals that expedite the cleaning process. Well, such is life. We just can’t have it all. (Kinda’ like our country is going to find out when we’re totally broke, and can’t even print enough money to pay the bills anymore.)

What’s worked for me and many others I speak with is to just slow down a bit. Take a little more time to do that extra load. And use your pre-soak cycle! Regardless of the aforementioned supplements we can use to improve results, use of the pre-soak cycle invariably yields better results. Ever since I began to regularly use the pre-soak cycle (previously thought to waste time) – my laundry results have greatly improved. Particularly with very dirty, stinky laundry. That extra time soaking does A LOT. The saponin is allowed more time to disperse throughout the wash. The soiling is given more time to break up from the fabrics. Bottom line: More time in the water, more dirt down the drain. It’s that simple.

Special note: Many of us have HE washers today. I have both an old top loader and a front loading HE unit. My old unit will outperform my HE washer every time. But, in trying to conserve both water and energy the HE units are the future. So, let time be your friend. A few adjustments in your scheduling, and you can have the best of both worlds. It’s not that hard – and worth it.

3) Not paying attention when loading (akin to #2).

I’ll make this one quick. Be cognizant of the fabrics and types of laundry – particularly when using the wash bag method.

An example will best demonstrate my point. I have some linens that are very stretchy. They’re ultra soft, but very stretchy. Not sure of the exact material blend, but I’m sure you know what I mean. I never use the wash bag method when washing them. Invariably the wash bag will end up virtually tied into a knot in them. Well, if the wash bag isn’t freely circulating about through the laundry, it’s not going to be able to disperse much saponin. If that’s the case, your results won’t be good.

So, when loading your machine just pay attention to what you’re loading it with. With those linens mentioned before, I always use EXTREME 18X or a soap nut “tea”. The wash bag simply won’t work as it should. This is a case when you choose another method. Choose either liquid or powder. You can purchase either or make your own.

4) Let yourself be the judge – and keep it real. (This one is to help you to buy and start right – from the very beginning.)

Numerous sellers are popping up all over these days. Some will have web sites, some will only sell through sites like Amazon, eBay, and a host of similar smaller sites, plus via the “linking” sites. There’s certainly no shortage of Internet marketing sites that are extremely cheap to advertise on. There’s some great folks starting good honest business, but there are as many – or more – in the business for the quick buck. You have to learn to distinguish between them.

A reader's sample provided for our comments. Cost: Over $12. Net Weight: 3.5oz. Claimed as a 100 Load Size bag. - OUR lesson: NEVER think you've seen it all...

A reader's sample provided for our comments. Cost: Over $12. Net Weight: 3.5oz. Claimed as a 100 Load Size bag. - OUR lesson: NEVER think you've seen it all...

A lot of “newbie” sellers and the “fly-by-nighters” make grandiose, ludicrous claims. It’s humorous to experienced buyers, but a new buyer/user is understandably vulnerable to the nonsensical hype. (How do they know what’s true?) Sellers can be very creative and clever. I recommend getting to know who you buy from. Check them out thoroughly. Be sure they have a good reputation. There is some very cheap stuff being sold to large number of new buyers.

A new buyer sent me a sample the other day of what she recently received. (I receive samples or pics quite a bit from buyers.) The product she received was so bad – and SO overpriced, I was stunned. (It’s the same brand as pictured with two plastic bags in the basket above. Each little bag is called a 100-load size.) She’s returning them and getting a refund. Even with paying to ship them back, she’s way better off. If you buy low quality products, there’s little that anyone can do for you. I certainly don’t have any magic wands. A soap nut is not just a soap nut. We try hard to provide you plenty of rock-solid, reliable information and good pictures to help you make wise, informed decisions.

The young lady who sent me the sample above was SO turned off that she was never going to try soap nuts again – and I wouldn’t blame her at all. That’s the worst thing that can happen. The seller can make or break a potential convert. I sent her a bag of good quality soap nuts, and she’s thrilled now. She really wanted them to work out! Her whole family suffers from chemical sensitivities. Losing her because of a lousy or stupid seller would have been nothing shy of a crime.

In the end, the decisions are yours alone to make. So, shop wisely. Use our “Preferred Seller Program” seller’s criteria. ALL should be met. It’s surprising how many applicants are rejected. The criteria was intentionally determined to be a bare bones minimum that consumers should be able to expect. You CANNOT overly scrutinize anything. When in doubt, or when something sounds looks or smells fishy – trust your intuition. It’s usually right.

Don’t be suckered into any landslides of overly rave and enthusiastic reviews. Whenever I see “Love!”, “Love!”, “Love!” type reviews piled up one upon another, it raises a flag. It’s very common to see this happen. I ask myself, “Are these credible reviews?” Some sites (even Amazon) don’t require reviews to be from “Verified Purchases”. Well, it’s pretty darn easy to get a bunch of friends or family to post positive reviews for you. The same seller again that’s shown above almost overnight had a ton of 5-star reviews. About half are not verified. What’s that tell you?

If you see an item with a dozen or so different sellers listed on one site for one item, consider the likely sources for an abundance of super-rave reviews. (It’s usually quite obvious. Most real “user” reviews don’t occur overnight, nor are they written like commercials.) Large numbers of sellers of one brand will only propagate the original exaggerations and/or misrepresentations of the brand. This only exacerbates the numerous points made in #1 above. It’s a very simple strategy: Say it enough times, people may believe it.

So, just keep that in mind – and remember we are discussing a natural cleaning product. Yes, they are remarkable. For those suffering from sensitivities and allergies, I’ll even state they can be like a God-send. However, reviews should always be viewed with a degree of scrutiny. Many aren’t realistic enough for this writer – particularly when isolated to laundry detergent use! As mentioned many times, there’s a bit of a learning curve to endure when changing from chemical detergents to using soap nuts in a wash bag. Let’s just be real about it.

Frankly, I find more to get excited about or fall “in love” with regarding soap nuts when taken and used outside of the laundry room! An alternative organic detergent and laundry soap is merely the beginning of the story. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Hopefully I’ve done a good job of “keeping it real” throughout this site. That has always been an important goal. Soap berries are a true gift! – But they should never be over-sold purely for the sake of sales.

Much of this article is simply common sense. Or at least it should be NOW – given that you’re thinking about it. Avoid these common problems and mistakes, and you’ll start realizing consistently better results from your soap nuts. That’s a promise.

CAUTION: Don’t miss the updated post about China-grown soapberry seller(s) found in violation of U.S. Federal law, USDA regulations – and carrying a high risk of contamination. Many grandiose claims, and statements of being tested safe are made – however none (not a single one) has ever been substantiated. Online and third-party availability only. No address or phone is provided for the seller. The berries are characteristically soft, slimy and oily while having a dark reddish purple to black color (like old, dirty motor oil). Commonly noted is the scent of petroleum. Best to return (if possible) or discard in an environmentally friendly fashion.
(See full post below for the latest info.) – Just say “NO” to China-grown.