• 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?

• Laundry Use: The Wash Bag Method

Let’s get to the age-old, traditional method of soap nuts (soapberries) laundry washing. That is, using the dried soapberries in a wash bag. It is extremely simple, but the most difficult method to wrap our brain around. It is simply such a different and unique way to wash laundry. Never use soap nuts without a wash bag. That would be very wasteful, plus you would likely get bits and pieces of the soap nuts in your laundry. Do not put soap nuts into the detergent compartments (either loose or in a wash bag). Doing so will not permit the agitation that helps the soap nuts release their saponin – their all-important active ingredient.

With traditional soap nuts wash bag usage, forget about your washing machine’s compartments entirely. Put five or six soap nuts (approximately a half an ounce) into a muslin or cotton wash bag. Tie it closed and simply toss the wash bag right in with your laundry. Period. That’s it. It doesn’t matter whether your machine is standard, HE, front-loading, top-loading or whatever. All we want to do is get the wash bag to be “washed” right along with the rest of your laundry.

NOTE: Be sure that the soap nuts do not contain seeds. (You can tell very easily if they do. The seeds are large, like a seed in a cherry. There are some soap nuts being sold on the market that are not de-seeded. The seeds are big, very hard and black as coal. They have no cleaning benefits at all, and can potentially leave spots on your laundry. This is not to mention that since you purchase soap nuts by weight, the seed will weigh about as much as the shell (the part that produces the saponin). Beware of very cheap prices.

Certain things are necessary to understand how to use soap nuts traditionally and to achieve the best results from them. Some basic points:
1) The dried soap nuts must become saturated with water. The dried fruit will become softer when it is releasing saponin at a desirable rate.
2) Heat is a catalyst that can be used effectively to more quickly soften the soap nuts and facilitate a faster release of the saponin.
3) Good water flow in and around the soap nuts and laundry, plus agitation are key factors to effective and ongoing release of saponin throughout the wash. Overstuffed laundry loads will not produce desirable results.
4) Cold water merely reduces the degree to which the saponin is released. There is no need to remove the soap nuts during the commonly cold rinse cycle. Saponin is so benign that a little in the rinse cycle has no negative effect whatsoever.

The traditional method of soap nut usage is the most economical method of use. Soap nuts’ cost per load is far less than most commercial detergents – particularly the so-called “natural” laundry soaps. Plus you will need no fabric softener or dryer sheets anymore. You will typically get around five loads per half an ounce of soap nuts. When washing and rinsing in cold water or when using an HE washer, you can often extend that to 6-7 loads. Tip: If you choose to, you can remove the wash bag prior to the rinse cycle and that will also extend the useful life of the soap nuts. This is not necessary at all. It may simply get you an extra wash or two per soap nuts wash bag.

If using a cold-water wash cycle, it is best to soak the bag of soap nuts in a cup of warm water first. Make a soap nut “tea” so to speak. That will help to stimulate the release of saponin from the soapberries. Then pour the cup of liquid and the bag right into the machine, add your laundry and start washing. If you have a pre-wash cycle, that’s fine. It won’t make a difference. Many people do not do take this extra step, and get great results. Water hardness and the exact water temperature are other variables. One person’s cold can be many degrees different than another’s. Softer water will allow the soap nuts to begin working more quickly, too. Hence, it is best to simply experiment to determine what works best for you.

Overstuffed laundry loads is the #1 reason for less than desirable results - regardless of detergent type.

Over-stuffing laundry loads is the #1 reason for "less than desirable" wash results - regardless of detergent type.

Be certain not to over-stuff your loads. If water is not flowing adequately through the fabrics, no detergent of any kind will work well. You should always be able to see your laundry intermixing and moving about. If nothing appears to be moving about freely, then your  laundry load is packed too tightly. Overly packed loads may save water, but at the price of having laundry that has not been properly cleaned.

Once you begin using soap nuts you will quickly understand just how simple they are to use. I feel that much of what I write is not because we need to learn so much about how to use them, but rather to explain the many things that we have come to believe about doing laundry that are just plain wrong. Given the fundamentals above, you would figure most of this out for yourself through trial and error. However, I hope that to help shorten your learning curve, bring clarity to certain issues about using soap nuts, and minimize any confusion that occurs during the course of changing our ways of doing laundry.

Through the course of business I meet many people in the laundry business. As one professional specialty laundry cleaner of many years put it, “Most people shouldn’t do their own laundry.” He stated that there are just too many things that most people do not fully understand about what actually causes the proper cleaning of their laundry. That’s very interesting, don’t you think?

We learn more about soap nuts and saponin every single day. The list of benefits that the soap nut offers us and our environment gets longer all the time. It is ultimately my goal to move on to addressing all these wonderful benefits and the many other soap nuts uses. Mother Nature handed us a remarkable gift when that first soapberry tree took root. I look forward to sharing all I have learned from soap nuts. They will change our lives forever.

• Soap Nuts & Big Business

Soap nuts (soap berries) are baffling and confusing to us. We simply do not think of detergents, soaps and cleaners as something growing in the wild. The interesting question is, “Why?” The eye-opening answer is that we have been TRAINED to think of all cleaners as being MAN-MADE products via hundreds of years of politics and generations of powerful marketing and advertising. We’ve been brainwashed.

Procter and Gamble was founded in 1837 as a commercial soap and candle manufacturer. By 1860 annual sales exceeded one million dollars. That was a LOT of money then. During the 1880s, P & G introduced Ivory soap and has continued expanding their lines. For over 150 years we have been associating soaps and all types of cleansers with commercial manufacturers. We have been shown nothing else. Most of the world knew of anything else. Our OPTIONS have been limited to WHICH of the COMMERCIAL brands we buy.

Today P & G is one of the largest companies in the world – with billions allocated to ongoing marketing and advertising. Let’s remember there are other major power players such as Colgate-Palmolive, Clorox, Lever Brothers, etc. throwing more money into the pot. They compete against one another, but the important thing to realize is that collectively they virtually CONTROL how we think. They have done exceeding well in brainwashing us to think exactly the way they want us to. They produce the soaps, detergents and cleansers that most people use every single day. Even the notion of “growing” soap is EXTREMELY difficult for us to comprehend. Changing how we have been doing something our entire life is a daunting task. But times are changing. Most importantly – we are getting smarter.

Soap nuts did not just pop-up out of nowhere as an alternative to commercial products. They have been well known for their cleaning power in many other parts of the world for ages – particularly those remote areas of the world where they are plentiful and grow wild. This takes us to the mountainous heartlands of Central and Southeast Asia.

Cleaning was certainly not unknown to the cultures outside the boundaries of the Great Roman Empire. Within the other cultures of the world, cleaning was accomplished in various ways. In some, the soap berries (soap nuts) played a major role.

Throughout most of the more developed parts of the world, soap has been being man-made for over 2000 years. Soap nuts are obscure outside their areas of origin. Their uses are equally obscure. Albeit well known in the more remote corners of the world, the rest of the entire world had already found its solutions – and the soap-making businesses of the times were quite happy (and still are).

Consider this: How could a big, profitable soap-making business ever exist if anybody could go gather soap  – FOR FREE – in the hills a few miles away? Remember, for a long time soap was a luxury item that the average family could not afford. There were no big soap-making enterprises near the regions soap nuts grew. Free soap nuts would have put the soap-makers out of business in a hurry.

So, let’s tie all this together. For centuries there have been no major companies with any interest in finding natural alternatives whatsoever to man-made soaps, detergents and cleansers. P & G and the other behemoths are perfectly content to continuing to manufacture and patent chemicals and products to make massive profits. Only in recent years have we seen a demand for more earth-friendly, “green” products.

I don’t think I need to explain “green-washing” here, but caveat emptor (buyer beware). Be it from the heat generated by consumers, or the opportunity recognized, both old and new companies are creating new facades under the guise of being green – Seventh Generation being one of my personal favorites in the art and science of green-washing. Many smaller companies emerged with sincere missions of developing healthier and safer cleaning products. Sadly, the conglomerates have bought up some of the best ones.

Due to the emergence of the information age, the Internet, heightened consumer awareness, public concerns and governmental intervention regarding the health and environmental hazards of all these mass-produced chemical products – we now seek alternatives more than ever before. Large manufacturers are now marketing their products to APPEAR safer and healthier, but they remain primarily synthetic chemical-based formulations. Many of which we may not know their full effects for generations.

As the saying goes, “A leopard can’t change its spots.” Most detergents, soaps and cleaners come from companies with enormous, complex and incredibly expensive infrastructures that rune very deep. Such companies are not about to convert to importing fruits (soap nuts) anytime soon.

The simple fruit of the soap nut tree now poses a serious threat to big business. For big business it has now become the typical – and anticipated – “smoke and mirrors” game. As with the tobacco industry, given their enormity it’s a game that can last for decades – even generations. For an interesting article that discusses the similar scenario encountered by the tobacco industry visit:

Soap nuts are the primary source for Mother Nature’s own soap (saponin, the active ingredient in the soapberry). Saponin is found in many botanicals, such as agaves, yucca, soapwort and more. What is unique to the soapberry is its EXTRAORDINARILY HIGH level of saponin concentration. This high concentration of genuine 100% truly natural soap is the IDEAL alternative to commercial soaps. Now known via new and independent studies, soap nuts and saponin are equivalent in cleaning power to the most popular synthetic chemical detergents in the world. When considering all the heath and environmental problems that soap nuts resolve, soap nuts become the proverbial “dream come true”. (See Efficacy Testing Results in posts.)

Soap nuts are simply a better mousetrap – PERIOD. Now that we have re-discovered them and there is a growing demand for them, we will see more soap nuts and saponin products. Soap nuts are marking one of the greatest turning points in history. Nature’s free gift of the soap berry tree is at the forefront of a better, healthier, greener life for us all.

Big business will do everything possible to hide the truths, misguide us and delay the inevitable. Don’t expect saponin to appear in the ingredients of a P & G product anytime soon. I hope that vast numbers of consumers will band together to derail the strategies and plans mapped out by these huge companies. The REAL power is in two places: Our brains and our wallets. We tend to see ourselves as small and ineffectual. Alone we are. Together we create a force beyond the influence of big business. Will we be smarter, or will we be herded around like the sheep of the past?

Unlike the days of the major battles with the tobacco companies, we consumers now have new and far better tools than at any time in history. We can connect and communicate with each other as never before possible. It’s OUR lives and OUR world being discussed in board rooms across the globe. Where we go from here is OUR choice – not theirs. No longer are our options limited. TOGETHER we can change this world forever.

• Get Best Results: Washing Machine Types

It’s time to look at how to use soap nuts (aka: soapnuts, soapberries, wash nuts, etc.) in your particular type of washing machine. Depending upon the type (and some other factors), the way you use your soap nuts will vary. This post is an introduction purely to get some fundamentals out of our way. We will drill much deeper into all the little nuances of soap nuts and your specific machine later.

Let’s start with a look at these basic machine types. We don’t need to bother discussing the size of machine. Regardless of size they will all work similarly to their bigger or smaller brothers and sisters. There are top-loaders and front-loaders. There are standard and high efficiency (HE) washers. Basically, that’s it. (Okay, somebody is still using a washboard with rollers somewhere, and I’ll even get to that some other day.) Please note that any front-loader is essentially a higher efficiency unit simply due to its design. It is simply that extra water and energy saving features have been incorporated into the newer models.

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

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

No washing machine of any type currently on the market addresses the use of soap nuts in either their designs or owner’s manuals. Only Electrolux to my knowledge has a soap nuts washer on their drawing board. Some soap nuts (saponin) based detergents are being developed to be used in similar fashion to the typical commercial detergents (supposedly natural or not). That is the path of least resistance in reaching the average consumer. Given that the popularity of soap nuts is spreading like a wildfire, it is only a matter of time before more machines are designed to utilize them, and manuals will specifically address their usage.

For the soap nut users that prefer the traditional method of soap nuts in a wash bag, I suspect it will take a bit longer to be addressed by manufacturers. It is simply so different in the way they are used it will be more difficult for to address. Ironically, it is probably the easiest way. (Soap nuts used properly in the traditional method is the most economical – and even fun – way to wash laundry.) Let us be aware that there are strong relationships built between the hardware manufacturers and the detergent producers – similar to the relationships between computer and software companies. They need and help each other. Given that, the fruits of the soap berry tree are not likely to be embraced by the makers of Tide, Gain, Clorox, Cheer (or whomever) anytime soon, the traditional users of soap nuts are going to be left to information such as this (and their common sense) for the best guidance in the meantime.

The numerous benefits of the soapberry are now being found in soap nuts (saponin-based) liquid and soap nut powder detergents that can be used in very similar fashion to the commercial brands. I highly recommend soap nuts liquid for many reasons. See the upcoming post on “Powder vs. Liquid” for in-depth information and rationale. For the sake of brevity, let’s just leave it at this: Liquids are cheaper and simpler to use regardless of machine type. There are more variables that must be considered when using powder. Soap nuts liquids are essentially a no-brainer.

Possibly the most important thing to realize from this post is that when it comes to soap nuts – in any form – are fantastic for every type of machine. Don’t get hung up on the newer HE models that discuss using only appropriate HE detergents. All they are really saying is to avoid high sudsing detergents. Soap nuts are naturally low sudsing. Due to their very nature, soap nuts work equally well in all machine types – and far better than the chemical-based detergents for many reasons. Don’t get hung up on how to use soap nuts in the machines that have various compartments. Some will be used and some won’t be required at all. That stated it now becomes a matter of how to improve upon the way we use soap nuts, and ultimately obtain the very best results from each type of machine. Have no concern. It will all be addressed in great detail in separate posts.

• Varieties & Quality

Soap nuts were originally discovered and used by locals as a cleansing medium. They were primarily used for bathing and personal hygiene and a plethora of cleaning uses. They make an exceptional jewelry cleaner for example. Soap nuts were also used in numerous medicinal treatments and worked as an effective, yet safe, chemical-free pest repellent. These same uses prevail today – PLUS there is a long list of NEW uses in our modern age.

The botanical term Sapindus is derived from the Latin word “sapo” (soap) and (Indian) indicus, referring to its lather-producing fruit. It is this genus of tree that produces soap nuts – and there are many varieties. Saponin is found in many plants such as yucca, agave, soapwort, and others. What makes the soap nut SO special is their extraordinarily high concentration of saponin (the active ingredient and natural surfactant in soap nuts). Extracting enough saponin from other plants would simply not be feasible. However, Sapindus trees produce a fruit that not only makes it feasible, Sapindus trees make it easy AND SUSTAINABLE.

Soap nuts are a common name for the ripened and dried fruit harvested from a Sapindus tree. There are two primary species being harvested today: Mukorossi and Trifoliatus. Both are found mainly in Southeast Asia. Both are of the family Sapindaceae. I am often asked why does NaturOli use only Mukorossi soap nuts. The Mukorossi species consistently produces the highest level of saponin of the many soap berry varieties. Hence, consumers get the best possible experience from them. Also, other than Mukorossi and Trifoliatus there is no infrastructure and supply chain for the other varieties. When ordering tens of thousands of kilos, the Southeast Asian exporters are the only suppliers that can meet the demand. With time, increased consumer awareness, and increased demand this scenario will change. In decades to come, we will find suppliers in many regions around the Rocky, Andes, Sierra, Appalachian and other mountain ranges. Most likely it will be the Mukorossi variety being grown and harvested.

Sapindus Mukorossi is a large soapberry tree growing primarily in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains of China, northern India and Nepal. It is a prolific fruit producer and lives around ninety years. It is native to China and considered alien to the Doon Valley in India where it flourishes in poor soil conditions. It aids in the reducing soil erosion in these regions. The soap nut flowers are small, white and grouped in panicles (clusters). The fruits are round, yellowish berries that become gummy and wrinkled as they ripen. It produces large, colorful and glossy soapberries compared to other species. It is the most highly valued species.

Sapindus Trifoliatus is a smaller soapberry tree typically found in Southern India, Pakistan and numerous countries in Southeast Asia. It prefers lower altitudes and warmer climates. It produces a smaller soap nut (about half the size of the Mukorossi soap nut). It contains saponin as do all Sapindus fruits, however not as high of level as Mukorossi soap berries. Harvesting and de-seeding the smaller soap nuts is more difficult. Being sold by weight makes Trifoliatus less desirable in many ways. There is more work for the harvesters for less money. There is less money involved per kilo for the exporters. And they are of lower quality and effectiveness for the consumer. Trifoliatus soap nuts are certainly a valuable resource for saponin. HOWEVER, they are also the primary species sold deceptively to be its far superior cousin, the Mukorossi soap nut.

Local villagers, farmers, families and co-ops harvest the soap nuts after the fruit falls from the tree. Properly processed, the seeds are removed and the shells are dried in the sun. They are then sold to the exporters. Currently only about half of the Mukorossi soap nuts available are harvested annually. The rest go to waste. Harvesting provides an economic stimulus for these economically depressed regions. Increased global demand will provide additional stimulus and encourage more cultivation.

Many other varieties of these remarkable soap nut trees grow around the globe with differing data with regards to their fruits. There are actually many types of saponin, too – also with varying properties. We will be studying these soap nut varieties and their individual properties for many years to come. We have much to still learn. The consensus at NaturOli is that the further we drill into the benefits of soap nuts and saponin the more we continue to discover. Who knows how deep this rabbit hole goes?

• What are Soap Nuts?

Are they soap NUTS or soap BERRIES? A little botany:

Soap nuts are not “nuts”. Of course you can take that a few different ways, but I am referring to only the botany. A soap nut is not a nut at all. It is a berry – a fruit. This has confused many people. Most consumers have never seen a soapberry growing on the tree. Most only see the dried fruit. Being hard and crinkled it looks like a nut. It erroneously began being referred to as a soap nut, and the name stuck.

One can become very confused when trying to determine what is rightfully a “nut”. It is a very broad term. Using some definitions, a soapberry could be referred to as a nut or seed. Botanically speaking, a nut is a dried fruit with one seed. That fits for a soap nut. However, the BIG catch is that with a true NUT – the fruit cannot be separated from the seed. A freshly picked ripe soapberry will resemble a cherry. They vary from species to species, but they have a large single seed in each berry and a juicy pulp and skin. Of course, some can get nit-picky here because some nuts have shells, hence they can be separated. However, those “shells” were never a fruit-like pulp. They are woody – nothing like the pulp of a cherry. A soap nut is NOT a nut. It IS a fruit.

Even in India, the soapberry exporters refer to them as soap nuts because that is what most people call them. This does not help the situation. Most all sellers call them and brand them as “nuts”. It is common to see both the one and two word versions of each name to further complicate matters. As usual, the consumer is left confused. I use all the terms interchangeably mainly because “nuts” is so ingrained now, but would prefer for readers to think of them as berries. Again, think of them much like a cherry – a de-seeded (hopefully), dried cherry at the consumer level.

Many different species of soapberries grow around the globe. Simply visit Wikipedia searching under the genus sapindus for some of the many types of soapberries:

Be they shrubs or trees, we know that soapberries come from sapindus vegetation. We know the species differ significantly. A great deal more study is required to isolate all the differences.

Please be wary of what you read. As stated on Wikipedia, “Common names include soapberry and soapnut, both names referring to the use of the crushed seeds to make soap.” This statement is VERY misleading. It is not the crushed seed that produces soap. It is saponins (the natural substance within them) that produce soap. If it helps, think of saponins as soapberry juice. Saponin predominantly is derived from the pulp and skin of the fruit. The seeds have yet to be determined of significant value.

Personally, I feel much of the confusion is semantics. Much is written by those other than botanical experts and then copied and pasted over and over. I try to write to how I believe most of us think. Is a cherry a fruit or a seed? That depends upon HOW you think. However, most of us think of it as a fruit or berry. It has a big seed inside and we eat the pulp and skin. It is with THIS mindset that I describe soapberries.

I have read claims that soapberries are closely related to the goji berry or wolfberry. This is a little troubling for they VERY different in most of their characteristics. Goji berries are more similar to tiny tomatoes, and often are for culinary and nutritional use. They do not come from the same order of the plant kingdom – and you DO NOT want to eat soapberries.

One seller (that I am not yet permitted to disclose) will soon launch a massive campaign that may earmark a turning point. The soap nut may begin to become more rightfully known as a soapberry. In the meantime, don’t get confused. Regardless of the term, they are all a fruit, and there are different types that yield different results.

That is all that the average consumer NEEDS to know – for now.


• Nut Allergies? No Worries.

Have nut allergies? No worries.

A soap nut is not a nut. It is a fruit – a berry to be precise. Many, particularly those in Eastern countries, more appropriately call it a soap berry. While on the tree the soap nut is similar in physical characteristics and appearance to a cherry. So, if you have nut allergies, do not be concerned.

A soap BERRY is a far more botanically accurate description of it. Throughout this site you will find the use of each of these terms, but do not be confused. I am referring to one thing.

Nobody really knows when or where soap nuts caught on as the most popular term for them. When they are de-seeded, dried and ready for use they have a crinkled nut-like appearance. This is how most consumers first see and experience them. Very few people see the soap nuts while still on the tree. If more people did they would be more commonly referred to as soap berries.

Given that the possibility of an allergy is the gist of this article, remember that virtually everyone can be allergic to something. From experience and hard data from NaturOli, I’ll have to put soap nuts close to olives as far as human sensitivity to them. Out of thousands of known customers and users (as of July, 2009) we have documented only two individuals that experienced an allergic reaction. In both cases they resulted in a mild, itchy rash that lasted a short period (less than 24 hours).

If you knowingly have high sensitivities and many allergies, it is always a good practice to do a small patch test. Take a patch of cloth, get it wet and soapy by rubbing the soap nuts, and then place it on your arm or leg. You don’t need to leave it on for long, but let it dry on your skin. Don’t rinse or wipe it off. Your skin will absorb the saponin. It is the saponin that would be the cause of an allergy. Saponin is the active ingredient in the soap nut.

Allow an hour or two to see if you experience any reaction. If you have an allergy to soap nuts, this test will show you, and do so with minimal discomfort. Most likely the treated area would become red and itchy. Possibly small bumps could emerge. Of course at this point you should wash the affected area. It is only prudent to state that if there is any reaction more serious than described, you should consult your physician.

As we get into much more depth be aware that a soap nut is not just a soap nut. There are many varieties. There are specific articles on this topic. When being referenced in articles and posts the vast majority of the time the soap nut being discussed is the Sapindus Mukorossi variety (the highest quality and most highly valued of the many varieties).

Given that there are numerous species and differing saponins, there is a possibility to be allergic to one particular species and not another. This is very unlikely, but a possibility. Much more study, research and testing of all the varieties of soap nuts is required.

There is a recent 2009 toxicology test that compares ocular irritation from a saponin-based detergent relative to other popular commercial brands. (See Soap Nuts Ocular Toxicity Test) It should be noted that in this independent laboratory test the saponin detergent was the LEAST irritating of all brands tested. Particularly given that this was an eye irritation test (eyes being very sensitive), It is a good indicator of the very benign nature of soap nuts and saponin.

The odds of having an allergy to saponin (soap nuts, soap berries, etc.) are very remote. You should be able to freely partake in ALL the incredible wonders and benefits that soap nuts offer us.

• Saponin Toxicity Test

Soap nuts are demonstrated to be less of an irritant than mainstream detergents – even the “so called” Free and Clear products.

In vitro (test tube) ocular testing of soap nuts/saponin has recently (2009) been conducted via a US independent laboratory. A non-disclosure agreement limits me at this time from providing all the specifics regarding who conducted the tests, plus the patented processes that were utilized. No animal testing of any kind was involved.

The tests were conducted using cultured human cells from the cornea. The tests evaluated the level of irritation that exposure to soap nuts/saponin-based and mainstream commercial detergents would develop. It is significant to note that ocular testing is possibly the best measure of toxicity due to the sensitivity of the eye.

For the saponin detergent a variation of NaturOli’s Extreme 18X was used. It was reduced to a level of potency equivalent to that of the other detergents it was compared to. Given the high concentration of Extreme18X, adjustments needed to be made to have a true apples-to-apples comparison.

Note: Triton X-100 is not a commercial or retail “brand” detergent. It is a non-ionic surfactant commonly used for laboratory testing. It is used as a proper control sample for such testing.
See: for more information.

The study is quite complex, but the net of the net is the following comparative results:

NaturOli’s Soap Nut Liquid Laundry Soap – “minimally irritating”

Triton X-100 (the control sample) – “mildly irritating”

2X Ultra Tide HE Free Detergent – “moderately irritating”

Seventh Generation HE Natural Free and Clear Detergent – “mildly irritating”

Method Green 3X Concentrate Free and Clear – “severely to extremely irritating”

Very significant to this testing is that each of the detergents selected for comparative study are the detergents marketed as the “greener” and more natural of each brand.

There were no surprises to me in the results of this testing. I have intentionally put tiny amounts of saponin and other detergents in my eyes to personally experience the results first hand. These results are consistent with my experience. I’ve tried many others, too. Soap nuts liquid and saponin is very gentle relative to everything I’ve personally tested.

VERY IMPORTANT: Please do not even think of trying this yourself. It’s not fun – at all. It hurts, and you could cause yourself serious harm. Even “moderately” is an understatement in my opinion, and “extremely” doesn’t come close to doing it justice. Wow! OUCH!

It should be noted that NaturOli’s Soap Nut Liquid Detergent contains only vegetable glycerin, olive leaf extract and “food” grade preservative as additives to its saponin extract. NaturOli uses a proprietary aqueous extraction process (water based) that is also very safe and benign. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, there are soap nut liquids that utilize very hazardous chemical extraction processes. Not all saponin extracts are alike. Hence, this test does not imply that all soap nut detergents will produce the same results.

• Welcome to SoapNutsPro

PREMISE: Information contained throughout SoapNuts.Pro is product specific – not brand specific. Data and facts are provided (plus my opinion as moderator, as well as those from readers). You’ll notice minimal mention of any brands. Brands are only occasionally mentioned when necessary to clarify a specific discussion, or when a proprietary soap berry product or process requires it. Maintaining objectivity is vital to our mission. Of course, my articles are subjective in that I put forth my opinions. However you may read SoapNuts.Pro with confidence in its fundamental neutrality. Without letting it get too boring, I maintain Joe Friday’s (Dragnet) approach of: “Just the facts, ma’me.” All conclusions and decisions are yours alone to make.

Welcome! has two primary goals:

1. To shed light where it is needed. Soap nuts (aka soapnuts, soap berry, soapberries, Chinese soap berries, wash nuts, laundry nuts, wash shells, etc. for only a few common names) are often misunderstood due to large data gaps, poor quality articles and inaccurate information that spreads like a virus across the Internet. You will find honest, thoughtful answers to your questions about soap nuts here.

2. To increase consumer awareness of soap nuts, and to expand the knowledge base surrounding them. Soap nuts and saponin are in our future as a better, healthier way to clean – plus soap nuts will have a positive environmental impact of historic proportions. Consumer awareness and understanding are the keys. is dedicated to provide a reliable source for only well-studied, accurate, useful and beneficial information regarding soap nuts (soapberries). Expect no sales pitch or hype. There is no copy/pasting of the same stuff as commonly found online. All content is original. There is no store to purchase soap nut products here. Expect only quality information and facts. Some may surprise you, and rightfully so. You will find so many soap nuts reviews, comments and FAQ that I have made efforts to eliminate redundancies so they are not overwhelming for readers. I try to keep info timely and up-to-date on events and topics.

Both PROS and CONS about soap nuts are presented throughout this site. I hope to have one or two articles that distill and outline as many of them as possible for you in a simple, logical format. As with everything, of course there are pros and cons. That’s life. However, preparing a good presentation is a daunting task (to say the least). The uses of saponin seem endless. As we continue to discover more new uses, more issues and questions follow. As I make just a few edits here and there tonight (9/2012), I view “laundry room” use today as merely the tip of and iceberg – that keeps growing. So, as I continue to write and expand upon the “hot” topics of the day, and tweak things here and there to remain timely and accurate – the TRUTH is what is SoapNuts.Pro is really about. It will always be my focus. is not intended for everyone. It drills very deep, and is very broad in scope. Please excuse any redundancy. Articles are intended to be meaningful when read alone. Hence some redundancy is impossible to get around to make each article a whole unto itself.

Soap nuts offer our generation and future generations an amazing array of benefits that have the power to change our world in huge ways – much more than as only a natural detergent. At this time, that is what soap nuts are mainly used for. This alone is enormous, however there is much more.

The natural detergent and laundry soap aspects of soap nuts will be covered at length, but it merely scratches the surface of this iceberg. We will drill to great depths and expose other monumental benefits to mankind. is a live entity that will continually expand and evolve. It will help people in every way possible to maximize the life altering alternatives that Mother Nature freely handed us when she grew her first soap nut tree.

The prestigious Green Dot Awards recognized NaturOli Beautiful, LLC of Peoria Arizona with this quote: “NaturOli green detergents and cleansers. Use of saponin, which is derived naturally from soap nuts, is possibly the most significant green innovation in history for everyday household cleaning needs.”

One more time, “…POSSIBLY THE MOST SIGNIFICANT GREEN INNOVATION IN HISTORY FOR EVERYDAY HOUSEHOLD CLEANING NEEDS.” That says a lot and marks only the beginning of recognizing all the benefits of soap nuts – for us and generations to come.

I am the founder of NaturOli, Christopher Sicurella, a true natural skin care formulator and handmade soap maker who had no clue a few years ago that I would be writing so much about soap nuts and saponin. I discovered something special and extraordinary about soap nuts. I assume you did, too. This is not a “sales” site. You can’t purchase soap nuts here. I bring to this forum my professional knowledge and personal experiences to enrich and broaden the scale and scope of – to share what I know. welcomes input, information, comments and questions from professionals, sellers and consumers. We all have much to learn. I only ask to never be spammy. That’s taboo here. If you are a professional, please introduce yourself. After that contribute something of genuine value about soap nuts that we all may benefit from – and that is not that you sell soap nuts. All of us involved in the business of soap nuts are colleagues and allies. We must work together to expand consumer awareness of the benefits of soap nuts. Together we can show the world a healthier, better place – a world without Proctor and Gamble (and their like) controlling how we think.

As consumers, the floor is wide open. Questions are critical to learning. Ask away! Share your thoughts, experiences and things you have learned about using soap nuts. As soap nut consumers and users – you are the greatest asset to this site. You are where the rubber hits the road.

Again, welcome to

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