The soap nut washing liquid debacle

The soap nut washing liquid debacle

I know, I know. That title should have come with a spoiler alert. As much as I want to sing the praises of the green alternatives I’m trying, this one really isn’t for me.

What are you on about? What even is soap nut washing liquid?

So, soap nuts are dried fruit shells which contain real natural soap and are 100% completely natural” according to Live Naturally, and are a green alternative for washing clothes. There’s two ways to wash with them.

The first is to put a few shells (around 5) into a muslin cloth bag and pop it into the drum along with your dirty clothes. You can read how I got on with this method here.

The other is to boil a load (around 15 shells), wait for it to cool, and use the liquid instead, pouring 250ml into the drawer in your washing machine.

How to make the liquid

I found the instructions for making the soapnut washing liquid on the Living Naturally website. There are 2 methods, but I used the method of boiling the soap nuts in 2 litres of water, allowing to cool (which took around 3 years), then sloshing all over my kitchen as I poured first into a giant jug, sieving out the soap nuts, and then again as I decanted into a (clean) squash bottle for storage in my fridge.

So what was my issue with the liquid?

Alas, if only there has been one issue!

  1. Time. Making soap nut liquid makes using the natural detergent easier when you do a load of washing, but the time invested up front doesn’t justify it. It took a huge amount of time for the liquid to cool down, and in the mean time it was just taking up space sitting in the pan in my kitchen.
  2. Space. It takes up space while you’re waiting for it to cool, and there is now a 2 litre bottle taking up precious space in my fridge. The soap nuts can be boiled two further times, which would have taken up more space, but I didn’t have the time, nor did I have any more containers to store it (nor the fridge space).
  3. Mould. I put the once boiled soap nuts into a tupperware tub in order to dry out and to use again. Unfortunately, they started to develop what looked like mould on them, and I really didn’t fancy using mouldy soap nuts to clean my clothes.
  4. Pan stained. The saucepan I used (and I deliberately used my least favourite) has a brown ring there the water came to. I have tried three or 4 times to get it off without success.
  5. My flipping washing machine. When using the liquid, you should pour 250ml into your detergent drawer. I’ve never used the detergent drawer for laundry liquid so had to google how to do it. There should be a little piece of plastic that stops the liquid running away (you remove it if you use powder rather than liquid). My washing machine doesn’t have this! So I poured my liquid in and it vanished into the machine. Whether it would still clean my clothes, I don’t know.

Any benefits? Any benefits at all?

I think that there are two benefits to making the liquid. One of these is cost, as soap nuts go further when they are boiled to make liquid. These was the most appealing benefit, but it’s not worth it for me.

The other benefit is how much easier it is for each wash. Putting the soap nuts in a little bag for each wash and ensuring it is tight enough does take a minute or two, whereas pouring the water in is much less of a faff. However, the time saving isn’t big enough for me to go through the pain of making and storing it.


We’re persevering with the soap nuts to wash clothes, but most definitely won’t bother making the liquid again. They may not be as convenient, but I want to really try and keep this switch to keep one extra piece of plastic out of the house.

Have you tried soap nuts yet? What did you think?

2 thoughts on “The soap nut washing liquid debacle

  1. Sarah, I have to confess two thing:
    1) I laughed ? and
    2) I love this post! So many of the ‘going green’ posts make it sound like it’s so easy but I appreciate you honestly laying out the issues you had.

    I always feel massively guilty when I encounter issues with a green alternative [like soap bars ?] but it’s nice to hear that someone else has them and has decided that this version of the alternative is not for them. Hoping for the best re using the soap nuts the other way!

    1. Same! I mean, I didn’t laugh at my own post… but I’m the same with finding some green alternatives don’t work and I feel so guilty about it. I have read more soap nuts reviews than I realised could exist (well I read about 3), but there’s never a sniff of “eurgh, this doesn’t work, it’s really hard, etc”. Hopefully, if I find some easy stuff, people will believe me and give it a go. 🙂

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