As I’ve surfed around the web researching ways to live greener, use earth-friendly cleaning products and to keep my Thirsties cloth diaper stash smelling fresh and clean, I’ve once again come across something completely new to me: soap nuts.

Soap nuts, or soap berries, grow in tropical areas and have been used by native peoples for hundreds of years. They contain saponins are naturally occurring surfactants (they foam when shaken in water) thus creating the cleaning properties of the soap nuts–both for clothing and skin. They are extremely mild and are great for people with sensitive skin and may even provide relief for those with eczema–probably because of their anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.

From what I’ve read, you can buy soap nuts in the detergent section of Whole Foods (I am heading there ASAP!) And when you are ready to do your laundry, you put between four and six nuts in a muslin bag, tie it up and toss it in with your laundry. The nuts need warm water to work (this helps release the saponins) so you’ll need to either soak them in hot water for about five minutes before you use them if you use cold water, or just use warm water for your wash.  Another plus (so I’ve read) is that you can actually skip the rinse cycle!  The extra saponins left on your clothes act as a laundry softener.  Think of the gallons of water to be saved!  Of course, this means catching your laundry cycle before it gets to the rinse and going straight to spin.

Soap nuts are also safe to use on cloth diapers. They are great for babies with sensitive skin because they are hypoallergenic. They will also strip the diapers of any detergent residue which will help to increase absorbency. The reviews written by other cloth diapering moms, indicate that if you use soap nuts, you may not ever need to strip your diapers. That sounds good to me. Other reviews I’ve read have mentioned the fact that heavy stains on clothing will need to be pretreated with stain remover and that if you like your whites really white, using an oxygen booster is suggested.

Tomorrow, I’ll be packing up all three kids and heading to Whole Foods. I’m fairly certain that’s not going to be the most economical place to buy them, but I want to see and feel the nuts before I buy them.  I’ll have to do some research as to which online companies are reputable as well as economical.  I found a wonderful website call Soap Nuts Pro which compares the “price per load” of soap nuts versus commercial detergent, as well as suggesting reputable online retailers and sharing their dozens of other uses in the home from cleaning to skin care. If you use soap nuts, please share your experience. Do you use them to wash your cloth diapers?