Home Neat Home: Nuts For Laundry

May 23, 2011

Have you ever heard of soapnuts?

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Me neither. Until my OpenSky shoppers sent them to me as something they thought I’d like. I thought they were so weird they deserved a special edition of Home Neat Home to share my experience.

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Soapnuts are these little nuggets that despite being called nuts are actually berries from trees in the Himilayas. Their shells contain saponin, a natural detergent. They are biodegradable, antimicrobial, organically grown and good for sensitive skin. To use them, you put 3-5 soapnuts in a little linen bag and toss in your laundry machine (safe for HE too). You can use them 3 times too before composting. A $9.99 bag will do 35 loads of laundry – about 28 cents a load. But the 500 gram bag (the bulk one) comes down to $.19 cents a load. When you add in shipping cost, it comes out to $.24 cents a load.

I checked Consumer Reports for the prices on other detergents:

Tide  – $.23

All – $.15

Cheer – $.15

GREEN:

Seventh Generation – $.36

Method – $.30

Evover – $.35

Shaklee – $.47

So if you buy the big bag, it’s actually much less expensive than other detergents – especially the other eco-friendly ones.

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So was I skeptical? YES! With all the activity I do, I am one stinky girl! Most natural detergents I’ve tried have either not gotten the stinky out (Costco’s ECO Natural, Method – a little) or I don’t love the smell (Shaklee). I haven’t made my own before because I am afraid of Borax! So I was very very skeptical that these would actually clean – the arm pits and all the gross smelly parts of my clothes.

I gave them a test today – following the directions and using 5 drops of lavender essential oil on the bag – just like they say.

Andddddddddd – THEY WORKED!

When I pulled my clothes from washer –> dryer I smelled and smelled and smelled and inspected. All I could smell was the fresh scent of lavender.

But I knew from experience that sometimes the smells don’t come out until the clothes are hot. After drying with one of my wonderful Method Marshmallow Rice milk dryer sheets (SO SO worth $5.49!! I put the leftovers in my pillow cases for marshmallow dreams!), all I could smell was vanilla marshmallow lavender!

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Am I going to do laundry with soapnuts for the rest of my life? Maybe! I’ll have to see how more loads go. But for being such an unusual, specialty product, I was very impressed. And I think the price is comparable for those of us committed to being greener all around. They have a 100% satisfaction guarantee – so there’s no risk to try them. That says to me they work.

I really want to order a few of their other essential oil blends! I always love things with cotton and linen in the name. And the Energy Blend has all of my favorite smells: peppermint, rosemary, lemon, and eucalyptus. [Edited to add while writing this post I just ordered the Energy Blend, Clean Cotton and Tea Tree – the prices were good on the oils and I can use them for my Shaklee bottles and steam vac too!]

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I’m working on a killer deal on a sample package of these for OpenSky so you guys can try them for a good price if you so choose.

I remember in the Bright Whites post Andrea recommended Soapnuts. Have any others of you ever used them? What did you think?

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{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anastasia May 23, 2011 at 11:28 am

How neat! I’d never heard of those before! I’m definitely going to have to try them out.

Also, those dryer sheets sound amazing. I’m headed to Target after work :]

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2 Holly @ The Runny Egg May 23, 2011 at 11:33 am

I have never heard of soapnuts before!

But I for sure want those dryer sheets. I need marshmallow dreams.

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3 Natalia - a side of simple May 23, 2011 at 11:33 am

So cool. These actually make me want to do laundry and fold clothes just so I can wrap myself in the scents :)

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4 Angie @ Musings of a Violet Monkey May 23, 2011 at 11:35 am

I have never heard of them! But with an OpenSky deal, I just might be persuaded to try them! ;)
(Though my last OpenSky purchase from your store was disappointing. The darn thing never shipped (after 2 wks!), so I had to cancel my order).

I NEED to get some of those Method dryer sheets… after hearing you and Ashley rave about them all the time. Mmmm.

~

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5 KathEats May 23, 2011 at 9:45 pm

Oh noooo! Which order didn’t ship?

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6 Angie @ Musings of a Violet Monkey May 24, 2011 at 10:53 am

It was the Danielle’s Veggie Chips deal. When I placed my order it said something about taking 2-3 days before they would ship, which was fine. However, a week later it still said the same thing. And again. And again. So I contacted Open Sky (and the chips STILL weren’t ready to ship), and cancelled my order. A little annoying, but no big deal in the long run. :)

~

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7 Claire @ Live and Love to Eat May 23, 2011 at 11:36 am

Amazing! I’ve never ever heard of them before. Thanks for the review!

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8 Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife May 23, 2011 at 11:37 am

I’ve never heard of them before, but they sound interesting.

You should check if the essential oils you use are certified pure 100%….because most essential oils companies add fillers and other ingredients to them, making them less effective, and not as potent as they could be. <—just something to check out!

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9 Laura May 23, 2011 at 11:39 am

Never heard of them! I would love to try them though, so interesting!

I steam cleaned my wood floors yesterday and added a drop of scented oil to the water. :) I learn so much from you!

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10 Jill in Chicago May 23, 2011 at 11:46 am

Cool! I would definitely be up for trying some soapnuts.

Also, I have the Method dryer sheets in Lavender scent, but will have to try the Marshmallow!

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11 cory : eat and {relish} May 23, 2011 at 11:50 am

i have always wanted to try these! ive just been so skeptical of them. im so glad to hear they work – ill be ordering some in the cotton fragrance.

and i am so obsessed with those dryer sheets!!!!!!!!!

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12 Maggy May 23, 2011 at 11:53 am

I HAVE heard of soap nuts, but never anyone’s reviews! I’m so glad to hear they work…it’s so sad how we are skeptical of nature over chemicals, eh?

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13 shannon May 23, 2011 at 11:54 am

i have seen these in our local co-op and was terrified to try them. any issues with staining whites? i worry about the dark color of the nuts. thanks for passing along your experience!

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14 Lisa C. May 23, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Shannon, you can make a liquid wash for soapnuts that works great for whites. No staining issues whatsoever. The liquid formula directions are enclosed with the Laundry Tree Soapnuts order.

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15 KathEats May 23, 2011 at 9:45 pm

I didn’t read anything about staining – just that they are better for cleaning than stain removal so you might want to use something like Nature Bright or Oxiclean in addition

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16 Halley (Blunder Construction) May 23, 2011 at 11:55 am

These are so cool! Good to hear they aren’t actually nuts because I was wondering about allergies. I really want to give these a try. But what do you mean when you say you put ‘leftovers’ in your pillow case? You mean the dryer sheet after it comes out of the dryer?

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17 KathEats May 23, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Yeah, because the dryer sheets smell so good I collect them in my pillowcase so I get whiffs of them when I put my head on my pillow!

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18 Chad @ thebreakupnote May 23, 2011 at 11:58 am

Whooooa I have never heard of such a thing – a berry that grows in the himalayas and cleans laundry.

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19 SquatLikeALady May 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Wow how crazy! A BERRY that cleans LAUNDRY?!? Freakin’ nuts. And I bet they would be good for my hubby — he’s allergic to…everything. LOL. Not really but I mean I can’t even use Tide detergent or he’ll be itchy for a week.

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20 Cait @ Beyond Bananas May 23, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Wow those are pretty cool!

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21 Ash @ Good Taste Healthy Me May 23, 2011 at 12:02 pm

So you would just leave the dryer dispenser empty and put these directly into the wash? Very interesting/intriguing!

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22 KathEats May 23, 2011 at 9:46 pm

I’m not exactly sure what you mean – do you mean the detergent dispenser?

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23 Ash @ Good Taste Healthy Me May 24, 2011 at 6:47 am

LOL yes I do, sorry. My goodness when I leave comments I seem to be on crack or something.

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24 Sarah May 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm

This is so cool. I really have a hard time finding the right detergent. Sometimes I feel like nothing gets my stinky workout clothes clean. Deftly interested in the package deal!

PS Doing an awesome giveaway on the blog today. You should check it out!

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25 Sarah S. May 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm

I use these to clean my babies’ cloth diapers so they definitely get the funk out! They are a great natural product and I was lucky enough to get them as a sample from my local cloth diaper shop. I am amazed at the variety of detergents out there. A couple of other natural detergents I’ve tried are Rockin Green and Charlies soap.

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26 Krissy @ Shiawase Life May 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Those sounds amazing! And I have been using those method dryer sheets ever since you posted about them last time! There is another $1 coupon for method products at WF right now =)

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27 KathEats May 23, 2011 at 9:47 pm

OH sweet! Where do I get one? In the paper thing?

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28 Mari May 23, 2011 at 12:10 pm

I’ve entered a few giveaway for them but I’ve never shelled out my own money for them. I want to try them, badly!

I’m just curious: why are you scared of borax? :)

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29 KathEats May 23, 2011 at 9:47 pm

I don’t know! It just reminds me of Clorox. Is it a natural substance?

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30 Mari May 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Sorry, I just saw this when I remembered that I’d asked you. :)

Borax is a mineral, I think. It’s 100% natural is all I know. It just has a terrifically chemically-sounding name. I think it’s like erythritol that way haha.

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31 Baking 'n' Books May 23, 2011 at 12:13 pm

I’m not going to lie – when I see you post a pic of those yesterday – I thought they were some form of Dates…oops ;)

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32 Greta @ California Girl May 23, 2011 at 12:14 pm

They look almost… edible…. Haha those are one of the weirdest things I’ve never seen! It’s hard to imagine that a brown little nut can clean a load of whites though… Curious to hear what you think after a few more loads..

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33 Nupur May 23, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Hello!
Nice to see a post about Soapnuts! When I was a kid, my mum washed my hair with soapnuts and shikakai (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia_concinna), both natural detergents used in India and Asia for thousands of years. However, it is wise to add some essential oil while using them, else your hair or clothes will smell grassy / herby / earthy. And the berries are soaked in some warm water before use, they get soapier that way. Also, it isn’t really native to the Himalayas, it grows in warm temperate and tropical temperatures (from wiki), I point this out because I’m from the south of India and we’ve seen these plants around.

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34 Miranda @ Working Mom Works Out May 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm

They look like dried out buckeyes.

So neat! I’d like to try them.

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35 Amanda - Small Home Big Start May 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm

I’ve never heard of this, but I definitely want to give them a try now!

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36 Hope May 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm

I’ve never heard of these before. They sound interesting! Although, I think I’m more interested in the marshmallow dreams dyer sheets! I can only imagine how amazing that smells on a pillowcase! :)

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37 Mara @ What's For Dinner? May 23, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Interesting fact: other things you eat regularly have saponins too :) Quinoa has a ton, which is why you have to rinse it thorougly! I don’t know that you could do laundry with quinoa though :)

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38 Katie @ Nourishing Flourishing May 23, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Seriously so excited about this. What can I say, natural detergents make me swoon! :)

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39 Maryea @ Happy Healthy Mama May 23, 2011 at 1:10 pm

How interesting! I’ve never seen soap nuts before-thanks for the info.

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40 Tami May 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Do you wash in cold water? We do and I have always read the soap nuts work better in warmmor hot water?

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41 KathEats May 23, 2011 at 9:47 pm

It says it’s best in warm/hot water, but there is a cold method where you soak the berries first

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42 Sara @ lemony snippet May 23, 2011 at 1:41 pm

You’re funny! And I know what you mean about not smelling things until they get hot!

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43 Kristen @ Change of Pace May 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Well I definitely thought you were going to eat those haha… Sure am glad you didn’t :)

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44 Averie (LoveVeggiesandYoga) May 23, 2011 at 1:47 pm

“vanilla marshmallow lavender” –i’d like to drink that or eat it…omg if my pillows smelled like that I really wouldnt need, ahem, other things…haha. I could just die happy in my pillows with that scent! haha!

Soapnuts..yes, once you have a baby and get into cloth diapering (b/c I know you will likely do both one day :)) but yes, they work on CD’s and don’t erode your diapers NOR give your baby a wicked rash like mainstream detergent and yes, cheaper than the green/eco things AND effective.

Yep, I’ve been a soap nutter for awhile now :) Not exclusively but on and off for 5-6 yrs.

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45 Brandy May 23, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I’ve been using soap nuts for all of my laundry and most of my household cleaning now for more than a year. I was doubtful to begin with but they work fantastic and after you use them on your towels a few times, your towels will be way softer than any fabric softener has ever gotten them. I use 5 nuts per bag and usually use the bag at least 5 times. You can boil them to create a fantastic cleaning liquid for your house also.

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46 Boo Kay July 23, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Brandy,
I planted a soapberry tree and now am ready to harvest. They are not yet dried into the brown, waxy outer coating, but are light green but are falling off the cluster. Could you tell me if you boil the green or brown dried ones and any measurements. How much water to how many soap berries. Do you then use full strength?
Thanks so much.
Boo

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47 Alayna @ Thyme Bombe May 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Really interesting. I have never heard of this before, might be ordering some for myself!

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48 Marlow May 23, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Great review! I had always wondered about soapnuts. I was reading on their website that they are importing the nuts, but aren’t certified fair trade. And while they do address the idea of paying fair wages, I wonder why they didn’t get it certified as fair trade?

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49 KathEats May 23, 2011 at 9:48 pm

It’s probably as expensive as getting certified organic

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50 Jillian May 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Ooooooh- I just discovered those dryer sheets last week and have been OBSESSED with them! I get excited just walking into my laundry room now, and my boyfriend was laughing at me the other day for carrying on about how they smell like Marshmallow perfume ;) I’ve never used dryer sheets till recently (I think the traditional ones are horrible, and cringe when I smell them on people’s clothing) Thanks for the tip about putting them in the pillowcases- that’s a great idea! Every time I take my clothes out of the dryer, I have to pick the sheet up and smell it again before I toss it :)

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51 Alyssa May 23, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Those look great! I’ll have to use up the rest of my detergent…I hate having too much of one thing!

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52 Jil @ Big City, Lil Kitchen May 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm

How cool! I’d never heard of these before – and as someone who sweats often and has sensitive skin…this sounds awesome.

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53 Ashley May 23, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I saw these last summer at the local sustainability fair and really wanted to try them. I definitely will now!! I make my own [with BORAX, haha..scary!! ;)] and like it okay, but these sound wonderful. So funny that you’re hooked on the dryer sheets! I LOVE them!!

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54 andrea May 23, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Wow, great memory Kath! I did mention the nuts – love these guys and used them for EVERYTHING while in China. i also had not heard of them, till there and the products, well, weren’t even the same as home. Tide was not Tide there even though it said Tide! So, I heard of them through the grapevine and the Shanghai mama’s did a huge group order – I think i paid…$12 for my first order, lasted me about 9 months if you can believe it??? They were super cheap despite being from an organic farm (but china organic ..well?) i did the linen bag and also did a liquid – boil water, turn off, drop some nuts in and let it soak, then strain the nuts and voila – jug of detergent! We used this for the wash, cleaning the floors, etc. You really can use them for any cleaning! glad you like them – I will for sure order when you get a deal on open sky! miss one of my little things from china!

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55 Samanthajustine May 23, 2011 at 3:40 pm

I have been using soapnuts (from a different brand) for months now and love them! I am glad the word is getting out about these wonderful eco friendly cleaners.

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56 lynn @ the actor's diet May 23, 2011 at 4:45 pm

those soap nuts look DELICIOUS. good thing you told us what they were

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57 Alexandra May 23, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Do you know if the soap nuts are fair trade? Or if the workers in the Himalayas are treated well? I think these are great but sustainability should also be about sustaining the livelihoods of those producing the eco-conscious goods we all love, not just the environment. :)

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58 Alexandra May 23, 2011 at 7:27 pm

not trying to sounds preachy or anything!

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59 KathEats May 23, 2011 at 9:48 pm

They said this on the website:

“WE ARE COMMITTED TO DOING BUSINESS ETHICALLY.
Soapnuts don’t grow on trees in the US, so we buy them in bulk from our supplier overseas and transport them to the US by ship. We pay a fair price for them, and are assured that the workers who collect and de-seed them are paid a fair wage. Although we could have them packaged overseas, too, we choose to package our product here in the US. This allows us to be firmly in control of working conditions and the quality of our product.”

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60 Alexandra May 24, 2011 at 12:53 am

Oh that is great to know, thanks! It is hopeful to find new businesses taking this approach.

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61 Colleen May 23, 2011 at 5:35 pm

So cool! I have a few bridal showers coming up to attend and I think these would be really fun gifts. I’m excited for the opensky deal!

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62 CheezyK May 23, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Love SoapNuts and have been using them for a couple of years now. I have found however that they don’t do so well long term on my husband’s work clothes (he’s a sparky and spends a lot of time crawling under houses and in roofs) and also that things get quite static-ey after a few washes so I do every third or fourth wash with a powder and fabric softener instead.

Although I mostly air dry, I am curious about the dryer sheets – what are they for? I had never heard of them until I started reading American blogs.

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63 KathEats May 23, 2011 at 9:49 pm

I use them 100% for the smell!

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64 Lisa C. May 23, 2011 at 7:29 pm

I have been using SoapNuts for about a year now. I do prefer to make the liquid wash using SoapNuts as opposed to using the whole nut in the linen bag. My boyfriend says his clothes have never been cleaner! He gets super dirty in his line of work so he makes a good test subject for these kinds of things! :) The Energy Blend & Lavender are my favorites for the smells.

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65 Becky May 23, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Hey Kath. Those soap nuts really do sound cool. Just wanted to mention that, at the discount member price, the larger bottle of liquid Shaklee laundry is even less at .39 per load. But what’s even less is the powder version! The small box is just .21 per load and the large box just .16 per load. Both the liquid and the powder in the small sizes offer a fragrance-free option, as well. For anyone who wants unscented biodegradable dryer sheets, the Shaklee ones are 8.65 for 80 sheets at the member discount price. But if you love scented, I’d definitely go with the Method ones. Sounds heavenly!

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66 KathEats May 23, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Thanks for the clarification Becky!

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67 Becky May 23, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Sure. : 0 ) Good to know we have several nice choices. Great posts today.

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68 Anna May 23, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Two different co-workers of mine use soap nuts, even when washing reusable baby diapers. They swear by them!
Times like these, I wish there was a scratch and sniff function on websites to help decide which scent to get :)

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69 Amanda May 23, 2011 at 10:42 pm

We’ve been using soapnuts for years! Love them! They even work for my daughter’s cloth diapers! They’re so much safer for the environment than even the “eco-friendly” detergents! Plus, you can use them to make different soaps and cleaning agents!

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70 Lenna May 24, 2011 at 2:01 am

I am also using those lanudry nuts, so cool idea and so eco-firendly!

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71 Sara R. May 24, 2011 at 7:08 am

I use soap nuts in my laundry and I have really liked them. I have 5 little pouches so that if I don’t fold and put away my clothes in a timely manner (which is pretty much always) there are spares still ready to go and I don’t have to go rummaging through the laundry to find the pouch. If I have to use a cold water wash then I use an actual detergent because I don’t feel like the soap nuts work as well in cold water. I’ve never experimented with boiling the soap nuts to make a liquid detergent, although I’d like to so that I can use it for my cold washes!

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72 Lisa May 24, 2011 at 6:17 pm

I bought soap nuts on Amazon not too long ago, and it came to $0.11 a load. Seriously… you just can’t beat that — even with cheap-o laundry detergent.

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73 Sonya June 1, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Never heard of such a thing! Do soapnuts create suds? I know we are conditioned to expect suds when washing. Suds = Clean. But, this may not always be true. Do you have to break them up for effectiveness? Also, what do you mean by “(safe for HE too)”? Do you use anything to clean tile grout, especially in the shower? Thanks!

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74 KathEats June 1, 2011 at 8:58 pm

I don’t think they create too many suds. And you don’t have to do anything to them – they just work!

Safe for HE = high efficiency washers.

I use the Basic H and Scour Off on my grout!! With a good scrub brush.

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75 gabe December 11, 2011 at 6:26 am

i got soap nuts very impressed i made the cleaner for general purpouse by boiling 15 nuts for 5 min strain and put in a spray bottle i used it to clean a mirror and windows ive never seen anything clean glass as good as that before and the stove walls every surface in the house and it sparkles

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76 Thomas Mueller April 28, 2013 at 9:34 pm

I wonder if these soap nuts could make a quasi-soap/detergent that would be good instead of soap for taking a shower and if that would be less irritating. I have a problem with winter itch on the back and arms, also front abdominal area, still feel it but slowly diminishing with the advancing season.

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