They can wash your laundry, but have you ever wondered if soapnuts aka soapberries could wash your dishes? I’d been wondering that pretty much since I’d started washing my clothes with the things on a semi-regular basis.

For the uninitiated, soapnuts aren’t a nut at all. They’re a fruit that comes from a tree called the Sapindus mukorossi that’s part of the lycee family. Predominantly they come from India, but the ones we tested are from the Himalayas.

Soapnuts work by releasing a cleansing compound called saponin when they come into contact with water. They’re definitely a great natural way to avoid chemicals in your home and the ones I’ve been trialling (made by That Red House*) are said to be of the highest quality and are organic, too!

I have to say I’ve been pretty happy with them as a laundry detergent substitute, unless I’m dealing with a really dirty load. I tend to alternate between the soapberries and a sensitive detergent when I need a bit of extra cleaning oomph. I love that you can just throw the soapberries in the compost when they are worn out and that they are completely non-toxic and Zero Waste. Plus you can get about 5 or 6 washes out of less than a handful of them – so they are much more economical too!

After success in the laundry I couldn’t wait to see how they’d perform in the sink. Although it took me a while to get around to trying it as there’s a fair amount of prep involved in using them this way. A rainy Sunday was the perfect opportunity. I grabbed a handful and boiled them up for about an hour in a couple of cups of water to make a concentrated liquid. (If you want exact measurements head to the That Red House website. It’s a great resource for recipes).

It was lots of fun watching the soapnuts release their bubbly juices. After they had cooled for another hour I strained the liquid through a sieve and added a few drops of lemon essential oil for a freshness kick. And hey presto! I had something that looked shiny and golden – a bit like a Harry Potter potion – with the addition of essential oil it smelled pretty good!

Then for the test… I used about a tablespoon of the mixture in a sink full of hot water. While it didn’t create much in the way of bubbles I didn’t have much trouble cleaning some reasonably dirty plates and glasses with it. So… success! An eco alternative to mainstream dishwashing liquid. Tick!

However, I did have one gripe and that was the residue it left around the sink. I had to give it a good wipe out after washing up and the grease just seemed to want to keep sticking there. The problem got worse when I washed some very greasy pots and pans with the soapnut concentrate the next day… It seems a bit like the issue I was having in the laundry that when I was dealing with something more heavy duty it was hard to look past some kind of detergent.

But, do I like them? Will I keep using them in the kitchen? I’d say yes, but probably part-time. I still want to wash my pots and pans with an Earth-friendly detergent or natural soap, but I’ll be reaching for the soapberries for light and regular-duty washing up for sure.

Have you tried soapnuts in the kitchen or the laundry? Are you a convert or a naysayer?

* WOWW roadtests are independently conducted and not sponsored by the companies featured in them (unless otherwise stated). We promise to be fair, impartial and balanced in our reporting and to uphold the basic fundamentals of journalism in order to serve the best interests of our community. 
Helen Barry

Helen Barry is a Sydney-based writer and content creator on a Zero Waste adventure! Editor of eco magazine War On Waste Weekly, Helen is also the mother of two Mini Waste Warriors.

2 Comments
  1. I spray vinegar in the sink afterwards to cut through that ring that’s left.
    If a tray is oily I first wipe it out into the compost and then I put a thin sprinkle of bicarbonate soda.

    I find that pre rinsing the dishes helps a lot when using soap nuts.

    It takes a little time to get used to washing without soap bubbles… but now I realise that they aren’t necessary but I’ve been conditioned to think that they are.

    Thanks for the information 💕

    1. Sally, they are such great tips! Thanks so much for sharing them. I will have to give both those things a try. I’d love to know more about what you do and don’t put in your compost. I’ve avoided putting in cooking oils but maybe I don’t need to?

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