Greener Laundry

I’m always searching for the most eco-friendly way to do laundry. For the last couple of years, I’ve been using laundry sheets … dried detergent pressed into small sheets. Throw a single sheet in the washer, it dissolves, and voila! Detergent! No plastic bottles or caps, no giant powder-crusted boxes to dispose of, just a small recyclable box of sheets. Easy peasy!

I tried a lot of brands and settled on Laundry Club – don’t know why they call it that, it’s not really a club. I like them because they work, they’re fairly economical (less than $15 for 50 sheets or about three cents a load), and they leave a nice scent.

But they’re still detergent, darn it! So what’s the alternative?

Soap Nuts

I’ve just discovered soap nuts, and I think they’re wonderful! I’ve been using them for about a month now. My laundry is clean — I even washed some poopy towels that came out perfectly clean! I’m not damaging the environment, and I’m happy as a clam at high tide.

To use them, you put three or four nuts in a little cloth bag (provided) and throw the bag in your washer. You keep using the same nuts load after load until they’re depleted. I get about five loads from one litttle bag of four nuts.

So what are they? They’re nuts, or berries, of the Ritha tree. Their shells are full of saponin, a natural soap. Not a detergent. A natural soap. Yes!

It foams in hot water. So it’s used as a foaming agent in a lot of products we know, like root beer, fire extinguishers, and, well, soap. We’ve been using saponin all our lives.

An awesome benefit — saponin is antibacterial and antifungal. I have a front load washer, and like most of them, the door seal gets to smelling moldy. But after my first load with the soap nuts, the moldy smell is gone! Wheee.

Some Advantages

  • They’re cheap — I can’t tell you cost per load, because you use the same nuts over and over until the shells are depleted. I think one pound is going to last me at least a year.
  • They’re not detergent.
  • They’re a plant, not a petrochemical.
  • They’re actually good for the environment.
  • They’re also good for your health.
  • They have lots of other uses. Shake them in hot water to make a general-purpose cleaner for home, office, yard, car, and so on. Some people use the liquid as a body wash and shampoo. I haven’t tried that yet.
  • According to the Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition, saponin is “anti-carcinogenic, anti-microbial, cholesterol decreasing, immune modulating, as well as anti-inflammatory.” Wow!

A Disadvantage

Alas, the soap nut tree grows in Asia, so there’s a lot of shipping involved in bringing the nuts to us. I wish they grew right here in the USA, but they don’t. But for me, it’s a trade-off I’m willing to make.

A Couple of Fails

I tried them in the dishwasher … the dishes did not come clean. I’m thinking I put them in the wrong place, the silverware rack on the door. I’m going to try again in a different location.

They did not remove mildew stains nor tomato soup stains.


If you buy something via a link in this article, I get a small percentage of the purchase. For heavens sake, don’t buy the Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition. It costs nearly $1000!

6 thoughts on “Greener Laundry

  1. Cat says:

    I’m not ready for soap nuts, but definitely ready to let go of the giant plastic containers full of detergent. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Noel Lee says:

      You’re welcome.

  2. Davida says:

    I’ve been thinking about trying the arm and hammer, laundry sheets, but found that they were too expensive for how much you got, I’m definitely interested in the sheets in your article. But also, I am intrigued by the soap nuts!

    1. Noel Lee says:

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. Doris says:

    I’ve been using Sheets Laundry Club for a couple of years. Also using Blueland dishwasher tablets which I find do very well; I usually tear one in 1/2 for each load. Where do you get the soap nuts?

    1. Noel Lee says:

      I use ecover dishwasher tablets and cut them in half. They work fine. I get the soapnuts from Amazon. There’s a link in the story.

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