My Single Ingredient Natural Laundry Detergent

natural laundry detergent

One Ingredient Natural Laundry Detergent

It’s no secret that store-bought laundry detergent is not the healthiest of products.  From sulfates to dioxanes to fragrances, conventional laundry detergents are sudsing up a toxic soup in your washing machine.

If you’re like me, sensitive skin complicates the problem even further. While I haven’t had a skin rash from laundry detergent in a while due to careful avoidance, I know that exposure to certain brands will leave my skin burning and itching for days.  But, even the unscented detergents have less-than-desirable ingredients.

I’ve tried for years to find a natural laundry detergent that I liked, to no avail.  Then I tried several recipes for homemade laundry detergent. When I returned to work, I found making my own laundry detergent to be too time consuming.  I needed a natural laundry detergent solution that was fast, easy to use and uncomplicated.  I wanted to avoid having to mix up the ingredients myself and I didn’t want to have special instructions for my 12 and 10 year old sons, who do their own laundry.

I searched for a solution to my homemade laundry detergent problem and found these:


What are these crazy-looking things, you ask?  These are soap berries, or soap nuts as they are also called.  They are the simplest form of natural laundry detergent that you’ll find.  

What are soap berries?

Soap berries come from shrubs and trees in the Lychee family.  The soap berries are the fruit of these shrubs and trees and happen to make a great soap.  They’ve been used for centuries in Asia for washing and are also used in Ayurvedic remedies.

They have a faint vinegar smell, which does not make clothes smell like vinegar.  They suds up in the washer and rinse cleanly away, leaving no residue.

The soap nuts I buy come with little muslin bags included.  To use the soap nuts for laundry, I place 5-6 of them in a muslin bag and throw them in with my laundry.  I also like to add essential oils to naturally enhance the cleaning and the smell of the laundry.  (My favorites are Purification, Citrus Fresh and Joy.)  That’s it!  Simple, easy and natural!

natural laundry detergent pin

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10 thoughts on “My Single Ingredient Natural Laundry Detergent

  1. There are about 160 soap berries per pound. I use 5-6 berries per load and get 4-5 loads from the same 5-6 berries. So, that’s 4-5 loads per half ounce of berries. With 16 ounces in a pound, I’d estimate getting about 128 loads.

  2. Hi! What a great idea, thank you so much!! Not fussy at all and extremely economical!!!! My only questions are:

    – How effective is this method at removing stains?
    – Can you compost the berries when done?
    – What are ways that the berries can be eaten/what’re their benefits?
    – Do the berries dry out at all? I want to pre-assemble muslin bags of them w/ my essential oils.

    Thanks so much. I didn’t really know about soap nuts until you posted about them!

  3. Hi, Nicolette! Thanks for stopping by!

    Unfortunately, I don’t think that soap berries are particularly good at removing stains. Even with three boys, however, I don’t deal with a lot of stains. I still use natural stain removers like vinegar, baking soda and peroxide for stains.

    I do compost the berries when I can no longer use them in the wash.

    The berries are not edible and are bitter. I don’t know of any other uses except to make a concentrated cleaner by soaking them. (I think, I’ve never actually done it, just read about it.)

    I haven’t experienced the berries drying out.

  4. How do you know when they are not working anymore?? If you haven’t experienced them drying out, then is it possible the 5-6 berries you use for a load could work for more than the 4 or 5 loads??

  5. It’s possible. It may depend on how big your loads are. Mine eventually become dry and flaky bit in the bag. I try to change them just before that happens, which is usually after about 5 regular loads.

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