Traditionally, homemade laundry detergent involves at least two steps:
(1) grating soap and
(2a) either running it through a food processor to make it fine enough to use in powder form or
(2b) melt it with water on the stove top to be used in liquid form.
An easier alternative that’s also 100% natural is to use soap nuts. Soap nuts actually refers to the outer shells of the soapberry tree fruits and contain saponin, a cleaning agent occurring naturally in many plants. Soap is the man-made equivalent.
I’ve experimented using soap nuts in many forms and concluded that the simplest method is to grind it up in a high-power blender like the Vita-mix (use the dry blade container).
- Basic Laundering directions:
- For hot or warm wash: Add 2 heaping tablespoons (or 1/8 cup) to your machine the same way you would any powder detergent. If you are not comfortable pouring soap nuts powder into your machine’s detergent compartment, then sprinkle it over your laundry. I pour mine straight into my front-loading high-efficiency machine’s detergent compartment.
- For cold wash: Add 2 heaping tablespoons (or 1/8 cup) to a jar with lid. Fill it with hot water and shake vigorously. Add the mixture to your machine.
- For whites: Use 1/8 cup soap nuts powder plus 1 scoop Oxyclean
- For tough stains: Use 1/8 cup each of soap nuts powder and washing soda. Follow with a vinegar rinse.
- For extra tough stains and general laundry booster: Use 1/8 cup each of soap nuts powder, borax, and washing soda. Follow with a vinegar rinse.
Albeit 100% natural, hypoallergenic, environmentally sound, and 100% biodegradable, soap nuts aren’t the most cost effective cleaning agent. I’m happy to find that my favorite natural health retailer, Mountain Rose Herbs, also sells soap nuts. For other homemade alternatives, Tipnut.com has a very comprehensive guide to soap-based laundry detergents.