Worn Out is our series of product reviews where we take an in-depth field test with many of the most sought after items. Whether it’s raw denim, shirting, footwear, outerwear, or accessories, we’re here to show you the good, the bad, and the ugly before you make your purchase.
For the past 21 years, I’ve lived in New York City, riding in fume-spewing taxis, trudging through black snow, watching the garbage pile up on the street, and not thinking one bit about the environment. Not only did I not recycle, but given the opportunity to wrap each item of trash in a plastic bag, then secure it in a Styrofoam clam shell tied securely shut with one of those canned beer six-pack holders, I might have done it.
But…for the past three weeks, I’ve been living in Los Angeles–Venice Beach more specifically–riding my bike, trudging through soft sand, watching vegan restaurants pile up along the streets and thinking a bit about the environment.
Now that I’ve permanently relocated to the land where they charge you 10 cents a bag at the grocery store (eye roll), it’s time I permanently rethought my stance on how I impact my new environment. (Don’t get me wrong—I ran past those vegan places on my way to In-N-Out Burger, so I’ve still got a ways to go.)
My first baby step toward ecological enlightenment is ditching my normal Tide Pods (so convenient, so orange and blue, so smelling like…a large bouquet of non-specific flowers grown in a garden watered with perfume?), for Soap Nuts.
What are Soap Nuts you ask? According to the product description:
Soap Nuts (Soap Berries) are a gift from Mother Nature, a sustainable natural resource that grows wild (from sapindus trees). The dried fruit produce a “soap” (saponin), the ultimate 100% natural laundry detergent and cleanser!
It leaves your laundry clean and fresh. So gentle, they are superb for delicate fabrics. If you have allergies, are sensitive to commercial chemicals and fragrances, have multiple chemical sensitivity, or just want to do your part for a healthier green earth, soap nuts are the answer.
According to me…they look like a snack food your aging hippie Aunt might offer you with some iced green tea, or perhaps something you’d feed baby goats at a petting zoo. But the online buzz on these things is strong, so I gave them a try.
So trusting and enthusiastic am I that I washed a trusted pair of denim with them, my oldest pair in rotation, a year old pair of raw selvedge (Eternal Day) Levi’s 522’s. In the 12 months I’ve been wearing them (fairly regularly), I’ve soaked them once in Dr. Bronner’s at the six month mark. Now they’re getting washed (and rinsed in cold water) in a Whirlpool Cabrio. Wish me luck!
- Name: Sapindus Mukorossi
- Materials: Sun-Dried, De-Seeded Soap Berries
- Unique Features:
- USDA & Ecocert Certified Organic
- Sorted, Inspected & Packaged in the USA
- Winner of Green Dot Awards
- Hypoallergenic, fragrance free, eco-friendly and biodegradable
- Low sudsing – perfect for high efficiency (HE) washers
- Free of synthetic chemicals, fillers, toxins, dyes and perfumes
- Imported only from Fair Trade, Co-op suppliers
- NaturOil Soap Nuts are cleaned, sorted & packaged in the USA
- Half-pound bag plus accessories available for $17.90 at Amazon
Step 1 — Get some clothes dirty/wear your jeans for six months without them touching water.
Step 2 — Put 5 to 6 soap nuts (or equivalent amount of pieces, about 1/2 ounce), in muslin drawstring bag (included). Tie bag securely.
Step 3 — Toss directly into washing machine before adding clothes
Step 4 — Remove from washer at end of wash. Allow bag to dry unless doing another load. You may remove them prior to the rinse cycle to extend usefulness. They are not harmed by drying in the dryer.
Step 5 — Re-use 4 to 7 times!
Note For Cold Water — Soak soap nuts in a cup of hot water for a few minutes to expedite saturation. Pour water & bag in the laundry. Or simply allow to soak longer during pre-wash. Contrary to what some think, raw soap nuts work fine in cold water. Being very well saturated is the key. (I did this.)
Bonus Tip — Start fresh! Run a few warm or hot loads with rags to help purge washer of residual chemical buildup. (I didn’t do this…because I’ll only take this “green” thing so far).
What’s not to like? Soap Nuts are as easy to use as any other product (easier than liquids that drip and make a mess), and my jeans (and my girlfriends clothes…the Tide Pods were her idea!) emerged from the washer smelling like…well, not much except a vague whiff of “freshness.”
We reused our batch for two loads, and then just let them air dry to be used again. Our clothes were undisputedly clean (they had been caked with the fatigue and despair of a NYC -> LAX Red Eye, along with some chunky peanut butter—long story, don’t ask), and it did feel good knowing that they got that way using a safe, sustainable product.
I use fragrance-free deodorant and such, so I was happy to have my t-shirts not smell like the cosmetics floor of a major department store. And to do the math (never my strong suit, but here goes), my eight ounce bag contains 16 half-ounce “servings” of berries, and each of those can be used to wash an average of five loads, meaning that for about $12 I can do laundry 80 times! Suck on that Tide Pods. Additionally, my order came with a free vial of a Soap Berry liquid extract that’s good for a bunch more loads.
But what about my jeans you ask? Take a look! I couldn’t be happier, not only with my burgeoning fades, but with the treatment they received from the Soap Nuts. No floral smells, just clean jeans (and apparently a crotch inching toward blowout)!
There’s simply no down side here, other than the psychic adjustment of washing your clothes with what looks like a yogurt topping. Soap Berries are cost efficient and gentle on my clothes (and you know how we are about our clothes—they ain’t cheap), so I’m hooked. Plus, I don’t want my new neighbors seeing an empty Tide Pods container in the recycling bin. I’m trying to make friends, and I fear all the In-N-Out wrappers have me already pressing my luck.
You can purchase your own half-pound bag of soap nuts (plus accessories) for $17.90 at Amazon.