Studio OM’s Soapberries: The little Nut Detergent That Could

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What is round, comes off a tree, and cleans your laundry without polluting the Earth?  (No, this is not a trick question like who comes first the chicken and the egg.  We all know the answer to that question, the egg!)  Okay, back to the question, so what little gem just pops right into the laundry and make your wash naturally clean?  Studio OM’s Soapberries!

Soapberries look like shriveled up brownish nuts and are considered hypoallergenic and safe for all fabrics. The minute I saw the word, “nuts,” I worried that people who have nut allergies could not use this product.  According to the Company, Soapberries are not botanically related to nuts.

What are these wrinkled up hard look-a-like raisins? They are the fruits that are harvested from the Chinese Soapberry Tree which grow in India and Nepal.  Thereafter, the seed is separated from its outer skin and the skin is dried in the sun. The skin becomes hard like a shell.

I asked if these nuts were fair trade. Courtney Gay, the owner of Studio OM, could not verify that information through her current supplier.

So what make  Soapberries tick? The skin contains a natural surfactant,  Saponin, to release dirt and grime.  You might not think the product is working since you won’t see suds like you do with commercial detergents. Don’t be alarm at the faint smell of cider vinegar.  It dissipates in the wash.

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Studio OM provides Soapberry pieces and a white little bag to put your nuggets in.  Tie and throw it in the wash and let the magic begin.  The Soapberries will last longer if you use warm water rather than cold water.

The results

We are a picky family.  I am sensitive to many fabric detergents so I was hesitant to use anything other than my standby, Ecos Free and Clear.  It does not contain any softeners, fragrances, or optical whiteners. (Soy softeners bother me too.)  Two of my kids have eczema.  One of my other children can’t stand smells. Yes, we are a lovely group.

Did Studio OM pass this impossible to please family?  You bet.  I did not hear any complaints of itching or “uoow” what’s that smells.”

I even washed my silk blouse and wool pants using the Soapberries and did not notice any difference in the quality of the wash.

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The instructions said that I should use the 3-6 Soapberries shells for about 4-6 washes.  When the Soapberries become soft and soggy, it is time to throw them in the composter or outside, since they will biodegrade.  In my case, after 6 washes, the shells were still hard.  After 10 washes and the little bag being thrown in the dryer one time, the shells were still hard, I wondered if I wasn’t following the directions right. (See picture above of my  Soapberries after 10 washes.)

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Courtney could not believe that my shells were still hard.  She told me to put them in a glass jar with water, and shake them to see if there are any suds. Sure enough, there were some suds.  Perhaps the reason for the shells longevity might be that I have a front loader so it uses less water and my water is slightly hard. I did use warm water just to see what would happen.

Does it remove stains? I washed a pair of pants with dirt on them and the dirt washed out to my amazement. However, I think I was lucky since I washed them right after they were soiled. Honestly, I think the Soapberries performed as well as my Ecos detergent. For stubborn stains, the Company advises you to use a stain remover.

No plastic!

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I love the idea that I received my package in a tiny brown box with only tissue paper. For those who want to live a less plastic life, this product is a must.

Convenience on Vacation

My family consists of two adults and four growing man-like boys. It is impractical to pack enough clothes that will last the entire vacation.  I always have to wash the clothes every day; otherwise, I have a massive pile on my hands.   Generally I do at least 2 to 3 washes a day at home.  Due to all of our sensitivities, either we have to find a health food store to buy detergent or carry the big Ecos bottle with us.  Recently, we went away for Thanksgiving, and took the little bag with the Soapberries in the bag.  How convenient was that?

If anything, save yourself some money when you go on vacation and don’t buy those dollar or more one load toxic detergents!

Okay, what about the cost?

The first question I always hear is “but Anna, this sounds wonderful, but how much is this going to cost?” I can’t always sell my friends on the virtue of being green.  StudioOM states that their Soapberries cost as little as five cents a load if bought in bulk, which is less than brand name detergents which cost around .25 cents per load. So, I did the math.  My 100 ounce  Ecos cost $12.00 for  100 washes at  $.12 per wash.  (I have a high efficiency washer so I use less detergent.)

A 16 oz box of Soapberries is supposed to provide 384 load of wash and cost $18 (excluding shipping) or $.05 cents a load.

Soapberries are Versatile

Soapberries can be used in the dishwasher as a natural alternative.  I have not tried this yet.  Put a few in the dispenser with vinegar and wash away.

In addition, Soapberries can be used to make an all purpose liquid detergent by placing 8 crushed Soapberries in 4 cups of water.  Bring the mixture to a simmer for thirty minutes and then let it cool overnight.  Strain the mixture with cheesecloth then pour it into an air tight container.    Keep out of sunlight and it should keep for four weeks.  Again, I have not tried this either since I am lovin’ it for my wash.

For further instructions, see the Company’s FAQ section.

Any Negatives?

My husband gets tired of looking for the bag when he takes out the wash.  It is small so you have to empty the wash carefully.  I think it is a small inconvenience for a non-toxic wash.

Shop Soapberries!

Treat yourself or a gift for those you love. Soapberries make an ideal teacher or office gift.  The cost ranges from $2.50 to $18.00 depending on the amount of Soapberries you purchase.

No plastic, totally natural, and returns to the Earth. This product is a keeper in my house!

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  1. 5


    Thanks for posting about soapberries. I have two very active children and have been disappointed with some of my green laundry purchases. I’ve been considering soapberries for a while – this article pushed me past my tipping point.

    Greening Familiess last blog post..Recycling Vision

    • 6

      Green Talk says

      Greening Families, let me know your thoughts once you buy them. I would be curious if you think they clean well. Anna

    • 8

      Green Talk says

      Jennifer, why does your husband like the liquid detergent better? Have you used it for your dishwasher yet? Anna


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