I may be the last person to learn about these soapy little berries from India, but I still wanted to try them so I ordered them online.
Cost comparison between soap nuts and name brand liquid laundry soap
I bought 500g of the berries plus some extra cloth bags which came to $39.43. I can do 175 loads of laundry with the amount I purchased according to the advertising from the soap nut supplier. This comes to 23 cents a load.
The advertising on my current jug of name brand laundry soap boasts that it holds enough soap for 110 loads. This would mean that I should only need 3 jugs a year to do a load of laundry almost every day of the year. I certainly don’t do that much laundry so I think the 110 loads per jug is generous, but we will still use that number in case I have been doing laundry wrong my whole life. This soap costs $14.77 so that comes to 13 cents a load.
Soap nuts are almost double the price of liquid laundry soap. Do the benefits outweigh the cost difference?
How soap nuts perform
I was skeptical and imagined my whites would turn grey or my sweaters would pill but they did remove all mud and food stains from our clothes and towels and my whites are still white. So far they have washed away all noticeable debris and my sweaters show no ill effects.
Environmental and health benefits of soap nuts vs laundry soap
There is the obvious benefit of more environmentally friendly packaging. The liquid laundry detergent comes in a plastic container that will take hundreds of years to decompose. The soap nuts came in a paper bag but they had to be flown in from India.
Most laundry soaps contain chemicals that can irritate skin and respiratory systems. The phosphate can cause buildup in septic tanks and pollute groundwater. Soap nuts are hypoallergenic and non-toxic. They don’t produce a lot of suds so they are good for HE washers and safe for greywater systems.
People usually pair laundry detergent with fabric softener which can also come in a plastic container or paper and plastic box. Soap nuts act as a natural fabric softener so it’s not necessary to purchase extra products and packaging. This means the clothes could be hung to dry on a clothesline without the risk of static or crispy fabric.
What’s the verdict?
Soap nuts are kinder to our bodies and the environment. The only drawback I can see is they cost more, even after pairing the liquid soap with a fabric softener.
It comes down to a dime more per load of laundry.
Is a dime worth the trade?
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