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What are soapberries and how can I use them to clean?

A fully compostable, all-natural ‘berry’ that also works as a multi-purpose cleaner? It may sound too good to be true, but we assure you, it’s a real thing!

Soapberries (or soapnuts) are something that every eco-conscious household should have on hand - they can be used for washing laundry, as a natural dish detergent, general household cleaner, shampoo, body wash and more. Keep reading to find out more about how soap berries work and their many uses!

What are soapberries?

Soapberries, also known as soapnuts, are actually shells from the fruit that grows on the Sapindus Mukorossi tree. They’re naturally high in saponin, so when added to water, they have a natural ‘soapy’ effect and work by reducing surface tension in water to lift dirt. Soapberries are hypoallergenic and odourless, with anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

It’s important to ensure that the soapberries you buy are from an ethical supplier - we choose to stock That Red House Soapberries because they’re USDA certified organic, and grown and harvested ethically by communities in the Himalayas who are paid a fair wage with optimal working conditions. That Red House Soapberries are also packaged 100% plastic-free and are completely biodegradable at the end of their life.


How to use soapberries

One of the things we love about soapberries is their versatility - there are so many different ways to use them to clean your home, clothes and body! 

Washing your clothes with soapberries

Using soapberries to clean your clothes in the washing machine is easy, just add the equivalent of 5-6 whole shells to a small washbag (there is one included) and pop them in your machine. Using a warm wash will activate the saponins in the berries for best results. The same berries can be used for about 5 loads of washing, and you’ll know that they need to be replaced when they become brittle. 

Making soapberry liquid 

For other uses, you’ll need to start by making the base ‘soapberry liquid’ using the instructions below:

Step 1: Add 10 whole shells (or equivalent) per litre of water and boil for 15-20 minutes. You can squeeze out extra saponins from the berries during this process by gently pressing on the berries with the back of a large spoon or ladle. Just be careful not to touch the boiling water, and don’t break the soapberries!

Step 2 (optional): If you wish to help your soapberry liquid last longer, add 1 teaspoon of citric acid (which you can find easily at supermarkets) per 500ml of liquid and stir until dissolved. This will act as a natural preservative to help your liquid last around 4 weeks.

Step 3: Allow the liquid to cool, then strain through a cloth to remove any sediment. Now it’s ready to use in any of the below soapberry recipes! Store in the fridge to increase the lifespan of your soapberry liquid.

Step 4: Don’t forget to compost your leftover soapberry shells!


5 easy soapberry recipes

Here are some great soapberry recipes to get you started:

Soapberry body/hand wash and shampoo

This is a great option for babies or those with sensitive skin. 

Step 1: Take your soapberry liquid and add 2-4 tsp of guar gum (you can also use cornflour or agar-agar) per 500ml. This will thicken the liquid to make it a similar consistency to convention shampoos and liquid soaps, so start with 2tsp and work up to a consistency to prefer. 

Step 2: Use a handheld blender to mix the guar gum through the liquid and remove any lumps. 

Step 3: Transfer into a bottle of choice. It will start off quite frothy and bubbly, but these will soon disappear.

Soapberry shaving cream

This cream is great for shaving, or can be used as a gentle bath wash for babies. 

Step 1: Take your soapberry liquid and drizzle a natural moisturising oil (like olive oil, avocado oil or jojoba) into it. We recommend 1 tablespoon of oil per 100ml of soapberry liquid.

Step 2: Use a handheld blender to mix the oil and liquid together until it emulsifies into a thick cream. 

Step 3: Transfer into a container of choice.

Soapberry multi-purpose household cleanser

Due to their natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, soapberries make a fantastic household cleaning spray.

Step 1: Put your soapberry liquid into a spray bottle of choice.

Step 2: Add a few drops of an anti-bacterial essential oil (eucalyptus and lemon are both great choices) and shake it up. Now it’s ready to use in the kitchen, bathroom or as you would any other household cleaning spray! 

Soapberry pre-wash stain remover

This stain remover is so easy that it doesn’t even need a recipe! Just add your soapberry liquid to a smaller spray bottle and spray directly onto a stain. Give it a rub, then throw it in the wash - easy peasy!

Soapberry stainless steel and glass cleaner

Soapberries make a fantastic glass or stainless steel cleaner! In a spray bottle, simply combine two parts soapberry liquid with one part vinegar, and add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil. 

Where to buy soapberries in Australia

We stock That Red House soapberries because they’re USDA certified organic, ethically harvested and 100% plastic-free! They also come with a small cotton pouch that you can put your soapberries inside while using them in the washing machine.

They’re available in three different sizes: 

That Red House Soapberries - 250 grams (90+ loads of washing)
That Red House Soapberries - 500 grams (180+ loads of washing)
That Red House Soapberries - 1kg (365+ loads of washing)

Have a great soapberry recipe that you want to share? Let us know! 

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