Using Natural SOAPBERRIES For Your Laundry

by Texas Homesteader
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This past fall I was so thrilled when I suspected that our remote-pasture property contained Soapberry Trees. I excitedly harvested a few berries and took pictures of the berries, the tree, the bark. I submitted those pictures to my local Extension Agent for identification.

Her response was that these trees were indeed the Western Soapberry Tree. Meaning that these berries actually contain soponin – a soapy substance used by early settlers for cleaning, laundry, etc. I dried the berries and have been using them in my laundry, comparing it to the more common soap nuts which I’ve purchased and used before from * Amazon.  I’m very pleased with the results.

Read Our Experience Using Natural SOAPBERRIES For Environmentally-Friendly Cleaning Of Our Laundry #TexasHomesteader

After the soapberries were fully dried I decided to give them a trial run in our washing machine.  I took a handful of soapberries and placed them in the cotton draw-string bag that I previously used with my *soap nuts I bought from Amazon.

Soapberries vs. Soap Nuts

Since my soapberries are smaller than soap nuts I added more berries than I did the nuts, but about the same overall measurement (about 7-8 berries to 4-5 nuts)  Then I tossed them in my washing machine with a load of laundry.

In using soapberries I saw no difference from other cleaning agents used in the past. I'm thrilled that it's another product I can provide for myself! #TexasHomesteader

Soapberries react to agitation & water similarly to soap nuts in that they don’t foam up much. So you can’t tell its efficiency based on how many bubbles you see (or don’t). But when I pulled that load of laundry out and hung it on the line, I saw no difference from other cleaning agents I’d used in the past. And that includes my Homemade Laundry Detergent or even brand-name laundry detergents.

In using soapberries I saw no difference from other cleaning agents used in the past. I'm thrilled that it's another product I can provide for myself! #TexasHomesteader

Soapberries Best For Lightly-Soiled Laundry

I think that if I had heavily soiled laundry such as manure-covered denim or heavily stained shirts I might use something heavier duty. But for towels, sheets, napkins and lightly soiled laundry these soapberries do just fine.

I don’t think soapberries lend much of a scent of their own to my clean laundry. But I typically use my own Laundry Scent Booster with towels and napkins, they always come off the line with a delightful aroma anyway! And I’m thrilled that it’s yet another product I can provide for myself instead of purchasing.


Other Soapberry Uses: Shampoo

I have a super-smart friend from whom I always learn oh-so-much. Recently we were at a luncheon together & she mentioned that she’s using her harvested soapberries for shampoo – no conditioner required. So I tried it!

I put dried soapberries in water and let it sit for about 6 weeks before I strained out the berries. Then I use it as shampoo to clean my hair. I’ve also used rainwater for the infusion, and even mint-infused rainwater. I love it all! And I especially love the zero-wastiness of it. 🙂


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23 thoughts on “Using Natural SOAPBERRIES For Your Laundry

  1. PrairieApothecary

    I just learned I have soapberry trees growing wild out on my little patch of native tallgrass prairie! For years I thought they were Chinaberries and enlisted why they weren’t behaving like invasives! Go figure, eh?

    So I’m collecting some berries and trying then out in the wash!

    Can you help me with a couple of questions? Anything special about harvesting berries? (E.g do they need to be fresh? Dried? Processed? Can I just pick up berries dropped under three trees and use them? )

    I have a front-loading HE washing machine. As a general rule of thumb, do I just drop 7-8 berries in a muslin or mesh bag, add the bag to the machine and run the load?

    New berries for every load, or about how many loads will a batch of berries clean?

    Thank you for sharing this post! And extras thanks fit taking time to answer my questions!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I’ve harvested the fresh soapberries and spread them out to allow them to dry. Then I used the whole berry in my small linen bag I got when I bought soapnuts years ago – about 7-8 soapberries per load as you’d mentioned. My washing machine is HE and although I’ve heard there are restrictions as to what you can use in them, I’ve never had a problem. (You’ll want to make your own decision about that of course) Sometimes if the load is light I can use them for a second load, but again you’ll need to use your own judgement there. I feel they do a fine job for lightly soiled clothes such as cloth napkins and towels. I’m not sure they’re strong enough for heavily soiled laundry. BUT my favorite current use for soapberries is as my shampoo. I’ve used it exclusively for about 1.5 years now and couldn’t be more thrilled. No more plastic shampoo bottles for me! I’ve recently purchased and planted a Western Soapberry Tree here at the homestead so we won’t have to travel to our satellite pastures to harvest them in the future, but I understand I’ll have to wait 7-10 years for it to produce the soapberries! LOL ~TxH~

  2. KimB.

    My husband and I had been trying to identify a tree on our property in North Texas, and finally a friend of his said it was a soap berry tree. So, I was checking the web, and finally found this site! Thanks for the information on using these just like the soap nuts that are from India and the Himalayas. I have one question for you, though, do you remove the seeds first? or just throw the dried fruits into the bag?

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  5. Teresa

    I have used soapnuts and would love to still, but they are not cheap. I don’t think they would grow in mo because it gets to cold here. You are blessed to have them.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Oh yes Teresa, I was so excited when I saw the tree and suspected it was a Soapberry Tree, and when the extension agent identified it as such I squealed a little. LOL Now if I can figure out how to more easily harvest those berries, most of them are 20-feet up in the tree! ~TxH~

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I’ve used soapnuts before Tracy, I’d say using these soapberries is very similar. I don’t know how they’d do with heavily-soiled laundry like manure-covered denim but they do a fantastic job on regular laundry. ~TxH~

  6. Judith C

    I think Soapberry trees are native to eastern Texas and Oklahoma as well as western Arkansas. My dad said they used them when he was a child living in eastern Oklahoma. Check with some of the organic seed farms, you may be able to buy a sapling tree from them. I used them for awhile… well until they were no more. Do you remove the bag of berries from the washer before you start the rinse cycle?

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I don’t remove the bag before the rinse cycle Judith, I’ve been using them like I used soap nuts – removing the bag when I remove the clothes from the washer and hanging the bag on the line to dry with the clothes. I guess I never really thought about it. Hummm… ~TxH~

  7. Vickie

    This is so interesting! I have never heard of soap berries before! Could you do another post about this and show the tree and bark and leaves? Are these trees native? Is it possible to grow a tree from seed – or one of those berries? I am so intrigued by this I think I will do some research! Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Vickie, I previously did a post showing the tree, the bark, the berries, etc. here –> I love these trees, check it out. ~TxH~

  8. Cecilia

    How cool is that?! Where did you get the soap nuts? ( for those of us who don’t have soapberries?)
    I make my own laundry soap using Ivory soap.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Cecilia, I often make my own soap as well using Fels Naptha since our laundry includes heavy denim and tough dirt like manure. I got my soap-nuts from Amazon here –> ~TxH~

  9. Lisa

    Wow, I have not heard of this. How cool to have this tree growing on your property! I am jealous!
    Love the self sufficiency!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Lisa I’m not gonna lie, I squealed with delight when I saw that tree, and when it was identified by the extension agent I was so excited. The berries are high up in the tree about 20 ft high so I need to find a good way to harvest them. Hummmm… ~TxH~


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