What are soapberries and how do they work?

What are soapberries?

Soapberries are exactly what they sound like – a berry-like fruit that works as a natural, gentle and effective soap! Soapberries can be used to wash your clothes, your body, and even your dishes and surfaces, without relying on harsh and chemical filled products.

Soapberries are skin-compatible and completely chemical free, making them especially suitable for babies, children, and people with sensitive skin. Unlike commercial chemical and processed soaps, soapberry saponin(a natural, low-sudsing detergent) is amazing for your skin. The lather is pH balanced, moisturising, and gently cleanses your skin and clothes. It is the kindest and most natural soap you can use.

Soapberries are also beneficial to the environment; they are completely biodegradable and compatible with wildlife. Insects are naturally repulsed by saponin, so no pesticides are used in their cultivation. Therefore, not only are soapberries the most natural soap for us, they are also great for the plants and soil around us!

Where are soapberries grown?

Soapberries are an actual fruit, that can be found growing on the SapindusMukorossi tree. The trees grow in warm temperate and tropical regions. Mukorossi, also called Indian Soapberry, is the most widely grown soapberry tree, containing the highest and most effective concentration of natural plant saponin. Soapberry trees grow naturally in the Himalya region. They are highly sustainable, as they require minimum intervention, and each tree produces around 30-35kg of fruit every year!

How do soapberries work?

The skin of soapberry fruit contains plant saponin, a completely natural and gentle soap that has been used for centuries to clean skin and clothes. When ripe, the soapberries are harvested from the trees. They can be used:

  1. FOR LAUNDRY. The natural, dried shells of the fruit are placed in a small cotton bag in the washing machine.
  2. AS A NATURAL CLEANER. Soapberries can be gently heated in water to release the saponin, that can then be whipped into a foam to produce soapnut liquid household cleaner or shampoo.

What is Saponin?

Saponin works as a surfactant. This means it breaks the surface tension of water to create a lather than can lift dirt and grease from the skin, to then be rinsed away. This surfactant action also works for laundry, penetrating the fibres of your clothing to lift stains from the fabric, and wash them away with the water.

What Are Soapberries
Image: That Red House Soapberries – Prices start from $18.50

How to use soapberries


  1. Soapberries are sold with a cloth bag that can be put in the washing machine alongside your clothes.
  2. Add around five shells to the bag, depending on how large the load is and how dirty your clothes are.
  3. Soapberries work hard! They can be used for repeated loads, with each set usually lasting about five loads before being composted.
  4. To test if the soapberries still contain some saponin, squeeze them when they are wet. If a foamy or honey-like liquid can be squeezed out, they can be used again.
  5. Soapberries can be used effectively in cold water, however for dirtier loads, higher temperatures are recommended to better release the saponin.
  6. Alternatively, the cloth bag containing the berries can be soaked in a bowl of hot water before being used in a cold wash, with the saponin-filled water from the bowl added to the wash as well.
  7. When washing whites, a quarter cup of baking soda or vinegar can also be used for the extra cleaning power.
  8. During the rinse cycle of the wash, saponin acts as a natural fabric softener. Soapberries leave no fragrance behind when used in the wash, but a couple of drops of your favourite essential oil can be added to the cloth bag containing the soap berries to leave your laundry smelling amazing!


  1. Soapberries can be boiled in water for about ten minutes to create a thin liquid that can be used for a number of different natural cleaning uses.
  2. A dozen berries in about half a litre of water, with a few drops of lemon essential oil added once the liquid is cool, can create a great washing up liquid with which to hand wash your dishes.
  3. Soapberry liquid prepared in this way can also be used to wipe surfaces, as a body wash, or a natural shampoo. The cooled liquid can be poured into empty bottles for all these various uses.

Don’t get into a lather! How to avoid chemicals with soapberries

Soapberries clean, but they don’t lather. Most commercial chemical soaps use artificial foaming agents to produce the visual appearance of soapy lather, to give the impression of a great clean. However, these agents introduce more chemicals into your washing machine, without increasing the effectiveness of the product. You won’t see this misleading foam with soapberries, but you will be getting an excellent, and natural, clean.

Live Love NourishThe Alternative DailyGreen Frog Botanic
Show more

Related articles

Back to top button