The Laundry Room Find That Also Works Wonders in the Dishwasher

published Sep 24, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

Have you ever heard of soap nuts? If not, allow me to introduce you: Soap nuts are actually berries from the Sapindus mukorossi trees, which are native to sub-tropical regions of Asia. When the berries’ husks absorb water, they release a substance called saponin, which is a surfactant that can zap stains and grime. Soap nuts are also said to be naturally antimicrobial, so they don’t just clean — they may disinfect, too!

Plus, they’re inexpensive, fragrance-free, and a planet-friendly alternative to your typical household cleaners. There are a handful of ways to use them, and they’re all pretty simple. You can boil soap nuts in water to create an all-purpose cleaner, grind them into a powder for a shampoo, or toss them into the laundry to use as a hypoallergenic detergent alternative. In fact, most people have heard of them usually in the context of doing laundry.

Credit: Ashley Abramson
A powerful bag of soap nuts is an eco-friendly cleaning hero!

One more use: I recently heard that you can use soap nuts in the dishwasher instead of regular detergent. As luck would have it, I had a sink full of dishes, and I was also running short on detergent pods, so I decided to give it a try. Instead of boiling the nuts, I just put them in a tiny muslin bag, which came with my soap nuts, and threw them in the dishwasher.

Depending on your load, you can add four to six soap nuts to the small bag, then toss the bag in the silverware caddy (not in the dish soap dispenser). Just load up your dishwasher as normal, and forget the whole detergent part. I have to admit, though, I was a little doubtful that a tiny bag of berries would thoroughly clean my greasy dishes.

Credit: Ashley Abramson

I opted for the “tough” cycle, thinking the extra water force would tag team with the soap nuts to get the job done. When the cycle was done, I was completely shocked! All of my dishes and glasses looked, smelled, and felt totally clean. The results were better than I’d get with my usual detergent pods!

Credit: Ashley Abramson
Wow! The dishes are done — and they look totally clean!

My glasses were downright sparkling! No water marks, no cloudy residue. The only thing that didn’t get completely clean? The utensils. They weren’t dirty — all the food was gone — but they also weren’t as shiny as they normally are when I use regular dishwashing detergent. In the future, I’ll just be sure to pre-rinse the flatware first.

Credit: Ashley Abramson
Nice and clean!

I plan to try soap nuts again, especially because I can use the same ones three or four times per load before throwing them in the compost. Plus, even though they might not be readily known, soap nuts are easy to come by. I found mine online, and you can easily pick them up at Trader Joe’s. My verdict? Soap nuts are a keeper! I can definitely get behind being eco-friendly and saving money anytime — even if it means I have to do an extra rinse!

Have you tried cleaning with soap nuts? Tell us in the comments below.