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Do soapnuts really work? The truth about Soapnuts

Have you ever wondered how people were cleaning themselves, their clothes and their surroundings before soap was invented? The simple answer is from natural sources. One of these was Soapnuts also called Indian Gooseberry. In the past few years there’s been a lot of talk about soap nuts and how we can replace commercial soaps and detergents with them.

Soapnuts are an age-old, traditional ingredient that we believe should be more widely used in modern times. In this article we are going to explain the background of soapnuts and how they can be used in cosmetic and laundry routines. We will also explore the vast benefits of soapnuts for both our bodies and our environment.

Keep reading to learn more about how soapnuts are used to create our natural, vegan, zero plastic products. 

What are Soapnuts?

Soapnuts are natural soap berries mainly sourced from North India. Also called soapberries or ritha, there are 15 species of soapnuts worldwide which are members of the family Sapindaceae (Hsu, Chiang, Liu, & Chiang, 2021; Clean U Skincare, 2021). The berries grow on shrubs and small trees, and are native to tropical, and sometimes temperate, parts of the world. Members of this family of plants get their common names of soapberries or soapnuts because the fruit is can be used to make soap (ITIS, 2020). They are an age-old ingredient that is safe, natural, zero-plastic, and vegan.

Soapnuts are natural berries sourced from north India, their shells can be used to make vegan soap


How do soapnuts work?

Soap nuts work because the shell of the nuts naturally contain saponin which is a surfactant. The term surfactant is short for surface active agent. They work by emulsifying oils and suspending dirt and grime so they can be washed away. Surfactants are used in most skin cleansers and are well known to be gentle and effective (Begoun, 2020). 

Saponins are present in a wide range of plant species and are found in bark, leaves, stems, roots, and flowers (Moghimipour & Handali , 2014). Saponins have a bitter taste and have been widely studied by scientist due to their fascinating properties for health and wellbeing (Papadopoulou, Melton, Leggett, Daniels, & Osbourn, 1999; Moghimipour & Handali , 2014). When the saponin from soapnuts comes into contact with water, it acts as a soap and creates suds.

Once soapberries have been sown, cultivated, and harvested, they are then dried out and develop a reddish-brown colour. To prepare the soapnuts to be used in cosmetics and cleaning products, the  black kernel inside the berries is removed because it does not contain any saponin (Clean U Skincare, 2021).

Products made from soapnuts are natural, vegan, and hypoallergenic


The Benefits of Soapnuts

Soap nuts have multiple benefits for both your skin and our planet. We’re going to explore the different positive aspect of soapnuts further below.


To increase the range of uses soapnuts (Sapindus pericarp), Ritha powder can be extracted from them and used as a foaming agent. It has been used as soap in Ayurvedic traditional skincare for generations. The oils of soapnuts can also be used to maintain the integrity of cosmetic products and can be used as a base instead of petroleum (Vasant, Tukara, Prakash, & Bhagwan, 2016). The use of soapnuts, their shells, and their oil can ensure that products are created in a natural, vegan, and eco-friendly way. Importantly, they are hypoallergenic and safe to use so all skin types can feel confident using products that include soapnuts because they do not have the harsh chemicals that are included in other commercial products.

In addition, soapnuts can be combined with other natural, vegan ingredients to provide even more skincare benefits benefits. Our Soapnut & Green Tea Soap Bar combines the deep cleansing power of soapnuts with green tea helps gently exfoliate skin. And our Soapnut & Turmeric Soap Bar has turmeric to prevent acne and congesting which compliments the antimicrobial effects of the saponins (Clean U Skincare, 2021; Chen, et al., 2019). Evidence has been found that forms of Ayurveda skin care, such as soapnuts, can be beneficial for those suffering form in vitiligo, psoriasis, and eczema (Vasant, Tukara, Prakash, & Bhagwan, 2016).

Soap nuts can be combined with other ingredients to create products that have multiple benefits to skin such as our Soapnut & Green Tea Bar and our Sopanut & Tumeric Soap Bar



One of the most eco-friendly features of soapnuts is that once they have been used they can be disposed of with food waste or in a compost bin because they are completely biodegradable and compostable. If you want to make even more sustainable, eco-friendly changes in your life, you could purchase our bags of loose soapnuts to use as part of your laundry routine. This has the added benefit that using soapnuts as a detergent is kinder to your skin than the chemicals in commercial detergent. People will sensitive skin and allergies can use soapnuts to wash their clothes with no issues. Simply put 4 or 5 soapnuts in the muslin bag they are supplied with and put it in the middle of your laundry. You can then run the cycle as usual but that have peace of mind that you laundry detergent isn’t harming the planet!

Soapnuts can be used as part a zero-waste, plastic free laundry routine

Heal wounds

Oil from soapberries, specifically Sapindus mukorossi and Sapindus trifoliatus seeds, have shown beneficial effects for promoting skin wound healing. They have positive effects on cell proliferation, as well as anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial activities (Chen, et al., 2019).


Soapberries are a natural, vegan, age-old ingredient sourced from northern India. They have a range of benefits for both your skin and your ecological footprint. Soapberries are useful and versatile, from your skincare to your laundry, and beyond (Clean U Skincare, 2021; ITIS, 2020).  



Begoun, P. (2020). Cosmetic Ingredients Dictionary. Retrieved from Paulas Choice:

Chen, C.-C., Nien, C.-J., Chen, L.-G., Huang, K.-Y., Chang, W.-J., & Huang, H.-M. (2019). Effects of Sapindus mukorossi Seed Oil on Skin Wound Healing: In Vivo and in Vitro Testing . Internationla Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2579.

Clean U Skincare. (2021). Home. Retrieved from Clean U Skincare:

Hsu, T.-W., Chiang, Y.-C., Liu, H.-Y., & Chiang, T.-Y. (2021). Soapberries Belonging to the Genus Cardiospermum L. (Sapindaceae) from Taiwan. Bio-Agriculture, 81-88.

ITIS. (2020). ITIS Report. Retrieved from ITIS:

Moghimipour , E., & Handali , S. (2014). Saponin: Properties, Methods of Evaluation and Applications. Annual Research & Review in Biology, 207-220.

Papadopoulou, K., Melton, R., Leggett, M., Daniels, M. J., & Osbourn, A. E. (1999). Compromised disease resistance in saponin-deficient plants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 12923-12928.

Vasant, A. P., Tukara, G. P., Prakash, S. G., & Bhagwan, P. R. (2016). Concept of Beauty and Ayurveda Medicine. International Journal of Multidisciplinary Health Sciences.

Venkatesan, V., Nallusamy, N., & Nagapandiselvi, P. (2020). Waste-to-Energy Approach for Utilizing Non-edible Soapnut Oil Methyl Ester as a Fuel in a Twin-Cylinder Agricultural Tractor Diesel Engine. Energu Fuels, 34(2), 1958-1964.

Venkatesana, V., & Nallusamyb, N. (2020). Pine oil-soapnut oil methyl ester blends: A hybrid biofuel approach to completely eliminate the use of diesel in a twin cylinder off-road tractor diesel engine. Fuel, 262.



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