Vermicomposting Soap Nuts?

soap nuts

Late last week I received an email from RWC reader, Luci B., asking if it would be safe to add used “soap nuts” to a worm bin (since it is suggested that they be composted when used up). It would have been an interesting question no matter what, but I was especially glad to receive Luci’s email since it served as a reminder of the fact that my wife and I had been meaning to try out these “nuts” (to wash laundry) for quite some time!

We were originally introduced to soap nuts (actually a fruit from the soapberry tree, Sapindus mukorrosi) via a TV program up here in Canada called “Dragon’s Den” (I believe the U.S. counterpart – which even features a couple of the same people – is called “Shark Tank”). The entrepreneurs pitching their soap nut business did a great job, and ended up securing funding from one of the Dragons (Brett Wilson). At the time, my wife and I were thoroughly intrigued with the idea of using this all-natural alternative to laundry detergent, but we ended up basically forgetting about the whole thing.

soap nuts

This time around I decided to move a little more quickly (lol), placing an order for a bag of soap nuts a short time after receiving Luci’s email (and her subsequent recommendation for who to buy them from). As you might guess, this is a bit more about testing out the soap nuts for washing our clothes than it is about seeing if they can be processed in a worm bin (after all, even the entire bag of soap nuts won’t add up to much in the way of waste materials) – but I thought it might be a fun RWC project nevertheless!

One of the great things about soap nuts is that they can apparently be re-used a number of times, so a bag of them can end up being equivalent of many bottles of detergent. Of course this also means I’ll likely only end up with small quantities of the spent “nuts” every so often. This probably isn’t such a bad thing, though, since the saponin – the sudsy compound that makes them useful as a washing agent – might not be all that worm-friendly.

Anyway – I’ll likely start putting some soap nuts to use over the next few days (regardless of how well they work – anything that inspires me to do laundry will make my wife happy! LOL), and should have some ready to be added to one of my worm bins by next week.

I’ll keep everyone posted!

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    • John Duffy
    • April 14, 2012

    A 90 year old guy I used to go fishing with told me, “the day you stop learning is the day you die.”…I guess I’ll get to live another day because I’ve never heard of soap nuts and I’m compelled to learn more about them…Sounds interesting.
    Bentley, you never cease to amaze me!
    Have a great weekend.

    • Laura
    • April 16, 2012

    Bentley, I would be very interested in your comments re effectiveness in laundry and cleaning applications. Nuts could be put in Bokashi rather than worm bin at end of their useful life?

    • Steve K
    • April 16, 2012

    I too am interested to hear about how well the nuts work and what you will do with your “spent nuts”. Does the effectiveness of the nuts decrease steadily over time, or are they able to be used a lot early on, and then rapidly decrease in potency after a certain number of cycles? If so, I wonder if their efficacy could be boosted in later cylces by using an endothelial nitric oxide synthase inhibitor, of some kind (e.g., sildenafil).

    In addition to sharing your laundry experiences, the opportunity for double entendre seems like a compelling reason to write about these in itself.

    • Angele
    • April 26, 2012

    I bought Soap Nuts 2 years ago but my bf didn’t like the smell of them so we only used them a few times. We recently separated and I’ve been using them for my laundry and for our baby’s too. I love them! I havent noticed a smell on my clothes at all! I’ve just finally used up my first bunch of nuts (probably got about 4 loads of laundry out of them!) and I haven’t thrown them out yet…

    Oddly enough I also recently got motivated to try again to get a vermicompost bin going…and am gathering the necessary this is an interesting find! I’ll be checking back to see if I can indeed throw these used soap nuts into my bin (once I finally it going!!)

    • Clinton Laulo
    • February 26, 2020

    Did the nuts kill the worms?

    • Bentley
    • March 3, 2020

    Hey Clinton – it’s been ages since I tried this (all a blur haha) and I still have some soap nuts. So perhaps it is time to revisit the topic! Thanks

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