Soap Nuts in the Dishwasher?

soap nuts dishes[UPDATE, July 2013]: I must confess that since writing this post, I’ve gone back to using a commercial detergent. The thing is, the soap nuts didn’t ALWAYS work as well as they did the first few times. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t, and I was mystified as to why they sometimes didn’t. I will do some more experiments and update this post.]

In my last post, I told you about my experience using soap nuts to wash my laundry.

Prior to using soap nuts, I’d used a homemade liquid detergent for my laundry for several years, which I was also happy with. The homemade detergent — which uses Borax, washing soda, a grated bar of soap, and five gallons of water — is amazing: it’s crazy-frugal, hypoallergenic, all-natural, and, according to the David Suzuki Foundation, eco-friendly to boot. (I got my recipe here, though I sub out the Sunlight bar for an unscented vegetable glycerin bar, which I get from Whole Foods). I’m equally happy with either the homemade detergent or the soap nuts for my laundry, and will probably continue to use both.

As most of you know, I make most of my other household cleaners and body-care products, too, from deodorant to toothpaste to glass cleaner. (I do this because I think it’s important, as a disciple of Christ, to take care of both the home and the body he gave me. And also because it’s frugal and fun.)

I’d never found a satisfactory solution for the dishwasher, though.

I’d seen homemade granulated recipes out there, but I knew that the use of Borax on dishes was questionable. Moreover, I knew a couple of people who’d tried these recipes and found them severely lacking.

Until now, I’d just used an eco-friendly commercial detergent. I felt okay with that, but it’s kind of pricey, and I felt I could do better.

So I was delighted and surprised, when I received a second bag of soap nuts from a friend, to find that they included instructions for use in the dishwasher.

Soap nuts in the dishwasher?! I’d never heard of this before. If this worked out, I may have found my solution!

So I thought I’d give it a try and let you guys know how it went!

I’ve actually tried it twice now, and documented my second attempt. So here goes!

A Note Before I Begin:

I don’t pre-rinse my dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. In fact, I feel there is something fundamentally wrong with people who pre-rinse their dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Why go through the trouble of loading the dang thing if you’re planning on running them through the sink anyway? I just don’t get it. (If this is you: sorry. I think you’re weird.)

So none of my dishes have been rinsed prior to this wash. (Except, perhaps, for a few heavily-coated pots and pans.)

So here you see my dishwasher full of dirty dishes. Yuck.

dirty dishes

According to the directions on my bag of soap nuts, you put a couple of nuts into the little cotton bag (I used four), and drop the bag into your utensil rack (NOT the detergent dispenser.)

soap nuts in dishwasher

I ran a regular wash, without the heat dry. (I always turn off the heat dry. Save money and decrease your carbon footprint!)

After the cycle had run: ta-da! All sparkling clean!

clean dishes

I was totally thrilled with the results.

I’m told you can re-use the same soap nuts 3 or 4 times. The load you see above was this bag of nuts’ second run. After that, you can just toss them in the compost. (According to this post from Crunchy Betty, you can go a whole lot of things with the soap nut flesh after it’s been used. I haven’t tried any, yet!)

I still have some store-bought detergent to up, but after that I think I’ll be sticking with soap nuts!

Update: I tried a THIRD load with this method (using the same four nuts), and still loved it!

Shared on Your Green Resource via SortaCrunchy!

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  1. I NEED SOAP NUTS RIGHT NOW. I can’t find natural/eco-friendly dishwasher detergent here and that really bothers me, I really don’t like harsh chemicals touching my dishes or clothes. This looks amazing, I’m going to have to track some down!

  2. I’ve never rinsed either. Some people’s kids.

  3. Now that is awesome! I don’t use my dishwasher, but I’m thinking after this little one who’s residing in my abdomen decides to make his (or her) appearance I might… and you have got me sold on soap nuts! :)

    • And I was under the impression that everybody rinsd before stacking the dishwasher… which is why I hated dishwashers. I refuse to waste the water on that when I could just use it to wash them anyways! I am relieved that not everybody is crazy after all! :)

  4. Those people are totally crazy. My husband tends to rinse the dishes. I don’t, though I do scrape the worst junk into the trash (it bothers me that he rinses big chunks of food into the sink for me to clean up later, ick). But I can do you one better: my mother-in-law doesn’t just rinse the dishes before loading them into the dishwasher, she /washes/ them. With /soap/. And a /sponge/. And after she has completely washed each dish, SHE RUNS THEM THROUGH THE DISHWASHER. Insane. I tried to be helpful and unload the dishwasher one time when apparently they were still “dirty,” and she freaked out and re-washed every dish in the kitchen. So maybe she has issues….

    Anyway, I had no idea you could use soap nuts in the dishwasher! That’s one place I still use conventional product, because the DDH has a very low tolerance for cloudy glasses and vaguely dirty-looking dishes (that’s his mother I’m talking about above, after all). Homemade recipes failed miserably, and no natural brands seem to work well enough to justify the cost. I suspect soap nuts would also be more expensive than regular dishwasher detergent, but I may try them and see how they work. Thanks, Jalen!

  5. I’ve been wondering if you could use soap nuts in the dishwasher. How does it work for hard water?
    Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green recently posted..Green DealsMy Profile

  6. This is great. I recently bought some soap nuts so will definitely be giving this a go! I have hard water in my area, but I think that just means you need to use more of them than you do in soft water areas…
    Zoe @ecothrifty recently posted..What to do with broken toddler books!My Profile

  7. How come the soapnuts work for your dishwasher and not mine :( ? I have a lot of the gunk and grease sitill on my plates and utensils.. Any thoughts as to why?

    • You know what, Faith? I’ve had that happen to me now, too. For the first little while, it worked beautifully. Then all of a sudden I started getting grease and gunk, too. I’m still searching for a solution; I should update my post to reflect this.

      • Tamra Rocsko says

        So is it still leaving grease and gunk on your dishes?? So there is no rinse I guess with the dishes or the clothes where you take the nuts out right???

        • No, there is no separate rinse without soap nuts. To be honest, I’ve gone back to using a natural commercial detergent for now. I will run another experimental load with the soap nuts and get back to you.

          • Did you ever have luck washing with soap nuts? They worked okay in my old dishwasher if I added a drop or two of dawn to help with grease too, but my new dishwasher has a suds sensor so I can’t add the dawn, and I’m not happy with the soap nuts-only results.
            Lori Ann recently posted..The BOOP GameMy Profile

      • You might need to clean your dishwasher or you’re loading with too much grease into it. This has happened even with regular detergent.

  8. Hate to be the messenger here, but the simple fact is that raw soap nuts are “iffy” at best for use in auto dish washers. A few (yes, those that hand wash them first) may get good results. There is a long list of reasons WHY they don’t work well. The biggest being that saponin (the cleaning agent) is a natural surfactant that does not cut grease well. My company, NaturOli, formulated ALTA as a hand-washing soap berry-based formula. It works great! Efficacy tests to that of Dawn. However it’s TOO sudsy for autos. You can use it with excellent results by using ONLY a few DROPS. No more. Add too much and you’ll have suds pouring out. (Not quite like the old Lucille Ball Show episode, but it would be a lot to wipe up.) Good luck!

  9. P.S. A lot of soap nut sellers go overboard, and oversell their capabilities and practical uses. Used properly and with experience they (saponin) can replace most toxic cleaners in the average home. But they don’t do ALL things well. I wrote a Series of articles on http://www.SoapNuts.Pro about “Many Uses – Beyond the Laundry Room.” You may like it.

  10. Susan Wheeler says

    All things said, the good and some not so good about soap nuts from my experience with them. I have been using them for over a year, but not on everything. The good: You have a front loader? It will take out mold, yes mold. I like many others, dealt with mold in the rubber ring as well as the soap dispenser. I would scrape out the mold and spray with mold cleaner. Would be back in a few days. After about two weeks of using soap nuts, gone! squeaky clean, no pink in the dispenser either. Awesome. Takes out odors fantastic. Smoke, B.O. etc. leaves clothes smelling clean and a bit soft.
    The not so good: Does not remove stains, or even bits of food (like on a dishrag say). It WILL stain your clothes, sometimes right away, but certainly gradually on light or white clothes. They can be toxic to animals, so if you compost them, make sure they have been composted.
    Tried mine in the D.W. , same thing, it is not made to eat away debris, just like homemade D.W soap. But that’s my take on it.
    I’ll always have soap nuts, I use them on colored clothing and clothing I am not concerned about. My hubby doesn’t like them, they don’t get out stains or grease. But I like them.

    • I’ve been told that they don’t stain your white or light clothes, but they do take out the artificial lighteners used in commercial detergents which makes white and light clothes look duller than you’re used to (stained).

  11. Just saying that soap nuts work by getting into the particles lifting dirt and grime which stays in the water that you then rinse away, so I think maybe u have to rub your dishes longer with a strong brown soap-nut tea + some lemon too maybe, I have been doing this and it seems to work great.

  12. I don’t run my dishwasher unless I have a full load. With price of electricity and water and NG to heat the water it’s not affordable.
    Does anyone think that running the rinse cycle is more efficient than rinsing by hand ? If I left my dishes un-rinsed until I had a full load, I would be waiting for about 4 days.That would make the food pretty much dried on.
    The other question I have for everyone is : why does the dishwasher need to go through so many rinse cycles ? There has to be a more economical way than 4 rinses after the wash cycle.

  13. Wow! The dishes look clean! I need to try these soap nuts! :) Thanks for sharing!

  14. Tammy Heflin says

    I’m using Borax & washing soda in my dishwasher. I put a little bleach in 1st cycle, got used doing that keep sickness out of house.

  15. Did you use vinegar as well or soapnuts by themselves?

  16. Wow! The dishes look clean! I need to try these soap nuts! :) Thanks for sharing!

  17. Thanks, Chris — sounds helpful!

  18. How can I use soap nuts in the dishwasher?

  19. Wow! Great idea.

  20. I was suffering a lot with my regular dishwashing detergent. Soap nut gives me great relief. One single soap nut can be used 10 times. It’s really amazing.

  21. I have been using them for over a year, Soap Nuts In the Dishwasher Super simple and frugal way to wash dishes. Thanks for sharing’s it helped me a lot.


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