Soap nuts have many uses. People have suggested using them as a chemical free dish washing detergent. However, some people who’ve tried soap nuts in the dishwasher are getting inconsistent results and I often see searches for “chemical free dish washing detergent” in my blog stats because of the crack down on phosphates in many states.
I thought today, since I just had an email exchange with someone on the subject of using soap nuts in the dishwasher, I’d share my own experiences and techniques for using soap nuts in the dishwasher and for hand washing of dishes.
I live in an area with very hard water and we cook with olive oil every day so I have some very tough dishwashing conditions. I also don’t always get the dishwasher loaded or the dishes rinsed immediately which doesn’t make things easier.
However, I have used soap nuts in several ways for washing dishes both by hand and in the dishwasher and had mostly good results.
When hand washing with soap nuts I strongly suggest, if your dishes are greasy or have caked on food, that you keep a shaker can of soap nuts powder near the sink. I sprinkle some finely ground soap nuts onto greasy plates or caked/cooked on food to help it to release more easily. The soap nuts powder also helps to not only release the grease from dishes but also gives the grease something to stick to so that it stays off the dish as you rinse. I’ve also mentioned previously that soap nuts powder is the best natural scouring powder I have ever used so there’s almost no scrubbing if you sprinkle soap nuts powder on a damp plate or pot even if the mess is stuck on thick.
Recently I also took some NaturOli Extreme 18X diluted it 5 to 1 with water and put it in a spray bottle. I spray the dishes now, give it a second to work it’s surfactant magic and then swipe the sponge across the dish or pot and load it into the dishwasher.
Since I also often wash dishes by hand to save the electric and water. I add either 1 teaspoon of undiluted Extreme 18x or homemade soap nuts liquid. Then fill the sink with warm water and set the dishes in it to soak for about 2 minutes. I then scrub them with the sponge and dip them in the rinse sink which I have filled with water water and 1/4 cup of white vinegar.
Some people put the soap nuts into the silverware cup and I have tried this with fairly poor results so I do not suggest this as a perfect solution.
One of the reasons that soap nuts do work on dishes so well is their ability to change the surface tension of both the water and the food or grease. However because of the nature of dishwashers you get more of a splashing of water than you get a submerging and agitation like you would in the washing machine with your laundry. That’s one the reasons I strongly suggest you either pre-soak them in the sink in warm water with soap nuts liquid as described above or your pre-scrub them using soap nuts powder.
Truth is most of the time I just use the soap nuts liquid and powder to hand wash my dishes instead of using the dishwasher. It saves me money by reducing my energy and it saves water since I can take the used water from the sinks when I’m done and use it on my plants.
If you are determined to try soap nuts in the dishwasher just be sure to rinse the dishes as well as possible and if they are greasy use some soap nuts powder on them to break up the grease and rinse most of it off the dishes before loading them in the dishwasher.
Soap nuts are an amazing way to reduce toxic chemicals and packaged cleaners from your home and reduce recycling waste and save money. But to make the most of them you must understand how they work and work with them the way nature intended.