seeing as Adam has especially requested it…
They are little nut shells that you put in a small cotton bag, and chuck in with your washing. It seems like they shouldnt do anything, but somehow, your washing gets clean.
I find that the most effective way to use them is to combine them with a few drops of essential oil (lavender is best) to scent the washing. After the washing is dry there is no noticable smell, but when they come out of the machine, it smells great.
So you stick your nuts in the washing machine, (your soap nuts obviously, any other alternatives are either painful and or ineffective) and wash your clobber. I find that a smal bag of half a dozen soap nuts last for quite a few washes. After a while they seem to sort of disintegrate, so then you sling the little blighters in your compost.
It should be said that we dont use them exclusively, we’ve taken to doing a wash with soap flakes every now and again too. It just feels like it cleans the machine out a bit, and it is also environmentally friendly. I think probably one soap flake wash to every six or seven soap nut washes works well. We bought a big bag of soap nuts ages ago from inasoapnutshell.com (see link in side bar) and still havent finished the bag.
It is honestly cheaper, easier, and better for the world to use soap nuts. No measuring, or any of that nonsense, just a few nuts in a bag.
Soap nuts contain (I’m told) a chemical called Saponin, which is what cleans stuff… or something. You can apparently use them for cleaning all sorts of things, including ones own self. Never tried that one I’m afraid.
In terms of household cleaning by the by, I reccomend white vinegar, and a little elbow grease. Can cause a slight fish and chip smell for a little while, but soon fades.
So there you go, soap nuts really are the biz, and well worth trying out. Likewise the old vinegar thing, and catching slugs in beer. I caught about 300 last year. They look like gherkins when they’ve been caught in beer, which is another good reason not to eat gherkins (aka snozcumbers).
ps. you dont need softner if you use soap nuts! bonus!