Can you believe that this berry cleaned my clothes AND my dishes??!!
I am so excited to tell you about soap nuts!! I was sick of all the chemicals in even the 'green' laundry detergents and both intimidated and not sure of the ingredients in the typical homemade recipes.
THEN I heard about soap nuts. And my laundry world has been forever changed. (Guess I'm feeling dramatic tonight.)
Soap nuts are actually soap berries. They grow on trees in India, Nepal, and China. (I've heard you can grow them here but haven't gotten that far into it yet). The harvesters pick them and husk them. According to Wikipedia, they have been used for thousands of years for washing by Asians and Native Americans. They contain saponin in their husks that acts as a natural, gentle, organic laundry detergent.
To use them, I put about 7 of them in a little bag (that came in the box with the berries) and tossed them in the washer. I've done around 10 loads and my berries are still going strong. I'm supposed to replace them when they disintegrate (in the little bag so they don't get all over your clothes). The clothes have come out great - clean and soft! I don't use any kind of fabric softener, dryer sheet, etc. [I do use Oxy-clean on the stains first - especially on S's clothes!]
I even tried the soap nuts in the dishwasher this week and they did a great job.
Ready for the one downside I've found? Sometimes I have a hard time finding the baggie in the midst of my clothes when they go into the dryer. I forgot to fish them out once, but they didn't seem to be ill-affected by their extra trip, thankfully.
My whole-hearted recommendation - Get some! You'll never go back. :)
[A few notes on purchasing soap nuts if you decide to try them out. It seems that you definitely get what you pay for. Some brands come full of seeds and are sticky - not good for your laundry! I've been really happy with the Eco Nuts brand.]