Product Review: Soap Nuts

I have read varying views on the effectiveness of soap nuts ability to clean. Given the uncertainty surrounding them I thought best to try them once and for all. Sapindus, commonly referred to as soap nuts, are a native shrub to India. It is a natural surfactant which can be used to clean ones hair, skin, laundry and as a household cleaner generally. They’re vegan and suitable for those with allergies. If this wasn’t enough it was claimed a 1kg bag – costing £11 could wash 330 loads of laundry. That’s 3.3p a load. Given the mixed reviews I thought best to sit down with a cup of tea and learn how to use them properly. The first test was laundry. 

Within the bag are two small mesh bags where you place the soap nuts for washing clothes. Having read up I noted you need more soap nuts in hard water areas. As London has horrific water I placed 10 soap nuts into the mesh bag and put them into a small jar with tap hot water and shook them up. They formed suds straight away. After watching an episode of South Park I return and placed the mesh bag with soapy water in with the clothes.

soap nuts
1kg bag of soap nuts

I didn’t use fabric conditioner but the clothes felt far softer than normal. There was not scent and the clothes were really clean. At least as clean if not more than usual. I’ve used them quite a few times now and they’re done the job. The only thing I may do is add some essential oils to add some fragrance. The soap nuts can be used four or fives times. To test them put them in a jar of warm water and shake. If they foam up you’re good to go. I’ve also used them to wash my hair and beard.

The cost of laundry cleaner and conditioner wasn’t too pricy. However, buying organic, vegan and ‘nasty’ free shampoo and conditioner is rather costly. Given I have 1kg of soap nuts I made my own shampoo. I filled an old empty bottle of shampoo with five soap nuts, some organic cold pressed argan and jojoba oil along with tea tree essential oil. Given the softness of the laundry, the addition of the oils negates the need for conditioner. I tend to leave the homemade shampoo on a little longer. My hair is left clean and soft. For my kind of hair this works better than shop bought shampoo.

For household cleaning I’ve used 10 soap nuts and placed them into an old bottle with some lemon essential oil and filtered water. I left the mixture overnight and found it turned brown. This has been used to clean worktops / dishes. It cleans effortlessly on all the household tasks I set it to. I was most surprised by its ability to clean around the house. Having read negative reviews it seems, at least anecdotally, people didn’t first soak the soap nuts.Given its cleaning ability and relative cost I’d like to continue using them. Supports highlight their environmental benefits. I’m unsure on this point. Of course there are environmental / welfare concerns with commonly used laundry products.

The nuts must been transported to the UK. There are also farming impacts to consider too. Given they are not commonly used in the UK – finding information on them have proven challenging it. I will update this post in due course and have posted it in the hope people may have answers to the following; working conditions of those involved in the supply chain, farming techniques  – organic.  environmental impact of growing and in relation to ‘mainstream’ products. Given they are able to carry out general cleaning duties it negates the need to consume multiple products, each produced and shipped in turn. On the face it would suggest the environmental impact would be less. Below is a video documenting the harvesting process in Nepal:

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Recipe: Sudanese Falafel Dinner

This is a long-promised recipe on the blog, and one of our absolute favourite dinners. It’s based (loosely) on the incredible plates from Tutti in Berlin.

The inspiration (and the best 5 Euros you can spend in Berlin)

The good news is, it’s actually pretty simple. The trickiest components are the falafel itself, and the sauce. Everything else is just (lots of; delicious) sides!

Makes enough falafel for 4 greedy people.


  • 2 tins chickpeas, drained
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • good handful chopped fresh dill
  • salt & pepper
  • plain flour
  • baking powder
  • vegetable or sunflower oil for cooking

Whizz up a third of the chickpeas in a blender or with a hand mixer. You may need a tiny bit of water to get it going, but keep that to a minimum if you can. Bash the remaining two thirds up with a potato masher or a fork – you want to keep a bit of their structure.

Finely dice the onion and garlic, and mix together with both lots of chickpeas. Combine, and add flour a tablespoon at a time, mixing in until you have a mix that holds together when you roll it in your hand. Once you have the consistency right, add a heaped teaspoon of baking powder, the choppe20151113_201555d dill, and salt and pepper.

Roll the mixture into balls, slightly smaller than a golf ball. If they’re too large, they won’t cook in the centre.

Whilst you’re doing this, heat up the oil in a pan – be really careful if you’re doing this in a pan rather than a proper deep fat fryer. Never leave the oil unattended on the heat, and don’t overfill the pan with oil or with falafel.

We do this in a small saucepan, filled no more than halfway with oil. We then add the falafel in batches once the oil is hot (drop the heat down to medium/medium high and keep an eye on it whilst you cook – if it gets too hot, the outside will cook before the middle is done), with no more than 3 in the pan at once – adding the cold falafel will cause the oil to bubble up, and too many at once may cause the oil to bubble over the sides and catch the hob. It also lowers the temperature of the oil, so too many at once will also mean your falafel end up a bit anaemic looking, and greasier than they ought to be. Be safe, and use your common sense.

As each batch of falafel is cooked (when they’re a deep golden brown), lift them out and let them sit on a bit of kitchen roll for a while, to remove any excess oil.

My hands are incredibly small, this falafel genuinely is smaller than a golf ball. 

Sauce – if you’re big on sauce, double-up the recipe

  • 2 generous tablespoons peanut butter (smooth works best, but you can use crunchy too)
  • juice of one fresh lime
  • 2-3 hot chillis
  • a little water

Put the peanut butter, lime juice, and chillis in a blender and blitz until smooth – you want the sauce hot and sour. Adjust to taste, adding more lime, chilli, or peanut butter as you like.

Add the water a tablespoon at a time and blitz again slowly. Keep adding until you have a smooth sauce.

Sides – adjust the quantities depending on how many of you there are!

  • potatoes – diced up and roasted with oil, salt, and herbs
  • carrots – chopped into sticks and roasted with oil, salt, and herbs
    • basically, any root veg you like works really well. Cut it all to the same sort of size, coat in a little oil and seasoning, and roast at 180C for about 20 mins (until soft and just browning at the edges)
  • cauliflower, broccoli, or sprouts – cut into bite sized pieces and roasted along with the root veg (but thrown in a little later)
  • olives
  • hummus
  • flatbread (we usually pick one up from our local turkish supermarket)
  • You can also include slabs or cubes of fried smoked tofu if you want to, to make the meal extra filling
  • pickles – if you can get that bright pink pickled turnip, it goes perfectly. Otherwise, gherkins and jalapenos do a fantastic job.