Soap nuts are now found in both the eastern and western hemispheres. The soap nut, which is actually a berry, forms a hard shell when dry that resembles a nut, hence the name. The berry shells contain saponin, a natural surfactant that is released when the shell absorbs water. Considered a natural detergent, soap nuts have become a popular environmentally friendly.
Soap nuts can be used for anything you would normally use detergent for, such as washing the car or clothing. They can also be used as a base for shampoos and hand lotions or as an all-purpose cleaner around the home. Jewelers in India and Indonesia have used the shells to remove tarnish from jewelry for many centuries.