Soapnuts are a great natural alternative laundry detergent that you can grow right in your yard if you live in USDA zone 6 or higher. Soapnuts come from the genus Sapindus which contains about twelve species of trees and shrubs.
These plants, also called soapberry, are native to warm temperate to tropical regions. There are both deciduous and evergreen varieties.
Mature trees will fruit, typically in November. The fruit is covered by a husk which should be removed and composted. The amber colored fruit can be dried and stored for later use. To use these soapnuts, as they are called, simply put three to four dried fruits into a drawstring bag and toss in your washer. The soapnuts will wash three to four loads of clothes before they need to be replaced.
When it is time to replace the soapnuts with new ones, simply compost the older ones.
If you do not wish to grow your own soapnuts, there are many places to purchase them. Look online or ask at your local health food store.