Until recently I'd never heard of soap nuts but now I use them quite regularly.
Like most other people I use a washing machine - a lot and, although I'm not yet woman enough to forgo my machine in favour of the environment, I am conscious of what I put into it and, ultimately, into our rivers and streams. By replacing one or two of my weekly 'detergent' washes with soapnuts I'm helping to reduce the amount of pollution entering our water systems everyday.
Soap nuts are actually 'soap berries' which grow on two varieties of Sapindu trees. They're grown mainly in India, Nepal and China and have been used for thousands of years for washing clothing, household cleaning and as a jewellery polisher.
Soap nuts are organic, vegan, hypoallergenic, chemical-free, cruelty-free and 100% biodegradable. They're a completely natural alternative to commercial washing detergents and household cleaners. As such they don't pollute our river systems or poison our marine and animal life and they're great for allergy sufferers.
The shells of the soap nuts contain high concentrations of saponin, a natural surfactant substance which is excreted when they come into contact with water. As well as helping to prevent the pollution of our rivers and streams by commercial laundry detergents, soap nuts also help to reduce the amount of waste plastic from laundry detergent bottles.
Soap nuts work, help protect our marine and animal life and are much cheaper to use than chemical based detergents.
Soap Nuts For Laundry Use
Put 6 to 8 half-shells in a small linen drawstring bag (this can be purchased when buying the soap nuts) or use an unwanted sock instead. Put the bag/sock into the drum of the filled machine. Soap nuts work well in hot or cold water, but for heavily soiled items use warm or hot water. Using soap nuts in hot water will reduce the life of the soap nuts so remember to change them when they start to disintegrate.
It might take a little getting used to the fact that soap nuts have no perfume because we're so used to commercial detergents containing artificial fragrances. If the lack of perfume is a problem for you just put a few drops of a favourite essential oil into the conditioner compartment for the final rinse.
When the soap nuts are exhausted simply put them in your compost caddy or throw them into your brown wheelie bin.
Soap Nut Liquid
To make a concentrated liquid which can be used as a household cleaner, or for handwashing clothes:
Boil 50g of soap nuts in 1 litre of water, for 25 mins
Allow to cool, strain out the soap nuts and pour liquid into a suitable container
You will now have about 500 mls of concentrated soap nut liquid
Repeat the above process 3 more times, using the original soap nuts
Keep stored in the fridge
This will provide 2 litres of concentrated, chemical and preservative-free soap nut liquid for your general household cleaning needs.
For an all-natural relaxing bath, put 3 soap nut half-shells into a sock or mesh drawstring bag and drop into the warm bathwater. Swish it about a bit and, if required, add a few drops of essential oil for a scented bath. Avoid contact with eyes - like soap, it may cause stinging
Pour 2 cupfuls of water into a pan and drop in 2 to 3 half soap nuts. Simmer for 10 minutes and allow to cool. Place the jewellery in the cooled liquid to remove dirt and restore shine.
Simmer 3 to 4 soap nuts in the equivalent of 5 cupfuls of water for 15 minutes. Allow to cool and bathe pet as usual.
For me personally soapnuts are a versatile alternative to chemicals....not everytime, but sometimes. So, if you're considering making 'one small change' towards being greener perhaps you should give them a try....cheap, painless and minimal effect on your lifestyle.