Making the shift to a greener cleaner lifestyle tends to come one step at at time. By this point your likely an old pro at recycling, you compost what you can and try to buy the greenest cleaners out there. But how green are they? Let me introduce you to Soap Nuts the cleanest of the green! Soap nuts have been used for centuries to clean dirt out of fibres – Yep nature’s home grown laundry detergent.
What are Soap Nuts?
Soap nuts aren’t actually a nut, they’re not even related to a nut, in fact they are a berry fruit closely related to the lychee. They are called nuts because they dry into hard shells, resembling a nut. you may also hear them referred to as Soap Berries. These berries are produced by the Sapindus mukorossi tree indigenous to the Himalayas. The berries (or nuts) contain a natural surfactant called Saponin. The nuts are approximately 10% Saponins.
How Do Soap Nuts Work?
Saponin, like all surfactants, break the surface tension on water, allowing the water to entreat the fibres of your clothes. The water is then able to lift stains and dirt from the fabric leaving it suspended in the water that is rinsed away. Commercial detergents work on the same principle.
Unlike commercial detergents there is very little bubbles or foam produced. We have been programmed by soap makers to believe the more bubbles produced the better the clean. It simply is not true as foam is not an indicator of cleaning power but rather of artificial foaming agents usually diverted from petroleum chemicals.
Why Use Soap Nuts?
Soap Nuts have a number of benefits over traditional, commercially made laundry detergents. Not only do they grow naturally, making them free of all petroleum based chemicals but they are gentile on both clothes and skin. They are an ideal choice for those with sensitive skin or skin issues such as psoriasis or eczema. They are also and ideal choice for baby clothes and cloth diapers. Because Soap nuts are so natural and gentile, they are great for septic and grey water systems.
While producing clean clothes, soap nuts also have the ability to create softer clothes while prolong the life of your washed fabrics. Chemical detergents can weaken fibres while soap nut gently loosen fibres to remove dirt and grime. This results in softer, fluffier fibres that do not wear out as quickly.
How To Use Soap Nuts ?
While there are many possible uses for soap nuts, the most common is in the washing machine. Put 4-5 nuts in the a small cloth bag (should be provided with your soap nut purchase). Throw the bag in the wash with your clothes! It’s that simple. Because soap nuts work best with more agitation, it is important not to overload your washing machine. There is no need to add fabric softener and they work with any temperature of water in any machine (HE, front loading etc). The bag containing 4-5 nuts can be used approximately 10 times or until they start to disappear or disintegrate.
For very dirty or heavy loads soak the bag of nuts in some hot water for a few minutes to make a “tea” this tea can be added to the wash with the nuts or used to presoak and treat stubborn stains.
For even more uses, make your own batch of liquid soap nut detergent by soaking the nuts in water. This liquid can be used to wash pretty much everything. Use it to wash dishes, countertops, floors and even the dog! It can used as a natural shampoo and body wash. Also makes a great camp soap. It is safe for almost any surface. It can even be sued to to clean jewellery. The people of India have been using soap nuts to clean jewelry for ages. Just soak the metal and/or gemstones for a few minutes in the liquid. Use a mental brush (toothbrush) to remove visible dirt and rinse in clean water.
Keep in mind, like all detergents, they don’t work as well in very hard water. If your water is hard a few more nuts make be needed. If you use your dryer to dry clothes consider ditching the chemical laden dryer sheets for a more natural option and try Wool Dryer Balls for a static free softener!