Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Soap Nuts

I had never heard of soap nuts, until someone left a comment on my post about natural cleaning, and suggested it as an alternative to buying environmentally friendly laundry detergents. I ordered 100g of soap nuts, from this site, to try it out. There should be enough soap nuts here for 40 loads. I am going to sew up some extra drawstring pouches and mail some to my family so they can try using them, too.

What are soap nuts?

Soap nuts, also known as soap berries, are plants in the genus Sapindus, so called because their seeds (actually, the shell of the seeds) contains saponin – a natural detergent – and can be used to make soap.

Soap nuts also have medicinal applications (they are used to treat eczema, psoriasis and head lice, and to remove freckles!), they have antimicrobial properties, and can be used to clean fine jewelry.

Why use soap nuts?

Soaps nuts are an environmentally sound alternative to commercial detergents, which contain a lot of harsh additives that are harmful to you and to the environment. (Check out this website to read more about the hazards of commercial detergents, and for information on some "green" detergents.)

In contrast, soap nuts are 100% biodegradable, hypoallergenic, and a safe, natural way to wash your clothing. They are even gentle enough to be used to wash silks, woolens and other delicate fabrics. In addition, I have read that, when washing your clothing with soap nuts, you don’t need to use fabric softener.

At between 20 and 50 cents per load (depending on where you buy, and whether or not you buy in bulk), soap nuts may be a little more expensive than your dollar store commercial laundry detergent, but it is comparable to other commercially available, "green" laundry detergents.

How to use soap nuts

You can purchase soap nuts (normally in the form of dried shells, but also available as a powder, or as soap nut liquid) from several online sources. Most of the websites I looked at included a cotton, drawstring pouch with your purchase.

To use soap nuts in your washing machine, place 3 or 4 soap nuts into a drawstring bag and throw it in with the wash. You can reuse the same soap nuts for 4 or 5 loads of laundry, depending on how heavily soiled your clothing is. After that, the soap nuts can be discarded, or composted.

You can also boil soap nuts in water to create a liquid soap, with many potential applications. Check out the websites listed below to find out how to make liquid soap, to read about the many ways in which you can use soap nuts, and to buy soap nuts.


Kea said...

Hey Lana, have you tried them out yet? I'd like to recommend them to my mom because she's got bad eczema on her stomach. Are soap nuts powerful enough to wash my my parents' stinky sweaty tennis gear?

Natural Laundry Detergent said...

I love soap nuts. When my wife began using them, the eczema across my belly cleared right up.