Switching from detergent to Soapnuts/Soapberries for laundry was probably the last thing I upgraded in my household on my quest for living life the mindful way. We have gotten used to the idea that when something smells like detergent, it must be clean! Harsh detergents are one of the most toxic substances in the household, after herbicides and pesticide sprays. It affects our respiratory system and skin the most, and in many cases the cause of allergies, specially in children. We also spend lots of money and waste millions of plastic containers just to keep our clothes "clean", and mind the impact to our water supply caused by all that chemical soup down the drain.
Our ancestors have already mastered the skill of bargaining with nature for survival. Food, shelter, clothing, medicine and even detergents! Soapnuts are the hard shells from the Soapberry Tree (Sapindus Mukorossi) found everywhere in the world, not just India and the Hymalayan region like most of the literature notes. South Americans used to wash with soapnuts and so did Africans. I stumbled on wild soap nut trees while living in Tanzania!
The Saponin contained in these shells produce natural soap-like substance. The Science behind it is that agitation of the soapnuts releases saponin, which breaks down the surface tension between water and oil in the wash, the exact same principle that applies to how most detergents and soaps work. This is of course without the use to toxic synthetic chemicals, colours or fragrances.
How to use soap nuts for laundry?
- For washing: Place 4 Soap Nut shells (8 halfs) per load inside a cloth bag or an old soap with a knot. The nuts have enough resin for you to re-use for 2 or 3 loads.
- For scent: Add a few drops of your favourite essential oils for scent. My top picks are Lavender, Tea Tree, Lemon or Bergamot, Rose.
- Tip: For stains and strong odour, add a cup of Baking Soda and a cup of white Vinegar to your load in the detergent compartment.
- Soapnut Liquid: Boil a few shells in water for 10 minutes. Great for Glass and most shiny surfaces! You can even rinse your hair with it, women have done it for centuries, be VERY cautious however, it will sting if it goes into your eyes. It happened to me and I ended up with the shiniest hair and the reddest eye all day!
Earth's Berries Video
Photos by: The Mindful Sprout™
Book: Imperfectly Natural Woman: Getting Life Right the Natural Way, by Janey Lee Grace
UK & Europe:
US: Earth's Berries
Uses: The drupes (soapnuts) contain saponins which are a natural surfactant. They have been used for washing for thousands of years by native peoples in Asia as well as Native Americans. Soapnuts are being considered and used for commercial use in cosmetics and detergents as well as many other products.