When I first heard about soap nuts, my first reactions was “really?”, “You’re joking right?” I thought there was no way they could work as well as commercial laundry detergent, or household cleaners. I also thought it was just another gimmick, but decided to do some research anyway. Much to my surprise I could only find good things said about them and that they were better than commercial cleaners, but this still sounded too good to be true so me being me I just couldn’t resist buying some to see what all the fuss was about.
What are Soapnuts?
Soap nuts are not nuts at all they are the berry fruit from shrubs and small trees of the sapindus genus which is part of the Lychee family. They are known by many different names throughout the world, “Soapberries”, “Washing nuts” “ Soap nut shells” to name a few. They produce a natural soap called saponin. Saponin is a natural surfactant that foams when dissolved in water, removing dirt and odours from surfaces. This makes it a much better alternative to chemical laundry detergents and household cleaners (such as those containing SLS (Sodium Laureth sulphate)) that are becoming well known for being skin irritants and a serious health hazard.
Soap nuts are normally harvested from trees that have never been sprayed with any chemicals or pesticides, there is no need to as insects and pests don’t like the taste of the fruit. Once harvested, the soap nuts are dried and de-seeded, they end up looking like a small brown nut – which is where the name comes from.
Soap nuts have been used for centuries throughout the world as a laundry detergent, as soap for personal hygiene, and as a cleanser. They are extremely gentle and 100% natural and chemical free they can be used even on the most sensitive skin or delicate surfaces. They also contain natural anti-bacterial, anti fungal and anti microbial properties making them a powerful alternative.
Do they work?
Surprisingly… YES, they do work, remarkably well in fact. I can also confidently say that not only do they get your clothes and surfaces clean but they also very effective at removing odours. Being the very proud owner of two 9 year old Rhodesian Ridgebacks, (that are just big goofy couch potatoes and love nothing better than spending their days either laying on the our bed, sofa’s and of course their own dog cushions) I found that commercial detergent just masked the doggy smell that sometimes lingered after washing, but with the Soapnuts the smell has gone without a trace.
So how do they work?... well here’s the science bit…….Surfactants work by breaking the surface tension of water so it can more easily penetrate into fabrics, effectively making water “wetter.” Once wet, the agitation of your washing machine shakes the dirt loose from your clothes. Then Soap Nuts’ saponin holds the dirt in suspension in the water (preventing it from re-depositing on your clothes) until you’ve rinsed it away.
There are 2 main ways in which to use soap nuts
You can use soap nuts to clean your laundry and your whole house.
Like any other botanical water- based liquid, your soap nut liquid cleaner will go bad after a period of time, so the best place to store it is in the fridge where it will keep for a couple of months. If making a larger batch you are better to freeze it in portion size pieces and just remove and defrost at room temperature when you need. If you are only making a small batch you can keep this at room temperature in a spray bottle for up to a week.
For my laundry and dishes I like a thicker liquid, but for a household spray I thin it out with some filtered water, for extra cleaning power I mix in some baking soda
How to use liquid
Laundry: This liquid cleaner is perfect for all High Efficiency washing machines ( most front loaders are HE) because it produces very little suds, but it will work in any type of washing machine. Because the liquid is concentrated it is great for ANY temperature of wash cycle so this may be a better option if you have/use a cold water machine only.
(The whole nut works well in warm/hot water, but sometimes cold water wont release the saponins needed to clean). Use 3 – 4 tbsp of your liquid in the dispenser tray, it is free of harmful chemicals and unnatural fragrances therefore it is perfect for all you wash loads even delicates.
Dishes: Add your liquid into a squirt bottle and use 1 tbsp per sink of dishes, the liquid does not foam up like commercial washing up liquid does but I find it gets my dishes squeaky clean (you can actually hear the squeak on the plate after rinsing).
Toilets: Add your liquid to a squirt bottle or spray bottle. Use generously in and around the toilet bowl and lid, leave for a couple of minutes then clean in your usual way.
Floors: Add 1 tbsp of your liquid to your bucket of warm/hot water.
Other household surfaces: Add your liquid to a spray bottle and use to clean any of the following surfaces in you home,.
Fruits and veggies: Just spray onto the surface of your fruit and veggies allow to sit for a couple of minutes, , rinse with clean water at least twice before drying them, wipe with a clean dry cloth.
If you are going to use on your fruit and veggies you might want to use unscented liquid, just remove some into a separate bottle before adding the essential oil.
So all in all I have to say if you are looking for a eco-friendly 100 % natural, cheap and easy way to clean your house and laundry, soap nuts are the way to go.
It is estimated that a 1kg bag of soap nuts can be used for up to 330 – 350 washes. So depending on where you buy your soap nuts from can mean that a wash load can cost as little as 3 p per wash (excluding water cost).
Your soap nuts are plant-based, suitable for Vegans, Hypoallergenic and totally Biodegradable. Always check your supplier traceability to ensure that they have naturally and sustainably sourced them.
About the GrassRoots Health Blog
The Grassroots Health blog is written by Dean and Joanne. Joanne's passion is vegan raw food, nutrition and wellbeing while Dean likes to explore the real science behind health.
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