Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Herb Notes: Soap Nuts, natural laundry soap?

So, I have stumbled upon something I think might be worth mentioning to all you naturalists out there. The product is directly from mother nature and is called Soap nuts or Soap berries (Sapindus mukorossi).

What are these nuts?

The soap nut is supposedly (I will test it out to make sure) an environmentally friendly alternative to chemical detergent, and is a gentle option for those with allergies to chemicals in regular detergents. They have traditionally been used as an expectorant, and in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for eczema and psoriasis. Soap nuts contain saponin, a natural detergent. The soap nut shell absorbs water and releases the saponins which circulate as a natural surfactant in the wash water, freeing dirt, grime, and oils from clothing.

How are they used?

Evidently (again, I will test the theory to make sure) you only need 4-6 nuts in a muslin bag (I am thinking panty hose should work too) and you toss them into your wash cycle. They can be used several times (they will become mushy and grey when they are to be replaced).
So what now?

Can you use soap nuts in place of other cleaning products?

Apparently you can. Soap nuts can be used for anything that you would normally use detergent for-washing the car, windows, etc. Some people have used them as a base for shampoos and hand lotions, and as an all purpose cleaner for around the home. They can be used as an anti-microbial for septic systems. Steep them in warm water and add the "tea" to a spray bottle and use in place of your regular cleaner.

So what now?

I am going to experiment myself with these neat creations from mother nature and I will update this entry when I have completed the experiment. As most of you know, I currently use ECOS laundry detergent, which is what I thought was as natural as one could get, but perhaps not.

The experiment (Number 1):

So I've done 2 loads of the kids laundry at this point with the soap nuts. Being that I always wash in cold water, I decided to simmer the soap nuts first to soften them. I then threw them into a muslin bag and tossed them in with the laundry on a normal cold wash. I dried the clothing in the dryer as usual. I treated stains as I normally do by spraying with Nature's Ultimate Concentrated Orange Cleaner. Logan's clothes (my 3 month old) if stained are generally protein stains from breastmilk and poop, Sam's are dirt from playing outside and juice and whatnot.


Whites: The whites aren't bright, like you would get using Tide with bleach or some other detergent, but I am thinking the addition of Borax or Washing Soda may fix this (I will experiment with this next).

Colors: Same as the whites.

Darks: Clean, soft, what more could I ask? The soapnuts did not remove the colour from them.

Softness: I did not use fabric softener (I never do, I use borax instead) and the clothes came out extremely soft. Big win on this end.

Static: No static. The clothes, even without using a dryer ball, are static free. Big win here too.

Stains: Well, the stains all came out with minimal effort, including some old ones on Sam's clothes that I never seemed to be able to get out. Big Win here too!

So, what is my final analysis on this experiment?

I am very pleased! Logan's clothes are as if I washed them in Ivory Snow (it always makes clothes soft for babies) and the cleaning power is nice. I am going to try the addition of Borax and Washing Soda to see if it will help with the brightness, but other than that I think the soapnuts are a keeper. They actually seem to work better than the ECOS.

Experiment #2:

More to come..

1 comment:

  1. I put the soapnuts to the test last night. I gave my large yellow lab a bath, and ended up with 4 big bath towels that smelt like wet dog and had a little bit of mud on them. I used 4 soapnuts soaked them in warm water for five minutes, then threw the water and the nuts in the washer. When the laod was done i put it all in the dryer (no dryer sheets). I was very suprised with the result! All the towels came out fresh with no mud! I am impressed!