By Jenn (TinyChoices.com) | February 17, 2009
About two weeks ago I tweeted about soapnuts, asking if anyone had personal experience with using them. Owing to the magical powers of social media, Lisa from LaundryTree.com replied and offered to send me a trial batch of soap nut, which I readily and happily accepted.
Soapnuts is the common name for the fruit from the Sapindus genus of shrubs and trees, which grows in tropical regions around the world. The fruit (nuts) contain saponin, a natural detergent, which has been used as a cleanser for centuries but is just now making its way to our neck of the woods.
I’ve been wanting to try these silly looking little buggers for a while now, because if they worked as advertised, it would signal the end of disposable plastic laundry detergent bottles in my life and the beginning of a single-ingredient and compostable laundry solution. Which would be a pretty exciting upgrade, don’t you think?
Soap nuts, especially are used medically as an expectorant, emetic, contraceptive, and for treatment of excessive salivation, epilepsy, chlorosis, and migraines. Studies show that saponin from soap nuts inhibits tumor cell growth. Soap nuts are among the list of herbs and minerals in Ayurveda. They are a popular ingredient in Ayurvedic shampoos and cleansers. They are used in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for eczema, psoriasis, and for removing freckles. Soap nuts have gentle insecticidal properties and are traditionally used for removing lice from the scalp.
Contraceptive? Removing freckles! These are some powerful claims…
So, I tried out the soapnuts in my wash today. Since I wash in cold water, I followed the recommendation to make a soapnut liquid for the wash, since cold water doesn’t release the saponin from the nut. I put about 8 nuts into 4 cups of boiling water, and let that sit overnight. In the morning I strained it into a repurposed glass jar, and added some of the Energy Blend essential oil which came with the starter kit (the nuts themselves do have an unappealing smell, which apparently doesn’t transfer to the clothes, but it’s a nice option to add some scent). I then added about 1/2 cup of this liquid into my washing machine along with my clothes, and put the leftover liquid into the fridge for about 7 future loads. (If you wash in hot water, you can just put the nuts into a cotton drawstring bag which comes with your order, and toss that into your machine).
And, I’m excited to say that my laundry came out clean! I put some tough stuff in there too, to give the soapnuts a real trial– my stinky Bikram clothes came out smelling fresh, as did the armpits of a polypropylene wicking shirt I wore cross-country skiing this weekend. The soapnut smell didn’t transfer to my clothes– in fact they have no real smell, which is how clean clothes should be, no?
The nuts are pretty economical, especially when compared to the more “natural” clothing detergents on the market– $10 worth of soapnuts will wash up to 40 loads of laundry– but for me, the most exciting part of the whole deal is twofold: first, no more schlepping of heavy water-based detergent containers, and second, no real waste– the nuts go into my compost pile when they’re used up. Sure, the nuts still have to be shipped from their homeland to me, but that’s it– just one ingredient needs to travel, instead of the laundry list (hah!) of ingredients in a traditional cleanser.
So, my verdict: I’m a convert. I like them! I like how they clean, I like their simplicity, compostability, and utter naturalness. Soapnuts are a great addition in my bid to simplify my ingredient life, and I’m looking forward to a long-lasting love affair.
Have you tried soapnuts? What’re your thoughts?
[Image by Ingorr via Creative Commons]
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