Go Green With Your Laundry By Using Soapnuts

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We are getting more and more aware of how important is to take care not only for our own health, but for the health of everything that surrounds us.

Green living has become very popular, even fashionable lately. There’s nothing wrong with trends, as long as they are reasonable. And green living is definitely a good cause.

I’ve always been interested in green alternatives for cosmetic products and household cleaners, especially DIY recipes. Most commercial products give me allergies, rashes or just irritating itch.

Of course, if you google for green and home made products the first things that appear are uses of baking soda, salt and white vinegar. I don’t underestimate the cleaning power of these products, but they are actually quite strong cleaners.

I needed something that I can use directly on my body and hair every day. And few years ago I finally found soapnuts.

What are Soapnuts

Soap nuts actually aren’t nuts, but small round fruits, and more specifically – berries, growing on small trees and bushes from genius Sapindus. These fruits are used in folk medicine like a remedy for many diseases. For instance Ayurvedic practice uses the fruits from Sapindus mukorossi to cure psoriasis, eczema, for freckles removal etc. The cleaning properties of Sapindus mukorrossi and other soapnut trees were known to the native people for thousands of years, yet soapnuts is becoming popular to the western society just recently.

The pods of the berries contain very high percentage of saponins which are a natural cleaning agent. Fresh fruits are left to dry in the sun. When the dried shells are agitated with water they release the saponins and make nice thick lather. This is the purest, non-allergenic soap known to mankind. It is mild, but with excellent cleaning properties. However, you can use this gift of nature to make your own laundry detergent, shampoo, cleaning solution for common household purposes.

Use of Whole Soapnuts

The great thing about soapnuts, besides their cleaning qualities is that they are very easy to use. You can put 3-5 pods (or their equivalent in pieces) into a cotton case, or bag, or even an old cotton sock and place it directly in the detergent drawer in your washing machine. The best part is that you can use the same pods more than once.

The number of soapnuts that you’ll need depends on many factors – how dirty and/or big your load is, what temperature you use (hotter water enhances surfactants’ release). Also with some of the new models High Efficiency machines you will need less pods, even with very dirty laundry with excellent result.

Another use of whole soapnuts is as dishwasher detergent. Just place small cotton bag containing 2-3 pods in the cutlery basket. You can use them more than once – just leave them to dry before next washing. The simplest way to use the soapnuts is to put 2-3 in a half full jar of warm water and shake it. The result is thick suds that you can use for hand washing, dishes, and every surface in your home. You can throw shells when they become brittle when they dry. If their shell still has its soapy, sticky feel that means that you can you is again. When they’re done you can put the shells in the garden, or into a compost.

Make Yourself Universal Cleaning Detergent

Take 5-6 small soapnut pods (or 3-4 bigger ones) and break them into pieces. Put them into big saucepan and add 5-6 cups of water. After water starts boiling, reduce the temperature and leave them on the stove for about 30 minutes. You will get watery brown-orange substance. When you leave it it usually gets darker and thicker. This cleaner doesn’t make as much foam and bubbles as soap, but it has the same strong cleaning properties. This liquid can be used as it is, or diluted for various purposes.

  • Shampoo for your hair and body
  • Put the solution into foam dispenser and use it as hand soap or dish washing detergent
  • Pet shampoo
  • Laundry detergent – 1 or 2 tbs are enough, depending on the temperature and the load
  • Perfect cleaner for all kinds of surfaces, including leather, hardwood floors, countertops etc
  • This solution also works as great stain removal product, especially for fresh stains and spots on your garment, upholstery and carpets
  • When diluted and put in a spray container soapnut liquid can be used as excellent pesticide – just spray the leaves of you plants, or spray the aunt nest in your home

How to Preserve the Soapnut Liquid Longer

As any other natural ingredient soapnut liquid can’t last forever. Usually the solution can stay on the kitchen shelf in glass container, like jar or glass bottle for about 2 weeks. Putting it into the refrigerator can keep it good for about month. Some people add about 1 teaspoon citric acid per liter liquid. Citric acid is widely known as natural conservant and it is considered to be totally safe. Before you put it to soapnut liquid dissolve the acid with few drops of warm water.

Does Soapnuts Have Any Specific Smell?

Soapnuts has light natural scent, but cannot flavor your laundry. If you like you can add few drops of natural scented oils to the solution – this will not spoil its cleaning properties. Tea tree oil and eucalyptus have antibacterial effect, clove or orange oil will chase away moths from seasonal clothes to be put on storage. Almonds is make your hair grow faster, so almond oil can be added to the soapnut solution that you’re using as a shampoo. Just note, that essential oil can have very strong effects on our body, so you need to make adequate research on which oil will be right for you and never use more than recommended or prescribed dose.

Soapnuts can be ordered from organic on-line shops. There are plenty of videos and interesting recipes on the web explaining how to make various products using soapnuts. No matter what you will use them for, you will be fascinated. I have been using soapnut liquid for my laundry and as shower gel for a long time. Since then I forgot about rashes and itches that common commercial products usually gave me.

  • Guest Author

    Greener Ideal strives to help you live your life in more sustainable ways with green living tips, healthy recipes and commentary on the latest environment news. The views expressed by guest authors are their own and may not reflect those of Greener Ideal.

5 thoughts on “Go Green With Your Laundry By Using Soapnuts”

  1. Hi Irene, Thanks so much for your comprehensive article on soapnuts. Well done. Our not-for-profit New Internationalist store in Australia has been selling fair trade soapnuts for a few years and they’ve become one of our most popular items. I love using them myself. Every time I do the washing it feels like another little victory for common sense in caring for the planet and its people.


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