We have found a 100% natural cleaner which grows wild in the Himalayas and has been used for centuries in India, China, and Nepal... Soap Nuts!
Soap Nuts are on supermarket shelves in Europe and they're cheaper than our chemical alternatives.
So, what is a Soapnut?
Soapnuts are a macadamia-sized berry which is cracked open and dried in the sun, producing a dark golden 'shell'. These shells (known as 'soapnuts') can be placed into your washing machine instead of detergent and fabric softener and will leave your clothes clean, soft and without scent. The pods contain a very high percentage of saponins (Mother Nature's soap), a surfactant which removes dirt and oils from clothing when contacted with water. Soapnuts can also be boiled into a liquid concentrate and used as a general-purpose cleaner, shampoo, hand soap... lots of things!
What can I use them for?
Soapnuts are most commonly used as a laundry detergent. They are used instead of chemical detergents and fabric softeners. Soapnut shells are used simply on their own in a cotton bag or lone sock tied at the top and put into the machine with your clothes. They do not need to be removed during the rinse cycle as there is no harmful or irritating residue as is left over from normal detergents. The surfactants in the nuts cleans and softens your laundry in one economic and environmentally friendly swoop!
How do I use them?
To use them in your washing machine, place 3-6 whole soapnut shells in a cotton wash bag (or odd sock) and place it in the washing machine with your washing . You will need to use more shells for larger loads, heavy soiling or where hard water is used. You need less shells in smaller loads or in water efficient machines. Soapnuts don’t need to be removed during the rinse cycle and there is no harmful or irritating residue as is left over by normal detergents. Your soapnuts can be reused 4-6 times or longer in cold water, before composting them in your garden.
You can make your own liquid soapnut cleanser by simmering 100 grams of soapnuts in 3 litres of water for an hour. The strained liquid can then be decanted into bottles and used instead of any liquid soap or cleanser. For smaller quantities try 6 broken up shells in 2 cups of water. The consistency will be thin, but its cleaning power is strong. Dilute as required.
You can also add your own personalized fragrance to the soap by using essential oils, e.g. lavender. Just a few drops in your liquid soap, or in your washing machine’s softener dispenser and everything will smell just the way you like it.
How safe are they?
Soapnuts are completely hypoallergenic, as in, are not likely to agitate or irritate the skin. They are so gentle that they are recommended for use by people with eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions. We use them for washing our baby and toddler's clothes, and our baby has particularly sensitive skin. We have seen an improvement in her skin since switching from 'sensitive detergents' to soapnuts, proving to us personally that they are indeed as gentle as can be. Many mothers have been sharing their success with soapnuts as a washing detergent alternative on online forums; a simple Google search will bring up many examples. Also, soapnuts are not technically nuts, they are berries. So people with nut allergies have nothing to worry about.
The following email is typical of the feedback we often receive.
My husband has had psoriasis for over 30 years and the lesions were becoming worse and much more itchy & scaly. We have tried many different products during this time with varying degrees of success. In desperation, I searched for some alternative to soap products on Google and found the soap nuts. I only bought a small quantity the first time to see if they made a difference. The effect was seen within just over a week and was dramatic. The scales became less and the itch subsided. The psoriasis is now more manageable and whilst the lesions are still present they have lost the scaly appearance and the redness is slowly subsiding. We are so happy with this product I have just ordered a kilo. The difference in cost compared to soap products is also a factor even though a small one. Also the environment benefits from the use of the nuts. Thank you very much.
You may use some or all of this unsolicited testimonial in your publicity if you so desire.
Anne-Marie & Frank
So what about performance?
Soapnuts work just as well as ordinary chemical detergents. They are fibre-friendly and will not leech the colour out of your garments, though we do recommend separating light and dark clothing to maintain the brightness of pale clothing. Soapnuts leave clothes looking, feeling and smelling clean!
Because soapnuts are completely natural, they do not contain optical brighteners, foaming agents, bleaches or chlorine, so they will not produce the same results as commercial stain removers, but they can be used to soak out tough stains in hot water. If necessary you can also add environmentally-friendly oxygen bleach.
How do they perform in HE (High Efficiency) washing machines?
We have found that we can use less soapnuts for more washes in newer machines. HE washing machines also use less water, and because soapnuts don't leave a residue that needs rinsing away like chemical detergents, a simple "30 Minute" or "Quick Wash" may do the trick - using half the water and electricity. We suggest experimenting with your particular machine, using less soapnuts each time your washing is perfectly clean until you find the amount right for you.
So what about my old, rattly clunker washing machine?
p>Soapnuts will work in any machine, and also for hand washing. Again the wash cycle can be reduced as an extra rinse cycle is not needed. Experiment with your machine and use fewer soapnuts, or use the same ones for more washes, as you deem necessary.
Do I use hot or cold water?
Whichever you use is up to you. The saponins are released quicker in hotter water, so for very dirty or large loads, hot water can be used to release more soap from the nuts. Alternatively, using hot water for normal loads means you can use fewer soapnuts per wash, but you would use them for fewer washes. The soapnuts are ready for composting when they no longer feel squeaky clean and look pale on the inside. You can also save up your 'used' nuts and boil them in the water on the stove to get every last bit of saponin out and use the liquid as a cleaner.
How do I know if they're ready to compost?
Soapnuts have a lot of soap in them! Sometimes it's tricky to tell if they're goners. Here are a couple of tips: After using them in your washing machine a couple of times, have a look at them; you can tell by looking at them how much more soap is in them. If they are wet, squeeze the edge of one. If you see any tiny bubbles, there's plenty left, throw them back in for more washes. Also, when the inside looks grey and mushy, they're probably done. If they're totally brittle when dry, they are ready to compost. Any squishy parts, there's still soap left! Another way to tell is by the quality of the wash. If you use the same settings regularly on your machine, you will be able to tell when your soapnuts need replacing when the latest load is not quite "as clean" as the last. Experimentation is the key, as is getting used to your machine's capabilities.