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Over the last four years Nathan and I have been slowly trying to switch all of our cleaning and personal care products to more natural options than the conventional products found on most store shelves. We now make most of our own cleaning supplies from baking soda, vinegar and essential oils, we make our own deodorant, and we have even ditched our shampoo (we will have to talk about our experience with the No 'Poo method someday).
We still don't make everything from scratch. While we try to find the most natural products available we still buy products such as Earthpaste Toothpaste, Witch Hazel to use as a toner, Manuka Honey which we sometime use as a face wash, and until recently laundry detergent. However, since the homemade versions often work just as well (and are often considerably less expensive), we are always experimenting with new kinds of homemade, frugal, products.
For quite awhile many households have started using soap nuts, a natural alternative to laundry detergent. Soap nuts are actually a type of berry that grows on a tree native to India and Nepal. The fruit contains a high concentration of saponins, a natural detergent, which can be used as an an alternative to laundry soap (I have also heard that it can be used as shampoo, dishsoap, window cleaner, etc. but I haven't tired these methods yet).
Why would you want to use soap nuts?
- No added chemicals (read about why you want to avoid these chemicals here).
- They are a great for anyone with sensitive skin or allergies... including children and babies. (according to Mountain Rose Herbs they are even used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat eczema and psoriasis.)
- They are one of the cheapest natural laundry alternatives available (at pennies a load).
- You don't have to use a fabric softener since your laundry will come out soft and fluffy naturally.
- Once you have used the soap nuts you can dispose of them in your compost!
- And for those that have septic tanks, soap nuts are a safe choice.
Where do you find soap nuts?There are many sources of soap nuts online. I bought mine through Private Lable Organic Soap Nutswhich seems to be the best price for high quality organic soap nuts (especially if you are willing to buy broken pieces rather than whole nuts... they work just as well.) I have been very pleased with the results! Another popular choice are NaturOli Organic Soap Nuts.
There are many other options out there. Just make sure that you are buying de-seeded soap nuts, since the saponins are concentrated in the fruit and the seeds will just add to the weight of the product without giving you any real benefit.)
How do you use soap nuts?Many people use soap nuts by placing 4-6 in a small muslin bag such as these ones, and throwing it in with the wash. The nuts can then be resused several times until they start falling apart.
Liquid Soap Nut Laundry Detergent4 cups water
1 cup soap nuts
1. Place the soap nuts and water in a sauce pan on the stove. Bring the contents to a low boil and then simmer covered on low, for 30 minutes.
2. Remove the lid and simmer for an additional 15-30 minutes to concentrate the liquid.
3. Pour the contents through a strainer to remove the soap nuts. Feel free to squeeze the soap nuts to remove all the liquid from their flesh, and then discard them in the compost.
Since this detergent has no preservatives it won't keep for long at room temperature. It will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator or for months if frozen. I pour the detergent into an ice cube try to freeze into convenient 2 Tbs portions that I can just pop into the washing machine when I start a load.
You should use 2 Tbs per load of laundry (or even 1 Tbs if you have a HE machine). You may wish to add a 1/2 cup of baking soda as well for a particularly dirty load of if you have hard water.
I hear that this liquid can also be used as an all purpose cleaner, dish soap or even shampoo... I look forward to experimenting more with these awesome berries soon!