In keeping with my theme of the environment and my earlier blog with tips to save money and the Earth. I thought I’d share another low-cost tip for living green.
I recently came across a really cool new cleaning product. Except that it isn’t new, and it’s not exactly a product, but there are products made from it and you can buy it?
This is starting to sound like a riddle, so I’ll get to the point. SOAP NUTS!!
What is a soap nut?
Soap Nuts, which are actually berries, grow on trees and have actual soap in them!
The berries contain saponin, which functions as a surfactant a.k.a. soap. They work to release dirt from fabric and other surfaces, then suspend the dirt in the water to be rinsed away. Some species of soap nut have also been found to be anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.
Soap nuts have been in use for literal ages, in the subtropic Asia, in countries such as India, China, Taiwan, and Nepal. There is also a western soapberry tree that was used historically for the same purposes by Native Americans.
What can I do with a soap nut?
Soap nuts can be used to make an array of cleaning products.
- Produce rinse
- Laundry detergent
- Dish detergent for use in a dishwasher or handwashing
- Face and body wash
- Shaving Cream
- All-purpose cleaner
- Glass cleaner
- Insect repellent
- Jewelry cleaner
- Automobile washing
How to use them
There is more than one method for using soap nuts, and the exact measurements may vary based on the exact species you are using. So I advise testing out a few methods to see what gets the best results with the nuts that you have available. That’s what I’ll be doing! But for this blog, I will cover some of the ideas and recipes I have found during my research.
Use the whole nut
Put 4-5 nuts in a mesh bag, tie it off and toss it in with your laundry. Reuse the same bag for approximately 10 loads of laundry, or until the soap nuts seem mushy. To test if the nuts are still good, run the bag under hot water and give it a squeeze, you should see some suds come out.
Note that this works best when using warm water to wash clothes. If you are washing in cold water, then you should steep the bag in hot water for a few minutes to activate the saponin for best results.
Another use for the whole nut is to take 10-12 nuts and let them soak in a bucket of hot water for about 30 minutes. Then use this water to wash your car, your floors, or anything else that you might need a bucket of water to clean. Since the wash is all natural and biodegradable the water can be reused to water your trees or plants. It may even keep pests out of the area watered. If anyone does try watering plants with the leftover water, I’d love to hear how it goes! (I don’t have any plants or yeard to test this out myself).
Make a concentrated liquid cleaner
I have found a number of recipes for a liquid concentrate, ranging from 2 nuts per cup of water to 15 nuts per cup. I went with a middle ground of about 10 nuts per cup of water.
Boil the soap nuts in the water, occasionally smashing them down with a bamboo spoon or something similar, for about 30 minutes. You can add essential oils if you want a scented product. Strain the liquid into a jar, and store in the fridge. Will last about 2 weeks. Another idea is that you can freeze it into cubes and just throw a cube into the laundry machine, dishwasher, or bucket of water.
The concentrated product can be used for multiple purposes
- Mix 1 TBSP into a bucket of water for mopping floors
- Mix 1 TBSP into dishwater for dishes
- Add concentrate directly to dishwasher, or laundry machines (low sud product perfect for machine washing)
- Mix 1 TBSP concentrate with 1 TBSP white vinegar into a spray bottle and fill with water for glass and multi-purpose cleaners
- Apply a dab to your cleansing cloth for face or body cleansing. The antibacterial properties of the berry make this an excellent wash for acne prone skin, but it is also not drying and is very gentle for sensitive skin.
- Mix .5-1 oz into 12 oz water in a jar and pour over your scalp for shampoo (follow up with an apple cider vinegar rinse as your conditioner!)
- Mix 1 TBSP into a gallon bucket of water for another way to get floor and car wash
- For a jewelry cleaner, use either the straight concentrate or about a 50/50 mix with water, let jewelry soak in it for a bit and then scrub it with a toothbrush.
This list could go on and on, get creative and post your ideas in the comments below!
Make and use as a paste
To make a paste you would take the leftover skins that you boiled to make your concentrate (you would want to remove the hard seeds at this point if you did not buy seedless) and put them in your food processor to create a mash. Then add coconut oil, or olive oil, or grapeseed oil (or whatever type of oil you prefer to use on your skin) and blend it down into a more liquid state. Once you apply to wet skin it will suds up and you can shave away!
The paste of the skins can also be used as a concentrated cleaner and degreaser for tough messes.
Make a powder
You can just buy soap nut powder (and many of the other cleaners listed above), but if you are a DIY sort of person, take the dry nuts and just throw them in your blender, coffee grinder or food processor. I think you would want to use just the skins as the seeds don’t contain any saponin and are rather hard, so they would wear down your blades with no added benefit.
The powder can then be used in basically the same ways as the liquid by putting a scoop into your laundry or into your dishwasher or dishwater.
The possibilities seem rather endless at this point. I have read that insects are naturally repelled by the plant, which means that no pesticides are needed to grow them. It also means that it has the potential for use as mosquito repellent! Although everything I have read indicates the results are not in as to how effective it might be or the best way to apply it.
It is all natural and very mild so you can use it for your children’s laundry, or for someone with a skin condition such as eczema. You can also use it to shampoo your pet, and supposedly it will help discourage fleas and ticks from them.