Soapnuts and Soapnut Soak: A New Addition to our Cleaning Challenge

Soapnuts and Soapnut Soak:  A New Addition to our Cleaning Challenge

My father always says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” He used to say this often to me growing up, mainly in response to my constant desire to buy new products at the drugstore down the street, and undoubtedly to curb my material appetites and incessant grass-is-always-greener desire for change -- but how could I resist the allure of new and improved shampoos, ointments, beauty products? (I was nine years old, and Longs Drugs was the only place I was allowed to bike by myself, besides the gas station for gum). The result? Do you have a cabinet filled with half-used cosmetics and potions? I don’t, but only because I finally heeded his sage advice after an unsightly allergic reaction to a new facial cleanser, at age 29 -- my old cleanser had been working flawlessly until then, but the package of this new one pretty, with claims of organic natural goodness broadcasting from its label. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ now has more resonance. I’ll experiment until I’m totally satisfied. Then I’m happy with what I know is going to work for me, at least, most of the time.

I am loving the new homemade laundry detergent, I really am. I love it’s smell, it’s efficacy, it’s old school use of fels-naptha -- whose retro wrapper alone has me hooked. It cleaned up on our Gdiapers and post-Easter-brunch dish towels, the ultimate tests. But a person can’t resist their nature forever, so I’m throwing my papa’s caution to the wind once more, and trying SoapNuts. I’ve heard about them for too long not to -- so I’m adding them to the 30-day Cleaning Challenge.

What are soapnuts, anyway? I am going to be using a dried fruit grown in India and Indonesia to clean my laundry. The outer shell contains saponin, a substance that has been used to cleanse and wash for centuries. 100 percent natural, completely biodegradable, antimicrobial, gentle for babies’ & other sensitive skin, suds-free (great for High-Efficiency washers) and what’s more, people swear by them.

soap nuts, soapnuts, natural laundry, homemadeBut what to do with them? For this, I’ve turned to Laundry Tree for instructions, and for my first, organically-grown, cutely-packaged starter batch. Apparently it’s as simple as placing 3-5 of these dried black fruitballs in a cloth sack (a sweet drawstring sack comes with the order) and throwing them into my warm and hot-water laundry. They’re good for about four rounds of wash -- just remove them after use, squeeze out the excess water, and if the extra water in the soapnuts comes out foamy and white-ish, you’re good to re-use them whenever you do your next load. If not, it’s time for them to hit the compost pile.

We wash most everything in cold water, so for that, we have a new recipe, based on Laundry Tree’s soapnut soak suggestions. It’s so easy, my son did it with me:

soap nuts, liquid soap nuts, laundry liquid washSoapnut liquid wash (for cold-water laundry):

  • 6-8 soapnuts
  • 4 C water
  • favorite essential oils: possibilities include lavender, sweet orange, eucalyptus, lemon
  • Boil 4 cups of boiling water in a heavy saucepan with a lid.
  • When water is at a boil, turn off heat and add soapnuts.
  • Cover with lid and let sit overnight.
  • In the morning, remove the soapnuts, strain out any shell, and add 10- 20 drops of the essential oils of your choice.
  • Pour into glass container for storage.

Use 1/2 C for each load of laundry (feel free to use more if it’s particularly soiled).

I’m trying this straight away, and will let you know how it works compared to our other laundry detergent before this challenge is over next Wednesday. And Dad, I know you say, ‘if it ain’t broke,’ but remember the other expression about ‘teaching an old dog new tricks?’ I’m not an old dog yet, so we’ll see which adage best applies.


Blog Hopped on Frugally Sustainable

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