When I lived in the US I used soap nuts and loved them, although for friends who where really into very white close, they were not satisfied with the results the nuts gave.
As far as I know there are no soap nuts sold in Oaxaca, Mx where I live now, yet when I visited a village around 45 minutes away from Oaxaca, and was staying with a local family, I was told that there were trees growing locally that had nuts that in the past had been used similar to soap nuts (that come from Indonesia where I understand that most of the ones found in the US originate from). So there is a lot of embedded energy in the ones that you are probably using.
Unfortunately, I do not have easy access to the local variety (here in Oaxaca) so unfortunately I am so far using a product I purchase from the local health food store, that is a natural general liquid cleaner--which I dilute to make my laundry soap. Maybe I need to be more resourceful for finding a better solution, yet living out of the country, does pose some issues that for now are out of my understanding of how to solve in a better way.
We've used soap nuts for years - there are some times we need something stronger, what with three kids and a farm, but the vast majority of the time they work great.
We boil water and pour it over them to make a tea instead of running them through the washing machine in little bags like some of the places selling them recommend. The tea method lets you get more use out of the nuts, control the dosage more, and makes them last much much longer.
We have been using soap nuts from naturali for about 8 months now. We are really lazy and so just throw the little muslin bag in and leave for both the wash and rinse. Many times we don't even presoak them, but do often use them for 2-3 loads in a row, so by the first wash they are well saturated.
We are very pleased, but we aren't getting the projected # of loads. I think we add more pieces than suggested, but use them for6-10 loads until the nuts are pale or have no smell when moist, or earlier if we want to be sure the clothes get clean.
Definetly leaves the clothes soft when bag left in during rinse.
Thanks God for the cool soap! No thank you Procter GAMBLE.
No problem. I was giving credit to the Creator for giving us a sun powered, natural growing source for soap; and telling big chemical companies like P&G to take a hike, "no thank you", I don't want your low quality products anymore.
If you want to use local (maybe even from our yard) natural saponins are found in pokeweed root, and buckeyes. Same stuff, just probably lower concentrations. But collecting a bucketful of buckeyes is pretty easy when they come ripe, and they keep very well if you don't crack the shell until you need them. Make nice 'worry stones', too.
Does anyone know where I could get soap nut seeds to eventually grow my own laundry detergent? The soap nuts on amazon all say "deseeded". Looking at the Soap_nuts wikipedia article there seems to be several species of trees and shrubs. Which one works best and and which grows best in USDA 9b - Los Gatos, CA. There may be a trade-off with "grows best" winning over "cleans best".
A great resource is [url=http://www.soapnuts.pro] Soapnuts Pro . It has lots of information, including when not to buy on Amazon and ebay, no matter how cheap. There is also a link to a company that sells seeds for Sapindus Mukorossi.
The BBC series "Wartime Farm" is still available on YouTube. I forget which episode Ruth made her own shampoo from Soapwort ( Saponaria officinalis ), but she merely boiled a handful of leaves in water to obtain the shampoo.
I planted Western Soapberry last spring from Oikos Tree Crops. I'm far north and east of its native range, but want to grow it for its laundry soap potential (smaller than commercial soap nuts, but should function the same way - and the trees get very big).
I thought I had lost the tiny tree (only about 6" tall) this past winter, which was especially cold in our region - (-30C/-22F), but just yesterday saw that the tiny green bud I had noticed a couple of weeks ago has exploded with lots of new growth. It's not in the most hospitable spot (beneath two large cedars - alleopathic, and shading - all the good spots were taken by food crops), but is holding its own.
There's some information about native soapberries here, for those seeking more information: http://www.wildlifegardeners.org/forum/sustainability/3955-native-soapberry-free-laundry-soap.html
I didn't notice anyone above saying they'd attempted anything with Western Soapberries, has anyone successfully used them for laundry?
We used commercial ones for diaper laundry for quite awhile, but eventually found they were not cleaning sufficiently. Also note that they seem to have a much lesser effect in colder water. Once we use up our stockpile of eco-detergents that were bought on sale, I'd like to experiment with the soap nuts again for clothes.
OK - so I bought some soapnuts after reading this thread and I have to say I'm very impressed. The other half was very sceptical but when she emptied the washing machine last time she said that the clothes smelled 'clean' - and as this was a load of my running gear that I'd worn for an ultra marathon in warm weather (8+ hours of running) I call that a success. So it's all god for lasundry, I just put a handful of nuts in a bag in the wash, but next I'm going to make some 'tea' and see what else it works for - from research pretty much anything, will le tyou now how I get on with kitchen cleaning, body washing, shampoo - any other ideas?
Sapindus Drummondii are supposed to be zone 6, I have some protected areas in 6b, so I am waiting on seeds to try for some of my own. A lot of varieties are 7a at least, and they don't seem to grow well in 10b. Thanks for the hint about scarifying the shell on the seeds as they won't soak. Only issue I may have is we are pretty arid and they seem to be water lovers. I agree otherwise, buy broken bits and make a tea to use, best way to get the value....
I first heard about Soap Nuts when I was watching a different product, the Yirego washer. An electricity free washing machine to avoid hand washing?? Apparently Soap Nuts work in it too. Anyone else heard of it?
In any case, last time I looked into soap nuts I'm pretty sure they can't be grown in North America because the species is really invasive? It's best to buy the dried husks separately. In bulk, they can actually be really cheap. But all of the comments below show that I've been misunderstood. I've been using Soap Nuts not only for laundry, but if you boil the husks into a liquid detergent it's a great multi-purpose cleaner, too. I don't like the smell of vinegar, so this works best for me.
I used soap nuts for some years (store bought), but finally stopped as I noticed for example sheets accumulating a funny smell. In addition even the tiniest stains seemed to need a special treatment. When you have a batch of medium-to-heavily stained laundry, I recommend something else. For wool and other fine stuff it should be ok.
Interesting thread and I plan on trying those soap nuts!
FWIW....I happen to be a professional soapmaker, and what I use is some of my naturally-made, biodegradable non-phosphate soap (phosphates are big no-no for septic systems re: algae growth they encourage), grate up a half cup (per laundry load), let the grated soap soak in a cup of water about 30 minutes or soak til it all "gels", and throw that in as my washing soap. To brighten whites, I pour in a cup of hydrogen peroxide. Pre-make batches and bottle, too.
I have had good results with yucca. I cut into small chunks and put it in the non food ...Food processor. Resulting root n flower stalk paste goes in the water bath canner to simmer for 4 hours strain out the pith. The strength of the saponins seems to vary from plant to plant in the wild. However grown at home and we'll cared for with good nutrition makes it the best soap.
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