- X 3
My next try was soap nuts/berries and it was a total winner! I saw a reference to them online and searched until I found NaturOli, in Peoria, AZ. They seem to be the best and largest distributer. Their soap nuts are organic, processed in the USA and are of consistently good quality. (You can find more information about soap nuts on soapnuts.pro and on the NaturOli facebook page.) People using soap nuts from other sources have reported inconsistent or bad results, and I have had such excellent results and customer service from NaturOli that I will never buy from anyone else.
I tried a sample pack and liked the results so decided to buy the soap nuts (berries actually) in bulk to save some money. I started off as recommended by tossing the sample bag of nuts in with my wash and had decent results, but think I get much better results if I simmer the nuts in water on the stove and make a "tea" with them. I think it gets more of the good stuff (saponin) out of the berries. If you use the nut pieces in the muslin bag, you should let them soak in hot water for a few minutes before throwing the bag into a cold wash. Never use the nuts in the washing machine without putting them in a bag.
I purchased the 10 lb. bag of berries and broken berries last winter. I think they were $75-80. If you don't see them on the website, email and ask about the bulk broken pieces. You can also get them on Amazon from the same company. Bulk broken berries are usually cheaper than the whole berries and work just as well. 10 lbs are supposed to wash 1600+ loads but I haven't kept track so I can't vouch for that. I do know that they are lasting a long, long time! Buying in bulk also saves money in shipping.
If you purchase soap nuts from anywhere else, make sure that they have had the seeds removed. Seeds will cause staining and can ruin an expensive load of clothes in just one wash. I would also look at the pictures of the berries on the NaturOli website and compare them to what you purchase elsewhere to make sure you are getting the best product.
My tea recipe: I take about 1 cup of soap nuts and put them in a large pot with 3 quarts of filtered water. I heat almost to a boil then turn down and simmer uncovered for 2-3 hours. I smush them down a few times while cooking to help extract the good stuff. I let the liquid cool then strain it through an old piece of fabric so I can squeeze all the liquid out of the soggy berries. You can toss the berries in your compost pile when you're done with them.
Store the tea in the fridge so it doesn't spoil and use 1/2-3/4 C for a wash load. Don't overfill your washer. I think it works equally well in hot or cold water. I keep what I will use in about 2 weeks in the fridge and freeze the rest until I need it.
I use it on both hot and cold washes and am thrilled with the results. My colored clothes do not fade and my towels are incredibly fluffy and absorbent! It does not remove stains so I use stain remover for that. It works better in soft water than hard water. (We have a water softener, so hard water is not an issue for me.) With soap nuts there will be very little suds in the washing machine, but it does get the clothes clean. You will not need to use fabric softener sheets when washing with soap nuts.
I have found that the diluted tea works great for washing windows, shining my granite counter tops and appliances, and the tea is great for general light cleaning and car washing. I'm trying to get away from using so many chemicals in our home and feel like this has made a huge difference. If you don't want to go through the bother of making the tea, you can buy a concentrated liquid instead - but I actually enjoy making the tea. It has a slight vinegar smell when cooking and in the washing machine but the clothes come out with no fragrance whatsoever - they just smell CLEAN!
As a side benefit of using the soap nuts, my washing machine has slowly lost the line of grunge toward the top of the agitator, where a residue of dirt and soap had accumulated. I couldn't scrub that off with anything, but it slowly disappeared as I continued to use the soapnuts.
I will never use anything else to wash my clothes. It does an excellent job of getting laundry clean with no toxic chemicals on my clothes or going down the drain, and there is no big plastic jug to toss every time I need a refill. It's a winner every way I look at it!
Please don't ban me from the forum, but I have to tell you that I am not a "natural and organic at any cost" type person. I prefer organic and natural products, but if they don't do the job I will use the more toxic alternative. I'm not a bad person, I'm just not as enlightened as some.
Thanks for the tip
Do you know the variety that grows there? One is much better than the other for laundry.
Could you get seeds for distribution if people wanted to grow their own?
Would you tell us about the trees... what they look like, how big they get, are they messy, will they take a frost, etc?
This site has a cost comparison of the soap nuts versus 7th Generation and other products.
It is not as cheap as the make it yourself soaps else where in FRUGALITY section described, but it is cheaper than most all others named, and much better for Mother Nature.
It is not as cheap as the make it yourself soaps else where in FRUGALITY section described, but it is cheaper than most all others named, and much better for Mother Nature.
This is true. However the soapnut tea works far better for me than than all other homemade laundry detergents and as well as most name brand detergent. I do keep some Tide that I use occasionally to brighten up my whites, since soapnuts has no artificial whiteners and I don't want them to get dingy. I do this more as a precaution (because it was recommended on a soapnuts forum) than because I've noticed dinginess. If a load is exceptionally dirty, I toss in some borax or in extreme cases, Oxy Clean for a load with stains.
I have to say that when I don't use soapnuts, my towels don't feel nearly as soft and fluffy. I really can feel the difference in thickness when I fold the towels! I like that it is less expensive but wouldn't use it if it didn't do a good job. I love that it is so kind to Mother Nature. Grey water from a soapnuts wash could go straight into your vegetable garden with no ill effects. I've read that it is very good for washing baby clothes and diapers and have found that my skin is less itchy that when I used fragrance-free detergents off the shelf.
Edit: The nuts are also perfectly compostable!
I would just like to throw my two cents in and say that I also use soap nuts with great results. Not only for laundery, but for hand/body wash, cleaning table tops and floors and such.
How do you use them for hand and body wash? Do you find that using them for body wash is drying to your skin? I've been wondering about this but have sensitive skin and am a little afraid to stop using what I finally found that works for me.
I have read that tossing a few soap nuts in the bathtub is good for exzema. Don't know from personal experience though.
Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=SASAD
Alternately, Sapindus Marginatus as one example (aka the Florida soapberry) is a soap nut, but it does not seem to work as effectively or consistently. The same goes for Sapindus Trifoliatus, a smaller tree from mainly from southern India and Pakistan. They both produce soap nuts, but the quality of the berry is not as consistently high. This appears to be the case for most or possibly all other varieties currently known. There are numerous variables to consider and many data gaps. In this author’s opinion, Mukorossi reigns supreme if you do not want to do a lot of experimentation to get good results."
If I had some growing in my backyard, I would use it and see how it works without being too picky. I order the Sapindus Mukorossi since that is what is sold. I haven't heard of anyone growing them in the US successfully. I've read that it takes 10 years for a tree to get to berry production stage, but I'd plant one if I had any indication it would grow here.
sapindusmukorossi.com - The Complete Soapnut Guide
Sapindus Mukorossi TreeA deciduous tree found wild in north India, usually with 5-10 pairs of leaves, solitary with large drupes. This tree belongs to the main plant order Sapindaceae and family Sapindeae. The species is widely grown in upper reaches of the Indo-Gangetic plains, Shivaliks and sub-Himalayan tracts at altitudes from 200m to 1500m. Also known as soap-nut tree, it is one of the most important trees of tropical and sub-tropical regions of Asia.
This tree flourishes in deep clayey loam soil and does best in areas experiencing nearly 150 to 200 cm (60 to 80 in) of annual rainfall. The trunk is straight and cylindrical, nearly 4 to 5 m (13 -16 ft) in height. The canopy comprising side branches and foliage constitutes an umbrella-like hemispherical top measuring about 5 m (16 ft) in diameter. The tree can reach a height of 25 m (82 ft) and a girth of 3 to 5 m (9-16 ft) in nearly 70 years of its existence. The wood is hard and light yellow in color. It is close-grained and compact weighing about 30 kg (66 lbs) per cubic foot. The wood is utilized for rural building construction, oil and sugar presses, and agricultural implements.
It flowers during summer. The flowers are small and greenish white, polygamous and mostly bisexual in terminal thyrses or compound cymose panicles. These are sub-sessile; numerous in number and at times occur in lose panicles at the end of branches. The fruit appears in July-August and ripens by November-December. These are solitary globose, round nuts 2 to 2.5 cm (1 in) diameter, fleshy, saponaceous and yellowish brown in color. The seed is enclosed in a black, smooth and hard globose endocarp. The fruit is collected during winter months for seed and/or market sales as "soap nut".
The Sapindus Mukorossi tree is one of several that bear fruits that are commonly referred to as soap nuts, of them the soapnuts from the Sapindus Mukorossi tree have the highest saponin content. Saponin is a natural detergent commonly used for cleaning among many other things. Soapnuts have been used medically as an expectorant, emetic, contraceptive, and for treatment of excessive salivation, epilepsy, psoriasis, head lice and migraines. Studies have shown that saponin from soap nuts inhibit tumor cell growth. Soap nuts are among the list of herbs and minerals in Ayurveda. They are a popular ingredient in Ayurvedic shampoos and cleansers. They are used in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for eczema and psoriasis. Soap nuts have gentle insecticidal properties and are traditionally used for removing lice from the scalp. Soapnuts have long been used in the Western world for soap production, usually together with many chemical additives which are not necessary for the actual washing process and are damaging to the user as well as our environment. Soapnuts have become a very popular environmentally friendly alternative to these manufactured chemical detergents.
The seeds tend to germinate easily. To ensure the best results for germination, the seed is soaked in warm water for at least 24 hours and then sown (some prefer to scarify the seed surface prior to soaking by filing, scraping or carefully striking), either directly in already prepared pits at 5m x 5m (16 ft 16 ft) spacing or sown in pots filled with clayey loam soil mixed with farmyard manure or similarly prepared nursery beds.
Sapindus species are also a common food source for the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Endoclita Malabaricus.
I really would love to try growing it but wouldn't have the space, and we get 7" rainfall max in a year - usually less. Guess growing them is not for me.
Becky, I'd love to hear about your experience using soapnuts on your hair. I tried them recently and liked the results somewhat after the first wash, but every time I washed my hair seemed a bit less clean and I gave up. I'm not sure if there's an adjustment period like people experience when they go shampoo-free, if I was somehow doing it wrong, or if soapnuts just don't work for my hair.
I only stuck it out for a week before I went back to shampoo. I just didn't like the way my hair felt so I quit. I perm my hair and am a little afraid to experiment with stuff when I don't know the outcome. Natural cleaners can sometimes be harsh and I just didn't want to risk drying my (rather fragile) hair out too much. In order to get it clean, I had to use about 1/4 cup soapnuts tea - which is half of what I use for an entire load of laundry. It might be fine but I didn't stick with it enough to find out. I only have to use a little shampoo to get my hair clean and only wash it 2-3 times a week so I'm not going to worry about it.
Since it is soapy and mildly insecticidal, maybe it would help to spray vegetable plants with the grey water to fight insects!
When I get lazy or the berries have been almost completely used up I just throw them loose in the washing machine. My husband hates that - he says it looks like pieces of poop in the laundry.
Becky all your information was wonderful!!
I have been using soapnuts since August 2010. Here are some things I have noticed.
-I noticed that it took a bit of time before the soapnuts worked as well as normal detergent. It seemed to me that once the soapnuts washed out the entire residue from other stuff then the clothes seemed to come cleaner. And I was using 7th Generation soap, I bet it would be worse with non-natural brands. It almost seems to me that the dirt stuck to the clothes more with the regular detergents, almost like it left a sticky residue that the soapnuts does not. ?? No idea if this makes sense, but it does to me. Maybe just one more way big business keeps its self in business. So if anyone out there tries them, you may want to try them for at least a month before deciding (using nothing else of course). And make sure you wash and wear some of the same clothes in that time.
-Also, a bit of information. The first time I bought them I got about 4kg (about 4 pounds) from Naturoli for about $45 with shipping. That amount lasted us (family of 2 adults and 3 small children) until about one month ago. That is a lot of laundry!!! Before I was spending about $10-$15 per month. A huge savings!! This past August I bought 4 pounds from a company called “Time 2 Go Natural” for $49 with shipping. I also expect this to last at least a year or more.
-I also like Becky make a tea. I use about 30 whole soapnuts, I put them in a bag and use a rubber mallet to bash and break them up, put them all in a large pot of water. More than 8 cups. Boil lots and lots (2-4 hours). Strain them all out and your end result should be 8 cups of "tea". If you start with more than 8 cups of water then boil it down until you know you have 8 cups or less. Once you strain it and it comes to less than 8 cups just add water. Put some in the frig for immediate use and freeze the rest. You can freeze it in ice cube trays and then you use about 2-3 cubes per load of laundry (or 2 to 4 oz of liquid, depending on you needs). I also use Oxi Clean for washing, it seems to help, especially with the kids clothes.
-I tried it in the dishwasher the other day, but could not tell if it worked well or not. My dishwasher is soooo gunked up with the crap stuff it is hard to tell. I will try to update this if I get any results.
Good luck to all who try this out. I think it is one of the best and safest things to use for all concerned. Kids, animals, and the environment; can’t forget to mention it is good for the checking account too!!!.
Sapindus Mukorossi reportedly does best in zones 8-11.
There are other varieties that may do better where you are.
stock seeds. I imagine you could look around to see if anybody sells seedlings.
I live in the city so I can’t have too many of these trees- I planted 3 seeds and two came up (the third probably would have sprouted too, but I was happy with the two. They'll take a while to grow up, but for about $5 it's not too bad.
So my next question is, what tools are the most efficient for handwashing laundry, and where do I find them? When I googled I found a plunger of some kind on ebay, labelled as an antique for home decor. It was made of cast iron though so I assume it would be a useable tool, am I wrong? Also I am a semi-tall person so I think it would be best to find tools that don't put me bent over for hours, back issues run in the family.
I don't know if I'd buy into the whole "XX soapnut is best". AFAIK soapwort root contains 20% saponins when the plant is flowering, which is a pretty hefty amount. The main advantage of soapnut is that it gives you neat berries so you don't have to chop and replant every year. I can't believe all this time there was a high quality lye-free soap and I didn't know about it!
Apparently the fruit pulp of soapberries contain the most saponins, so squishing them is probably a good idea to get the most out of them.
I got my 5 lbs for a fraction of what I was paying before and the quality is really good so I'm a happy camper. If you're buying in bulk I highly recommend those people. They sell in different grades at different prices so depending on your need you can get pieces, unsorted grade A - grade D but all of it is far more affordable than anywhere else on the internet with no sacrifice for quality. That said, The price of a bulk 5 lb bag of piece per load is around 1-2 cents per load with shipping - comparable to the DIY detergents with less of the work.
I generally don't buy into one brand being better but I do respond to pricing and bang for buck. I did notice on the site their grade D has resembled what I've purchased elsewhere at other companies as a "select" grade for way way more money.
I'd also like to comment on the OP mentioning seeds causing stains. I did once purchase some soapnuts with seeds, and I used them for at least half a year without any kind of staining. Nothing I own is expensive though (maybe they just stain expensive clothes? hehehe). I think that's just propaganda by the seedless companies. I do enjoy using the seedless though, it's just more convenient for me, but I don't think anyone needs to be scared away.
- X 3
Then, I discovered that the active ingredient is also in a common roadside weed:
Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis). Soapwort is hardy to USDA zone 4.
The roots have the most saponins. About 20% if harvested while in bloom, compared to 15% for soap nuts.
A more common approach is to boil a handful of leaves for 30 minutes in a pint of water.
A handful of leaves should suffice for a load of laundry.
BBC's "Wartime Farm" showed Ruth making a batch of shampoo for herself.
http://jlhudsonseeds.net/ has seeds for S. officinalis