Soap Nuts: The Berries You Can Use to Clean Your World
Making the switch to all natural products is a great way to protect your health and care for the environment. Natural products minimize waste, are often biodegradable, and don’t have harmful side effects like chemical products. One of the most fun natural products are known as soap nuts.
Soap nuts are an all natural alternative to laundry soaps that are laden with chemicals. These handy little nuts are actually berries that provide powerful cleansing properties. Their capabilities go beyond simply cleaning your laundry. Here, we’ll show you the different ways you can go nuts for soap nuts.
What Are Soap Nuts?
Soap nuts are technically berries, not nuts. They are derived from the soapberry tree known by the botanical name Sapindus mukorossi. These trees are native to the Himalayas and are commonly found in India, Nepal, and China. Soap berries are safe for use by people who have nut allergies since they aren't actually nuts.
Indigenous societies from Asia and Native Americans have used soap nuts for washing and cleaning. Today, the fruit pulp of these trees is also used to make soap. Soap nuts are also commonly used as insecticides and are effective against certain types of mosquitoes. The berries are also used to dye silk and cotton.
Soap nuts are most commonly known for their cleansing properties and have become a popular all purpose cleaner. Soap nuts contain saponin—a natural surfactant. Surfactants work to reduce surface tension to lift and remove dirt and grime. They are among the main ingredients in shampoo, soaps, and regular detergents.
Soap nuts are minimally processed. The berries are harvested from the tree, sorted, de-seeded, dried in the sun. They are not combined with any other ingredients, making them an ideal detergent alternative. Soap nuts are also biodegradable and help minimize waste from traditional liquid laundry detergents and soaps.
How to Use Soap Nuts
Soap nuts are most commonly used as a natural laundry soap alternative to chemical detergents. The berries are placed in a muslin bag or similar cloth wash bag. They are then added to the washing machine along with clothes. These berries are safe for use in front loaders as well as top loading washing machines. Soap nuts typically last for anywhere from 10 to 20 wash cycles before they need to be replaced.
When using soap nuts, it's a good idea to add a little white vinegar to prevent soap scum buildup. Add the vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser and not the main tub of the washing machine. This way the vinegar is released only during the rinse cycle and won’t leave clothes smelling like vinegar.
Soap nuts work best when used on a wash cycle with warm water or hot water. That's because cold water doesn't activate the saponin as well as hot water. For cold water cycles, it's better to use liquid soap nut detergent.
Liquid Soap Nut Detergent
You can make your own natural detergent by heating 10 to 15 soap nuts in six cups of boiling water. When making your own laundry detergent or dish soap, buy soap nuts that are USDA certified organic.
Steep the soap nuts for 12 to 24 hours before straining into a bottle or glass jar. You can add essential oils to the mixture if you want your clean laundry to have a natural fragrance. Compost the soap nut shells to minimize waste. Store the liquid soap nut mixture in the refrigerator instead of in the laundry room to extend its shelf life.
Liquid dish soap is among the leading causes of poisonings for children under six years old. Switching to a chemical free alternative means not only protecting the environment, but also protecting your family.
There are soap nut dish soaps available from brands such as Mountain Rose Herbs and Naturoli, which you can find on their websites or at online retailers such as Amazon.
You can also make your own by boiling 10 to 15 soap nuts in hot water. Make sure the let the nuts steep for 24 hours for maximum efficacy. Add a few drops of lemon essential oil to add a pleasant fragrance and boost the natural cleansing powers. Combine it with a teaspoon of baking soda to remove tough oil and grease stains from clothes and other cloth surfaces.
Shampoo and Body Wash
Soap nuts contain natural surfactants that can remove dirt and product buildup from hair strands. Use liquid soap nuts as a body wash or natural shampoo to gently lift away the stress of the day. To make your own, simply boil the nuts in hot water and simmer for 20 minutes. Add a few drops of essential oils such as lavender oil or rosewood oil to add fragrance and increase relaxation. Lather into hair and let it sit for five minutes before rinsing.
DEET is a powerful insect repellent, but it's also been associated with a host of negative side effects. Chemical-laden insect repellents can cause skin irritation, nausea, headaches, and difficulty breathing. Instead of using chemical insect repellents, use soap nuts. The saponin in soap nuts emits a scent that naturally repels mosquitos and other insects.
To make your own bug repellent using soap nuts, simply boil the nuts as you would for a dish soap or laundry detergent. Add essential oils such as lemon eucalyptus essential oil, citronella oil, clove essential oil, and peppermint essential oil. These oils offer powerful bug-repelling properties to keep you free from bites.
Go Nuts for Soap Berries
Soap nuts are known for their cleaning power and make excellent detergents and soaps. These powerful cleaning agents are tough enough to wash cloth diapers and won't leave residue that can irritate sensitive skin. They can also be used to repel insects so you can enjoy the great outdoors without itchy bites.
Soap nuts are all natural products. That means they are free from synthetic chemicals found in commercial detergents that may cause skin irritation and harm health.