I finally invested in a bag of soapnuts. I read about them on Ready Nutrition, where Tess Pennington gave detailed instructions on the many ways they can be used. (Be sure and check out her article – she tells you how to make liquid soap, shampoo, etc., from them!) I spotted them in a muslin bag at our local grocery store, much to my surprise – you don’t often find specialty items in a little place like this!
I started off with a small bag just to test them out and see if I like them. I paid $18 for an amount that promises to wash 100 loads.
I like the idea of using something natural in my laundry. In the summer, the great outdoors gives all the nice fragrance I need!
The nuts aren’t actually nuts at all, but little berries that are related to the lychee. The berries are harvested and then dried in the sun until they become a hard leathery little nut.
Soapnuts have other non-laundry oriented uses too (this is from research, not personal experience!)
- The soapnut liquid can be used as an natural insecticide when sprayed on your garden plants.
- Used soapnuts can be composted.
- They were traditionally used in Asia as an expectorant.
- They are used in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for psoriasis and eczema.
- Soapnuts were used as a contraceptive because they have spermicidal qualities.
- Research is currently underway about the effectiveness of soapnuts in treating migraines.
So, back to the soapnuts adventure….I took out the little nuggets and smelled them – not an especially fresh fragrance but very light and not offensive. They just looked like random little nuts and they came with a tiny muslin bag in which to place the required amount of nuts for your load of laundry.
The instructions on the bag called for 3-5 nuts per load of laundry. I also put in a couple of broken chunks.
After 2 months without a washing machine, I’m pretty darned thrilled to announce that I received one from my landlords when they upgraded to a new front-loading model. My set up here isn’t fancy and I only have cold water going to my machine. Because I can’t wash in hot, the instructions on the bag said to soak the nuts for 5-10 minutes in hot water. I used hot tap water this time but next time I think I’ll pour water from the kettle over the nuts.
After wandering off and forgetting that the little bag was soaking, I came back after 20 minutes and saw this, a soapy looking liquid.
I dumped the entire contents of the bowl into my washing machine with a load of darks. You can add some essential oil for scent if you want.
When the wash was done, everything looked nice and clean and smelled good. There had been a couple of “work shirts” in the load, which were a real test of the cleaning ability. They came out smelling clean.
The little muslin bag, disappointingly, bit the dust on the first load. It ripped so badly at the seam that it isn’t even mendable. Fortunately there was a second bag included. I may pick up a mesh lingerie bag on my next trip to the store if this one falls apart too.
UPDATE: The soap nut laundry has been a success. My extremely allergic kid has worn clothing washed in soapnut liquid and slept in soapnut-washed sheets! We’re all clear – apparently these little fellas are very hypoallergenic!