Feel free to click on the sections below to look up specific information and uses of Soap Nuts to save yourself some time. There are several more recipe’s and uses that I did not have time to cover, so check back as we will be writing several more articles about Soap nuts and soapberries.
Soap Nuts Basics
Soap Nuts: The All Natural Detergent
Why people insist upon using artificial cleansers at the rate they do is beyond me. Chemical cleansers have been known to cause air pollution in the manufacturing process as well as pollute waterways and groundwater after they are flushed down our drain.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with using chemical cleansers in moderation. They do serve a useful purpose at times. Here is a little more info about a more natural way to clean almost everything you use in your home.
Soap nuts, also known as soapberries, have been used as a natural detergent and cleanser for thousands of years. Soap nuts come from the fruit of around a dozen species of trees of the sapindus genus. These trees are indigenous to Asia and parts of north and central America. The one most widely sought after for its cleansing attributes is known as the Soap Nut Tree (also known as the Chinese Soapberry).
A Soap nut is a small (just under an inch in diameter) yellow-brown fruit that contain a black seed. The shells around the fruit contain a chemical called saponin. Saponin dissolves in water to form a froth that has the ability to lift grime and dirt by dissolving fats and oil . Soapnuts are also great to use in your greywater pit or blackwater system, so if sustainable living is your passion then you may find many uses for soapnuts. Simply put the soapberries into your greywater pit and pour your dirty water over them.
If you plan to use soapnuts in grey or blackwater recycling systems, I would recommend that you purchase the whole nuts and pour your greywater over them. For almost every other use I have found, purchasing the powder would probably be your best bet. If you are using soapnuts as a cleanser, it takes time to grind the shell yourself. You will get more use out of the powder and save yourself a ton of time. If you are so inclined, you can use a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle to make the powder on your own.
Now, for all the great things soap nuts can do, they have been known to have a negative impact in waterways when overused. Soapberries were once used by ancient peoples the world over to stun fish so that they float to the surface, making them easier to collect. So if you use them in large amounts or high concentration, do not pour the concentrated extract directly into lakes or streams.
Here is the scientific name breakdown for the soapberry I found on http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SAPIN
|Kingdom||Plantae – Plants|
|Subkingdom||Tracheobionta – Vascular plants|
|Superdivision||Spermatophyta – Seed plants|
|Division||Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants|
|Class||Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons|
|Family||Sapindaceae – Soapberry family|
|Genus||Sapindus L. – soapberry|
Here are some great places to find soapberries:
Using soap nuts to wash clothes is one of the more popular uses of this green wonder-nut.
A few soapberry shells in a cotton bag can replace your average laundry detergent. 2-3 teaspoons of soapnut powder poured directly into your washing machine will also do the trick. A few shells in a cotton or mesh bag will generally last for 3-4 washes.
Soapnuts are also free of synthetic fragrances, yet another benefit soapnuts have over chemical detergents. The shells are also fantastic organic matter to add to your compost pile once the saponin levels have been used up. Soap nuts are still utilized abundantly in many countries for cleansing wool clothes and delicate fabrics and materials.
Using soapnuts to do your laundry can also save you cash! You can typically expect to save up to 50% as opposed to your average chemical laden detergent.
Keep in mind that although soapberries are good for washing normal loads, soapnuts are not ideal for stubborn stains like red wine, blood, ink, etc. Also remember that warmer water is needed to release the saponin from the shell. The higher the water temperature, the more saponin is released throughout the washing process.
If you need to wash your laundry in cold water, try adding extra soapnuts to the bag. You could also soak the bag with the soapnuts in some hot water for a few minutes, then throw the bag along with the water into the washing machine. If you do utilize this method, let the water sit for a few minutes to cool before you add your cold water laundry. If you throw those clothes into the hot water, that will defeat the whole purpose!
Another great aspect about soap nuts is that they are low sudsing, meaning they work very well with high-efficiency and front loading wash machines.
Share Your Soap Nuts Experiences
If you have experience with soap nuts, let us know by leaving a comment below!