The desire to become more eco-friendly is becoming more and more popular by the day; people are constantly looking for green alternatives to things that they have to use every day – shampoo, dishwashing liquid, laundry soap, etc. – but what if I told you that there was a way that you could get all of these things and more out of one tiny little inexpensive fruit? Well, you can, and all you need to do to get started on your green journey is get yourself some soap nuts.
What Are Soap Nuts?
Soap nuts aren’t even a nut at all; they’re actually a fruit that grows on trees in India and Nepal (they’re sometimes referred to as soap berries). These nuts have components in them that are called saponins. The saponins are what do the actual cleaning when you use them. They’re an absolutely great alternative for anyone who has a chemical sensitivity, a baby, or someone who just wants to make more conscious, healthier life choices.
They’re natural, biodegradable, and petroleum-free which makes it an incredibly great alternative to those commercial, fragrance-loaded laundry soaps that you’re probably using now. But that’s not all you can do with them!
How You Can Use Soap Nuts
Soap nuts can be used in four different forms: liquid, paste, powder, and/or whole. They’re most commonly used as a liquid. You can buy the nuts in powder form, or you can make the powder yourself by grinding the shells of the nuts into a fine powder using your spice or coffee grinder (don’t worry, the cleanup is a breeze!).
There are quite a few different things that you can do with these handy little things, but here’s one for each form:
The liquid is slightly time-consuming to make, but it’s worth it in the long run – It can be used for everything from laundry to dishwashing liquid to shampoo, cleaning your kitchen and bathroom, and so much more. All you need to do to make it is boil 15-20 of the soap nuts in six cups of water for 20 minutes, add a cup of water and boil for another 10 minutes, and then add another two cups of water and boil for an additional ten minutes. Strain the nuts from the liquid and store that liquid in a sterilized container. Store that container in the refrigerator; it’ll stay good for a week or two. Use it for just about everything. Seriously, this stuff is amazing.
Please Note: If you’re using the liquid as a shampoo or face wash, be careful not to get it in your eyes or mouth – it stings and tastes horrible. And although it’s not going to kill you if you eat it, it could give you an upset stomach.
The soap nut powder is most commonly used in laundry detergent (add 1 tsp of the finely ground powder to a load of laundry. If it’s an exceptionally grimy load, add three or four tablespoons of borax as well), but can also be used as dishwasher powder or in unlikely ways such as to make a foot powder with equal effectiveness.
Soap nut paste is made by running the nuts through your food processor after you’ve boiled them. Because there will still be a few chunks in there, the paste is great for your more heavy-duty cleaning (like the hood range above your stove or the glass shower doors you haven’t been able to see through in ages, regardless of what you’ve used to clean them), but also makes a great face scrub. You can even make shaving cream out of it!
There aren’t many things you can do with the whole fruit, but what you can do with them makes this section worthwhile. To use whole soap nuts as laundry detergent, all you need to do is toss four or five of them in a cloth bag, toss the bag in your washing machine, and forget about it for a few loads (you’ll be able to tell when it’s time to replace them).
To clean yourself with them, the same concept applies – just toss a few of them into a fabric soap holder (you can usually find one at your local bath and body store), run the bag under your hot shower water for a few minutes before scrubbing your body. You will be clean at the end of your shower, and your skin will be incredibly soft.
For an incredibly well-stocked composition of other things you can do with soap nuts, click here.
Seriously, this wonderful little dried fruit will become your new best friend. You can sometimes find them at the Farmers Market, but you’re more likely to get a better deal online. Give them a shot, and I’m next to certain that you’ll buy at least a few less commercial products afterward.