What is a Soap Nut or Soapberry?

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Soap nuts are an all-natural source for an effective cleaning agent that is quickly becoming more commonly mentioned within the “natural living” community. But this alternative to conventional cleaning products is not just for “green” living. A switch to soap nuts could aid your health as well as put some money back in your pockets. In tough financial times, who doesn’t need some tips on making things more affordable? “Green” is just a bonus!

What is a Soap Nut or Soap Berry?

These fruits are berries that grow on the Ritha tree, found in the tropical regions of North India and Napal. The berries are picked, and either de-seeded or shipped whole to distribute all over the world. Soap nuts or berries produce a natural surfactant called saponin. A surfactant is a substance that reduces the surface tension of water making it a better cleaning agent.

Make Homemade Soap Nut Shampoo. Image bybiome.com.au

The berries are most commonly used to replace laundry detergent by being placed in a cloth laundry sack and washed along with clothing. This makes for a very clean load of laundry that is fragrance free and great for those with sensitive skin. There is also no need for dryer sheets or fabric softener because the solution produced by the fruit naturally softens material.

A Fruit That Washes Clothes

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A Fruit That Washes Clothes. Image by greensteps.sg

It can take a while to wrap your mind around the thought of a fruit washing clothing or creating an effective cleaner. We have been trained to believe that chemicals are necessary to clean well and that makes it hard to believe that you can cut them out of the process. One way to think about it is that many compounds used in cleaning products are derived from plants and are now being advertized as “green” alternatives. Once you can get into that frame of mind, it isn’t much further to reach to the point where you can believe that these berries can produce a cleaning agent that can efficiently cleanse clothing and surfaces.

Soap Nuts Help you Save Money

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Soap Nuts Help you Save Money. Image by sheps-wool.myshopify.com

One half of an ounce of de-seeded soap nuts (roughly four to six berries) is all that is needed for four to six loads of laundry. This is tossed right in with the laundry in any type of washer and then removed once the load is finished. A typical thirty two ounce bag of de-seeded soap nuts is roughly $32.00 and a conservative breakdown per load of laundry is twelve cents per load. Other detergents (natural, organic or otherwise) range from fifteen cents to as high as almost fifty cents – this would be quite a savings!

The savings are clear, but that isn’t everything when you want to know the effects the substance will have on your family’s well-being and belongings. Take into consideration the negative affects traditional detergents can have on skin (think dryness and irritation) and the environment (runoff into our water supplies) compared to the fact that saponin and water are the only two ingredients when washing with soap nuts.

According to Phytochemicalsinfo.com, saponins are known to relieve eczema and skin irritation. When washing clothing for children, especially under one year, it is important to use a detergent that will be gentle on their new and sensitive skin. Instead of paying extra for a detergent that is marketed for baby clothing (but still includes harsh chemicals and fragrances), why not try a more natural way? Soap nuts could be an inexpensive way to “go green” and improve the health of your family.


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