You may have heard that you can make soap with nut shells, but do soap nuts really clean?
After much experimenting with soap nuts and presenting a workshop at the online Mother Earth News Fair, I can tell you that yes, they do! They are also incredibly inexpensive. I can make a bottle of cleaner for less than $1.
Soap nuts are also completely bio-degradable, environmentally friendly and work like magic in the laundry, as a dish soap or even as an all-purpose cleaner.
What are soap nuts?
Soap nuts come from a tree called ‘Sapindus Mukorossi’ (the Soap Berry tree). But they are actually not nuts . They are berries that are harvested from September to February each year. Although it takes 9 years for the tree to begin yielding fruit; once it starts producing, it can be harvested for 90 years!
The soap nut grows on trees native to India and Nepal. Unfortunately, they don’t grow here in Canada or I would immediately plant one in my backyard. I can’t think of a more environmentally friendly cleaning product than a nut I personally plucked from a tree.
Nevertheless, you can buy these soap nuts at the Bulk Barn and package them in a reusable bag and then throw them in the compost when you’re done. Zero plastic. Zero waste. There are also many great sources of soap nuts. If you live in the United States, Amazon sells these award winning Naturoil soap nuts. In Canada, Amazon sells these organic soap nuts in 250 gram, 500 gram or 1 kg reusable bags.
For cleaning purposes, we use the shell of the soap nut. The shells contain a natural cleaning agent called saponin, which acts as a detergent. These natural surfactants break the surface tension of water. So, for example, if you were to use soap nuts in the laundry, they will free dirt, grime, and oils from your clothing and keep them suspended in the water so they can be easily rinsed away.
The nuts themselves are naturally anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-microbial. They’re also naturally organic and I can tell you why.
Soap nuts smell like vinegar and if you were to errr…accidentally put one in your mouth or maybe put one in your mouth on purpose because you were writing a blog post about them, they taste like soap. Absolutely bitter and disgusting. Fortunately, Google tells me they are not poisonous although they may make your tummy upset so try your best to resist sampling them.
Anyway, I don’t imagine any human or animal would enjoy the taste of soap nuts. Except maybe owls. Here’s a fun fact: Did you know owls can’t smell? And that’s why these great hunters will eat skunks. See, wasn’t that fun? I thought so.
Now, let’s move on to the real fun. Making a cleaner out of shells!
Soap Nuts All Purpose Cleaning Base
You could simply combine soap nut shells with water and start cleaning but saponin is released faster when the shells are heated. So, I boil the nuts to make a concentrated liquid that I can use as a base to clean everything from my dishes and laundry to my floors and bathtub.
1/2 cup soap nuts
3 cups water
– Pour the water into a medium saucepan and add the soap nuts. Bring to a low boil and then reduce to a simmer with the lid on for up to an hour or until the nuts become soft and start to break apart.
– Stir and mash the berries occasionally.
– Remove the pot from the heat, strain out the soap nuts and let cool before pouring into your container.
How long does soap nut liquid last?
It has a two-week shelf life or at least a month in the fridge. You can add a teaspoon of citric acid to the recipe to help make the juice last longer.
How do I use soap nuts in the laundry?
If you do your laundry using hot water, you can place 5 or 6 soap nuts in a mesh bag and throw them in the laundry. If you use cold water, make the above liquid and use 1 or 2 tbsp. In both cases, I would add ¼ cup of washing soda (sodium carbonate) to your wash cycle. And then add ¼ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle to remove any soap residue.
Washing soda will “soften” your water (especially important if you have hard water). It binds to the minerals in your water and allows the detergent to be absorbed into fibers properly to clean clothes.
Warning: Washing soda is not the same as baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Although both natural substances are made from a mineral called trona, washing soda has a higher PH level, is a more abrasive cleaner and doesn’t dissolve as well in water compared to baking soda.
How do I use soap nuts to clean my dishes?
Pour the above mixture into a soap dispenser and use a few squirts in each sink full of dishes.
How do I use soap nuts as an all-purpose cleaner?
Mix the above liquid with an equal amount of water and start cleaning.
How do I use soap nuts to clean my bathroom?
Mix equals parts of the soap nut cleaner recipe above with equal parts vinegar to help remove mineral deposits. Use to clean the tub, shower stall or toilet.
And that’s it. Have you or will you try making soap nut cleaner? I wanna know. Leave me a message in the comments below.
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