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Soap Nuts for a Soft, Natural Wash Bangor

Soap nut trees are grown sustainably in India and Nepal. Trees live up to ninety years and help to stabilise soil, helping prevent erosion. They also mop up plenty of CO2, so using soapnuts is generally an eco-friendly way to do your washing.

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Soap Nuts for a Soft, Natural Wash

Soap nuts for a soft, natural wash

Soap nuts are a really environmentally friendly answer to your laundry day blues.

Give them a try - I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised! Read on for how to use them.

What are they?

They look like something that dropped from a tree - and that's pretty much what they are! Soap nuts (or soapnuts) are the nut casing (or "drupe") from the Sapindus Mukrossi tree which grows in tropical regions of Asia. They contain natural "saponins" (soapy substances) which are released into the washing water.

Soap nut trees are grown sustainably in India and Nepal. Trees live up to ninety years and help to stabilise soil, helping prevent erosion. They also mop up plenty of CO2, so using soapnuts is generally an eco-friendly way to do your washing. Many soapnut producers are part of Fair Trade networks, too.

There are other types of soapnut which are less commercially developed. Sapindus Mukrossi is the best for cleaning and washing but others types work too.

Soap nuts are used in other ways, too. They can be used in the remediation of contaminated soil and in recycling grey water. This makes them a highly useful tree for environmental protection.

How do you use them for washing clothes?

You put 5 or 6 shells (drupes) into a draw-string bag and just place them in the drum of your washing machine. To get more value for money you can place the bag on a chopping board and hit the shells with a rolling pin. This will break up the shells a little, letting the hot water access the saponins better.

You don't need to take them out of the machine for the rinse cycle because the cold rinse water will not release the saponins from the soap nut shells. You will generally need to wash at 40 degrees Centigrade or above for good results.

After the wash just take them out of the washing machine and put them in a jar with a little water to keep them damp. They will be ready to use again whenever you want them. They will do several washes - typically three or four - and then they need to be added to your compost heap.

The amount of soap nuts you need and how long they last depends upon several things: the temperature of your wash, the hardness of your water and the nature and quantity of dirt to be shifted.

They are quite efficient, which makes them a light-weight purchase at the shops (in contrast to a big box of detergent). You can also order them in bulk and save even more money.

You can also use them for washing your hair, or practically any other use where you would otherwise use soap or detergent.

Soapnuts will keep for months if stored in a dry place.

How do you tell when they are used up?

They go a darker colour and the shell becomes softer.

Here's a great book on green cleaning methods - one I wish I had written! In Renee Loux shares all the ideas you need to clean and freshen your home without resorting to toxic chemicals, or poisoning your kids!

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