Peer recently discovered soap nut shells while researching safer/milder alternatives to commercial soaps and detergents. I have very sensitive skin and nearly all soaps and detergents bother me. I’ll admit that I was skeptical when he first mentioned them to me, and again when our first order arrived. “How in the world are these ugly little nut shells going to clean my clothes?” I wondered. Well, I’m here to tell you that they can and do clean our clothes 🙂
Here is the botanical information…
Family name : SAPINDACEAE
Common name : SOAPNUT
Habitat : Through out India, Nepal in lower forests
Description: medium sized deciduous tree up to 20m in height with grey smooth bark, peeling off in scales, leaves pinnate, leaflets 2-3 pairs, terminal pair being the largest, flowers white, polygamous, male flowers many, bisexual flowers few, all in the same pubescent panicle, fruits fleshy drupes, the pulp becoming a saponaceous wrinkled rind on drying, seeds black. (information and image borrowed from “In a Soapnut Shell” website…no affiliation, I just liked their image and information 🙂 )
Soap nuts contain saponin, a natural detergent which is used to clean clothes. Soap nuts, especially Sapindus mukorossi, have become popular as an alternative to manufactured, chemical detergents among those who live in an environmentally friendly style. A few nuts can be placed in a cotton drawstring bag in with a washload and reused several times. Soap nuts are safe for washing silk, woolens and other delicate fabrics. (from Wikipedia)
How they are used…
It couldn’t be easier. You take 6-8 shell halves (the exact number seems to differ from source to source – I use 8 for a load of laundry) and put them in a cotton cloth drawstring bag. You put the bag in with the clothes and that’s it, run the washer as you normally would. I have read that you can reuse this same bag of shells up to 4-6 times so long as the wash loads are within just a few days of each other. I haven’t done this myself. I usually reuse mine 1-2 times and then replace them. You can also use these to make a skin washing liquid which is gentle on sensitive skin. We haven’t tried this yet but when life slows down a bit this winter, I’m going to.
It’s too bad that we can’t grow these in our area, but so long as I can get them, I’ll use them.