While exchanging Earth Day ideas last month, my sister-in-law told me that she had been using nuts as laundry detergent. Nuts? Among all the suggestions my friends passed along, this one really stopped me in my tracks. Of course I had to have some for myself!
Soap nuts are not actually nuts at all, but a fruit from several species of trees grown primarily in China, India and Nepal. Their skin contains saponin
, a natural cleaning agent that could go toe to toe with manufactured chemical cleansers any day of the week. The most frequent use of this fabulous fruit is as a laundry detergent, but because it is so gentle, it can even be made into shampoo.
Saponin boasts versatility but remains almost a secret outside the secluded areas where the trees are grown. The nuts can be converted into powder or liquid forms, used for everyday household chores and personal hygiene products. For individuals with skin sensitivities or allergies to synthetic chemicals, saponin usually quells the irritations. Yet it also acts as a potent insect repellent and pesticide, is good for your septic system, and can be used as a carpet cleaner.
When looking at ways to reduce our carbon footprint, soap nuts should definitely be at the top of everyone's list. My supply came packaged in a cloth sack, with two smaller bags to be used in the wash. NO PLASTIC. Many users also comment on the anti-static effect the fruit provides and forgo fabric softener. This biodegradable product adds no chemicals to our water supply and protects against fungi when using graywater on your garden. Compost the remaining pulp and nothing enters the landfill!
Just thinking about the reduction in plastic bottles left me salivating when I researched soap nuts. But picture this: a secluded hillside covered in greenery versus factories producing chemicals and the plastic that houses them. The trees thrive in inferior soils, such as in elevated areas and deserts. Presently very little of their fruit is harvested. A high demand for this chemical alternative would promote forestation and the green benefits this provides: carbon sequestering, stabilizing slopes, erosion control, reduction of global warming, quality of air and the growth of habitat. This push will also help local populations with income potential and employment opportunities.
When looking for a retailer, experts suggest you buy nuts packaged after their trip from the Far East. Avoid anyone selling whole nuts, as the seeds are good only for planting, and if you pay by weight you're buying useless material. As always, know who you're doing business with, and ensure they have a return policy. A great source of information — from frequently asked questions to reviews — is the Soap Nuts Pro website.
Do I love my nuts? Yes! My clothes are soft and don't irritate my skin, they are just as clean as when I've used name brand detergents, and best of all I feel great about my carbon footprint. I look forward to experimenting with my purchase and seeing what other plastic bottles I can get off my bathroom shelf.
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