Product Review: Märss Bags

Walking around London, you’d be easily convinced that there are only a handful of backpack brands (precisely which five would depend on which part of London…). I’m sure it’s the same all over the world. Thing is, I wanted a backpack that didn’t have lots of extra plastic fixings, and certainly didn’t have any leather tags or accessories, and I wanted one that was as stylish as it was practical. I thought all this was a pipe dream, until I came across Märss on Instagram. Märss produce custom bags, always made with vegan leather and upcycled materials. My bag is perfect for carrying everything I need for work, including my laptop and water bottle, and it’s just the right size for a weekend trip to visit family or a day trip out of London.

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Ellie’s Marss bag, c. 60 Euro

The process is really simple and super quick for what you get – a quick email exchange through Instagram, facebook or her online store with the woman behind Märss (Liisi), explaining what you would like, and then she gets to work sourcing the relevant materials and producing your bag to your precise specifications. For example, I wanted a leopard print lining for mine, and gold coloured clasps. Lewis wanted his bag to go with his forest green coat, and have zip pockets on the side. Liisi was even able to make a custom raincover for Lewis’s bag at his request.

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Lewis’s Marss Bag, also c. 60 Euro

A few weeks after receiving my bag, one of the straps broke a little – Liisi was happy to cover the costs of postage and repair, and turned that around for me really quickly. A fantastic product, and really excellent service.

It’s great to be able to support independent vegan businesses, especially when I end up with a product that’s exactly what I was after, and the service is such a high standard too. There’s loads Märss can offer in terms of customization, so if you’re after a new backpack do take a look at the website and get in touch with Liisi!

http://marssbackpack.bigcartel.com/ 

Product Review: Soap Nuts

I have read varying views on the effectiveness of soap nuts ability to clean. Given the uncertainty surrounding them I thought best to try them once and for all. Sapindus, commonly referred to as soap nuts, are a native shrub to India. It is a natural surfactant which can be used to clean ones hair, skin, laundry and as a household cleaner generally. They’re vegan and suitable for those with allergies. If this wasn’t enough it was claimed a 1kg bag – costing £11 could wash 330 loads of laundry. That’s 3.3p a load. Given the mixed reviews I thought best to sit down with a cup of tea and learn how to use them properly. The first test was laundry. 

Within the bag are two small mesh bags where you place the soap nuts for washing clothes. Having read up I noted you need more soap nuts in hard water areas. As London has horrific water I placed 10 soap nuts into the mesh bag and put them into a small jar with tap hot water and shook them up. They formed suds straight away. After watching an episode of South Park I return and placed the mesh bag with soapy water in with the clothes.

soap nuts
1kg bag of soap nuts

I didn’t use fabric conditioner but the clothes felt far softer than normal. There was not scent and the clothes were really clean. At least as clean if not more than usual. I’ve used them quite a few times now and they’re done the job. The only thing I may do is add some essential oils to add some fragrance. The soap nuts can be used four or fives times. To test them put them in a jar of warm water and shake. If they foam up you’re good to go. I’ve also used them to wash my hair and beard.

The cost of laundry cleaner and conditioner wasn’t too pricy. However, buying organic, vegan and ‘nasty’ free shampoo and conditioner is rather costly. Given I have 1kg of soap nuts I made my own shampoo. I filled an old empty bottle of shampoo with five soap nuts, some organic cold pressed argan and jojoba oil along with tea tree essential oil. Given the softness of the laundry, the addition of the oils negates the need for conditioner. I tend to leave the homemade shampoo on a little longer. My hair is left clean and soft. For my kind of hair this works better than shop bought shampoo.

For household cleaning I’ve used 10 soap nuts and placed them into an old bottle with some lemon essential oil and filtered water. I left the mixture overnight and found it turned brown. This has been used to clean worktops / dishes. It cleans effortlessly on all the household tasks I set it to. I was most surprised by its ability to clean around the house. Having read negative reviews it seems, at least anecdotally, people didn’t first soak the soap nuts.Given its cleaning ability and relative cost I’d like to continue using them. Supports highlight their environmental benefits. I’m unsure on this point. Of course there are environmental / welfare concerns with commonly used laundry products.

The nuts must been transported to the UK. There are also farming impacts to consider too. Given they are not commonly used in the UK – finding information on them have proven challenging it. I will update this post in due course and have posted it in the hope people may have answers to the following; working conditions of those involved in the supply chain, farming techniques  – organic.  environmental impact of growing and in relation to ‘mainstream’ products. Given they are able to carry out general cleaning duties it negates the need to consume multiple products, each produced and shipped in turn. On the face it would suggest the environmental impact would be less. Below is a video documenting the harvesting process in Nepal:

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