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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.
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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