Being a mum running a full house of five people my washing machine is on the go all the time and we go through tonnes of washing detergent and softener in a year. But I have always wondered on my Eco journey if all this washing detergent and softener is actually good for my family and the environment. So I thought I would give myself a project and find out the answer.
What I found was for all these years of washing clothes I have actually be bringing in some dangerous toxins into my family home and putting my family at some health risks as well as endangering wildlife in our rivers and ocean.
Some of the things I found out about what everyday washing detergent contains and their effects.
- Surfactants – which create the bubbles in your washing machine can potential endocrine disruptor. This means they may alter the endocrine system which consist of glands, hormones, and cellular receptors that control a body’s internal and may have an effect on developmental or reproductive disorders.
- Chlorine – affects our nervous system, lungs and eyes and has been linked to cancer in some studies
- Synthetic fragrances – these are made made scented chemicals which have never seen a living plant before and are non biodegradable so therefore live in the environment after use for thousands of years.
- Phosphates – are toxic to fish because they get into the fish gills and impairs their ability to get oxygen from the water.
But saying this knowing what chemicals to avoid is one thing but avoiding them is another thing as a lot of the washing detergent companies don’t list all if any of the ingredients. So my next question to myself was how can I avoid bringing these chemicals into my family home to wash their clothes, Because the washing still needs to be done?
There are thousands of different companies making Eco friendly washing powder and several different recipes to make your own washing powder but I wanted something that is totally natural and clean by huge pile of washing that was building up. (As I had stopped washing clothes when I found out what chemicals washing detergent contained) Then I fell upon soap nuts, hurrah I shouted at my laptop!
Soap nuts are also known as soapberry and they are the dried shells or husks from the soapberry tree. These soapberries can be found in the northern part of India and Nepal, growing in poor guilty soil in the Himalayan foothills. These soapberry trees not only help with soil erosion but they also provide a much needed income to the local villages.
So how do these soap nuts work? When the soap nuts are agitated they release and circulate Saponins which is a surface active ingredient. These break down the water in the washing water aiding the water in freeing the dirt and oil from our clothes the same way normal washing detergent does. Once they have been used 5 or 6 times they can be put into the compost to bio degrade.
I have hit the jackpot I am thinking and I must give these soap nuts a go as they are all natural and I can add them into my compost reducing my waste. Although I have to say my husband was a very apprehensive that they will work more than I was. But after loads of washing cycles to get rid of my huge washing pile that had built up they do work and work as well as my shop bought washing detergent.
How to wash with soap nuts
- Put 5 -7 soap nuts into a into the muslin wash bag, tie bag securely.
- Place wash bag into jar with warm water for 3 minutes. This helps to release the soap.
- Load laundry into machine, place soaked wash bag on top of laundry and wash as you would with washing detergent
- After taking out laundry, save shells and dry them to re-use up to three more times until they fall apart and then place them in you compost.
you can also make your own homemade soap nut liquid too if you need to hand wash any clothes.
How to make your own nut soap liquid wash
- 50 grams of soap nuts
- 1 liter of water
- Empty sterilized bottle
- Muslin bag to strain
- Fill saucepan with 1 liter of water and place in hob
- Put 50 grams of soap nuts into pan and put on full heat until starts to boil
- Once the water has boiled (approx 5 min) turn off heat and leave saucepan and soap nut water to cool down
- Once soap nut water has cooled, sieve through muslin bag to make sure there are no small pieces of soap nuts in the fluid.
- Pour into your sterilized bottle, label and put in fridge.
This will give you around 500 ml of concentrated soap nut liquid. Put soap nuts you have just boiled back into saucepan with a fresh liter of water and follow the steps above. You can do this three more times which will give you 2 litters of concentrated soap nut liquid.
Using homemade soap nut liquid
- Load washing into machine
- Pour 1 cup / 250ml of homemade soap nut liquid into drawer of washing machine and wash as normal.
I bought a 1kg bag of soap nuts for £11 and I have been using them for a month and have hardly made a dent in the 1kg bag. I think this 1kg bag will last me nearly a year in washing all our clothes. Which is great as now not only am I not bringing in toxic chemicals to wash our clothes but I am also saving the family money. Win Win all round.
Would you give soap nuts a try? Or have you ever used soap nuts before and what are you experiences?