Soapberries, more commonly known as soap nuts, are a “green” alternative to conventional detergents and are great for families with allergies and sensitivities. Finding the appropriate detergent to use in your laundry can be a hardship when you have small children or someone in your care with sensitive skin. Ordinary detergents are harsh on the skin and the environment so we look for gentle and more natural options.
What is a Soap Nut or Soapberry?
Soapberries are the fruit of the Ritha tree that grows in the tropics of North India and Napal. The berry contains saponin, a natural surfactant which is effectively used to wash clothing among other things. A surfactant is any substance that lessens the surface tension of water, making it easier to break up dirt and grime. The surfactants in store-bought detergents are man made and harsh on the skin and the environment. The ingredients in detergents are slow to biodegrade, if at all, and are leaked into our water systems. The harsh chemicals can exacerbate any skin conditions and create new ones in individuals who have sensitivities and allergies. Even “natural” detergents have some questionable ingredients when it comes to skin irritation. Soap berries do no create any of these problematic situations as they are simply a fruit that is washed along with your clothing.
How Do You Use a Soapberry?
1. When you purchase soap nuts they are usually accompanied by a cloth, drawstring sack in which you place four to six berries.
2. Throw the bag containing soapberries into the washing machine with your load of laundry.
3. Remove the bag from the laundry before placing the your washed items in the dryer or on a clothesline.
This single sack of berries can be used in up to six loads of laundry and creates a clean, fragrance free load of laundry. It is also unnecessary to user fabric softener or dryer sheets because the solution naturally softens material. This method of washing is not only gentle on the skin, but it is also great for delicate fabrics such as silk but it can pack a punch when it comes to tough stains and things such as cloth diapers. If you wash in cold water, soak the sack of berries in a warm cup of water. The warm water helps to activate the berries and release the most saponin. Then put the sack in the wash along with the liquid from the soaking for best results.
Soapberries Are Economical
An order of a thirty two ounce package of de-seeded soapberries will cost about $32.00 on average. This can be broken down conservatively to about twelve cents per load of laundry. Compare this to store-bought detergents and you will see that the price per load can range from about fifteen cents to almost fifty cents per load! $32.00 can seem like a big investment but it will last you over sixty four loads of laundry.
Try Soapberries as a natural and economical solution for washing clothing while having a positive impact on your family and the environment.
ILoveIndia.com, “Reetha” (accessed October 25, 2010)
Livestrong.com, “Side Effects of Saponins” (accessed October 25, 2010)
Soapnuts.Pro, “Soap Nuts” (accessed October 25, 2010)