Yeah, yeah, you heard it right🤭 Don’t get worried, I still persist with my own madness, but this is about something different. It’s about nuts: SOAP NUTS / SOAP BERRIES. Okay, why would I need to talk about them? It’s very commonly available in India in the common name as Retha(Hindi) / Pasakkottamaram (Malayalam) and many more local names. These are the berries of a tree found widely in the Himalayas. Like many other plants, they also have got many medicinal properties.
As part of my sustainable lifestyle journey, my research pointed me towards the dried soap berries due to its several household usages. Lifestyle has made us shift in many simple products to latest products made available in the market and as I have mentioned in my previous posts we are more brainwashed by advertisers. For me, soap berries come into view as a replacement for my liquid laundry detergent. Every alternate month, I used to buy one bottle of (500ml) top brand liquid detergents which will cost me around 200 to 250 rupees.I stopped using detergent powders long back due to its remnants in the after dried clothes which costs around 100 to 200 rupees.
My research helped me to understand how much these chemicals reach into the sewage which finally ends up dumping all these harmful chemicals into the ocean since I live at a walkable distance from the estuary close to the Arabian Sea. All the detergents and it’s heavily loaded micro plastics end up in the marine system and thus directly getting its entry into the marine food web. This reaches our plate as fishes consume these plastics assuming these particles to be their regular food. That thought made me strictly stop my use of detergent powders and liquids.
Now I am left with a new choice of an alternative. Either I should make a less harmful basic chemical detergent consisting of washing soda, baking soda & Castile soap or use the natural available Soap Nuts. Now you may think, Soap Nuts seems to be the newest option for us. No, you got it wrong, soap nuts have been used for so many centuries that racing for civilization made us leave behind many basic things and now when we realize what all we left behind, we are trying to get them back which could be termed “Back to Basics”.
I read about the various chemical household products which could be replaced by this single natural product.. my main concern was focused on liquid laundry detergent which this could be used making shampoos, face wash, hair mask, kitchen and floor cleaner etc to name a few.
I have initially tried the readymade soapnut liquid detergent named “Bubble Nut Wash”. I have tried on a variety of clothes and was totally impressed. The clothes were fresh with a slight citrusy smell. I had bought a one-liter product from Amazon for 299/-( plus shipping charge). I won’t prefer to purchase them since every purchase will leave me with a plastic bottle and compared to cheaper homemade options I will prefer the later.
I ordered them at Amazon from the brand Stone Soap. A packet of full size dried berries of 750 grams for a price of 235 rupees. It came in a cloth bag with drawstring and also had a tiny cloth bag for using them in the washing machine.
For the laundry purposes, there are two ways to use these berries.
- Direct Use: Take a handful (5-10 as per the cloth load) in a cloth pouch and put them along with clothes to soak and do the washing. This helps the berries to release the saponins which give the lather. This tiny batch of berries can be used for several times. You could also add few drops of essential oils of your choice in the last round of rinse to add more freshness.
- Liquid soap: A handful of berries can be boiled in two-liter water for nearly 30 plus mins and then strain out the liquid. Add essential oil of choice or vinegar as fabric softener. Store them a refrigerator and use as needed. You could find plenty of videos on YouTube regarding the uses and methods of preparation. I have made liquid soap with crushing the berries ( with the seeds) and boiling them hence the color has got more brownish but if only nut skin is used, it will be golden yellow colored. I have stored them in repurposed plastic bottles and refrigerated. This could be used for making face wash, shampoo or cleaners with few more additional ingredients.
Once the soap nuts are used more than 5-10 repeated cycles, the saponin contents would be reduced and it could be dried, powdered and used as hair mask or kite hen vessels cleaner by adding little baking soda. Soap nuts are gentle on both clothes and skin making them ideal for use. The laundry run water could be directly used for gardening purposes without worry. This is complete with a plant-based product and probably the most sustainable cleaning product.
MY VERDICT: I found soap nuts to be cheaper and making every laundry expense heavily cut down. One time purchase of 750 gram is going to stay for 3 years minimum. This will cut my repurchases for chemical laundry detergent from shop list which saves me minimum 3000/- and no tension about the plastic packaging or it’s discarding. I can store them in any containers of my choice.
I could happily wash without regret of releasing rinsed water loaded with chemicals or microplastics. Thus I will be able to do one more little steps towards keeping oceans from pollution. I could repurpose the water for gardening. Thus making my lifestyle to be more ECO-FRIENDLY & SUSTAINABLE 🌏🖤👩🏻🌾👩🏻🔬