As you may know, I'm always looking for new ways to live a more waste free and eco-friendly lifestyle and today I'm going to share my thoughts on soapnuts!!
I heard about soapnuts a couple of years ago but for some reason it's taken me a while to get around to trying them out. I think I thought that they were an expensive option compared with other available options in the supermarkets. However, due to their amazing multi-tasking ability and the fact that you can re-use them several times, I've totally changed my mind on this. Plus, they are plastic packaging free!
So, what are soapnuts? Soapnuts are the shells of the soapfruit which grows on a variety of shrubs called Sapindus. The shrubs grow naturally in a number of countries including India, China, USA and Fiji and the fruits of the trees have been used for washing for many years by people living where they grow.
Why are soapnuts so great? These little shells are a completely natural and often organic method of cleaning. They have multiple uses including laundry detergent, dish washing soap, kitchen and bathroom cleaning spray and natural pesticide, just to name a few. Because they are natural, they can be composted after use, meaning that you're not creating any waste. Often they come packaged in natural materials too, so you're remaining plastic free.
Here's what I've done with mine so far....
1) Used them for washing clothes
I just pop 5 soapnut shells into the little hessian bag that came with them and chuck it into the washer with my clothes. You can see the machine creating soap as the it turns. The washing surprisingly comes out smelling clean and feeling nice and soft without the use of fabric softener. I've also tried adding vinegar to the conditioner drawer which makes them extra soft (don't worry, they won't smell like vinegar once they're finished!). The instructions also suggest adding a few drops of essential oil to the bag to add scent if you like. I haven't tried this yet but once I decide on a scent I'd like all of my clothes to smell like, I'll give it a go!
2) Created liquid laundry detergent
I followed the instructions that came with the soapnuts I bought and created a liquid laundry detergent by boiling up 2 litres of water with 15 soapnut shells for 10 minutes. This created a sort of cloudy potion, which I bottled up. This time, I used the liquid in the detergent drawer. I didn't notice a huge difference between using the shells in the drum and the liquid in the drawer. Both seemed to clean equally well and leave the washing smelling good.
3) Made my own kitchen cleaning spray
I've experimented with different homemade cleaning sprays before with varying degrees of success. The last one I made with lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda and tea tree oil, which was great to begin with until the lemon started to go bad and then it smelled horrible!!! So this recipe again, was from the instructions that came with my soapnuts. I added 400mls of soapnut detergent to 100mls of vinegar and 10mls of lemongrass essential oil. So far the spray smells great, cleans the kitchen sides well and doesn't leave any soapy type residue. So, I'm calling it a success!
There are many more things you can do with the shells which I haven't tried out yet. But so far, I'm impressed with them. I purchased a 500g bag of soapnut shells for £8.99 from www.soapnuts.co.uk which says it's good for 240 washes. They arrived without plastic packaging in a natural bag with a little paper leaflet containing loads of advice and ideas about how to use them. I'd thoroughly recommend buying them here.