I know what you’re thinking – soap what? – but stay with me on this one. I have stumbled upon the Ecozone soap nuts whilst browsing the web looking for more natural alternatives to conventional laundry detergents and I must admit I thought the idea of using nuts to wash your clothes was, quite frankly, nuts too. I had never heard of soap nuts before but having read many positive reviews, including by mums of children with eczema who have seen a dramatic difference in their children’s skin condition, I thought I would give these nuts a try. I read up more about them and it all started to make sense.
OK, so let’s begin with why I had initially decided – and why you may want to consider doing it as well – to switch from conventional laundry detergent to a more natural solution. The reasons were twofold:
- Ingredients within conventional laundry detergents may be harmful to your skin and body.
Some detergents (either bio or non-bio) contain as many as 30 ingredients, some of which are believed to be carcinogenic, such as Quaternium-15 (a formaldehyde releaser) or Methylisothiazolinone. Many also contain ‘fragrance’ which can be a mixture of tens or even hundreds of undisclosed individual chemical compounds. And did you know that some of these ingredients penetrate the clothes so much that they also leave a residue on your clothes – apparently, it takes 10 washes in water alone to get rid of that residue. All of this means that children and adults with sensitive skin or with skin allergies may react negatively to the ingredients found in conventional detergents.
2. Conventional laundry detergents have a huge impact on the environment too.
Synthetic ingredients (in either bio or non-bio detergents), not to mention the plastic bottles, can have a devastating impact on our planet. Think about how many loads you put on during the week, the year and your entire lifetime, and multiple that by the number of people on our planet! We’re talking billions of gallons of detergents released into our waterways and the air as well!
The two red-flag ingredients are synthetic surfactants, which are used to break down the dirt, and phosphates. The first one is not anaerobically biodegradable (i.e. they require oxygen to biodegrade), whilst the release of phosphates into waterways can lead to “algal blooms that stifle fish and other aquatic life” (another good article on the toxicity to aquatic life can be found here).
So this is where soap nuts are a great alternative to your usual washing powder or liquid.
Soap nuts (also known as soap berries as they are actually a fruit, not a nut) grow on Sapindus trees and shrubs in both eastern and western hemispheres but are native to India and Nepal. They have been used for centuries because what makes them truly amazing is that nature has supplied them with saponin – a natural surfactant that makes liquids foam and lifts dirt off fabrics.
So now, in terms of how they perform in practice.
I have been very positively surprised, in fact amazed, how good they are at cleaning clothes – so much so that I have already purchased my next bag (also because it is currently on offer at Ocado!).
The most surprising achievement of those little wonders of nature is in removing stains in two items of clothing that I had previously failed to clean adequately – these are the collars on my husband’s work shirts which over time have amassed a very stubborn stain at the crease, and also all of our whites. I had previously used various conventional “specialist” stain removers on both the shirts and the whites but nothing would ever truly remove the stains or brighten the whites. The difference after using the soap nuts was certainly visible and for that one reason alone, I am not switching back to any other cleaning method from now on. Recently with a newborn baby, I have also noticed the nuts have lifted off stains left on baby’s clothes from quite a few explosive poos that leaked out of the nappy – in the past, I would have sadly sacrificed a few baby vests or baby grows, and thrown them in the bin as nothing would have worked on those stains, but the nuts have saved me from doing that.
There are a few other benefits of these nuts too. Firstly, their eco-friendliness. Soap nuts are totally biodegradable so you can rest assured that you are not releasing any harmful chemicals into our waterways and polluting aquatic life.
Simple – you pop a few nuts (depending on how hard the water is in your area and how dirty your clothes are) into a small mesh bag that is provided with the nuts (they actually come with two bags), and you place that in your drum on top of your washing load. Easy peasy!