Soap nuts or other names , wash nuts, soap berries and reetha nuts, are traditionally associated as being a natural alternative for laundry washing. Putting the nuts inside a little bag and adding them to your laundry load.
This 100% naturally created fully biodegradable berry, is not exclusive to laundry and also thankfully has many more wonderful uses. It is a gentle cleaner and can be used as a natural shampoo or hand wash, yet it is strong enough for hand and machine dish washing. It can also be a general purpose cleaner around the home for worktops, floors and windows, and pretty much anything else you may want to wash or clean such as the dog!
The saponin which is contained within the shells of the nut or berry needs to be extracted to create the brown tea looking mixture that is used to clean. To do this the soap nuts need to be boiled. Here is a simple recipe below.
You Will Need
- 15-20 Soap Nuts
- 6 -10 Cups Of water
- A large saucepan
- Clean container
- Large wooden spoon or masher
- Place the soap nuts in a large pan
- Add 6 cups of cold water and bring to the boil
- Simmer for 20 minutes
- Periodically squeeze the soap nuts against the sides of the pan or use a masher. (this is to agitate the soap nuts so that they release more saponin)
- Add another 2 cups of water, bring to boil again and simmer for about 45 minutes.
- Keep watch of the pan as it can quickly boil over particularly with a lid on.
- Continue to mash and squash up the shells until your not seeing the suds expel soap or they have lightened or gone greyish or clear.
- Remove from heat and wait to cool before pouring the liquid through a sieve to separate the shells and pour into your vessels.
It isn’t an exact science, the amount of saponin extracted may depend on the quality of your soap nuts. They may need to simmer for longer or for more water to be added. As a general rule you want the soap nuts to be discoloured. Either way you will be left with a soapy liquid. If you find it to be too weak, you add less water or more nuts next time. If you live in a soft water area, you will have more suds.
Alternative Slow Cooker Method
Before starting ensure your slow cooker is large enough to hold the liquid with enough space from the rim (approximately 2 to 3 inches), to allow for stirring, mashing and any bubbling.
- In a saucepan bring to boil the nuts and 6 cups of cold water as above.
- Once boiled add another 2 cups of cold water and bring to boil.
- Carefully transfer to the slow cooker
- Leave on a high setting for 2-3 hours or until the shells have changed colour or gone clear.
- Periodically mash /squash to release saponin.
Once ready, turn off the heat, wait to cool down then pour through a sieve into suitable containers. I find it easier to use a mug or cup to dip into the liquid once cooled, pour through a strainer into a jug and then pour into my jars or ice cube tray from the jug. This way there is less spillage.
The extract will only last around 2 weeks in a cool dark place, longer in the fridge. However it can also be stored by freezing. I like to use an ice cube tray for part of the liquid, for use in the dishwasher, some washing loads and to throw in my bucket for floor cleaning. However I also put some into jars for freezing, then when I am getting low, leave out to defrost and transfer to my spray bottle.
Ensure you clearly label all jars and containers, although a natural product as with other detergents this is not a food and should not be consumed. If in any doubt seek medical advice.
Discarding Of Shells
As they are 100% biodegradable, the shells can be popped onto your compost, or broken up like egg shells and placed around plants to discourage slugs and snails.
Where To Buy
The soap nuts as well as soap nut powders and liquid will normally be commonly found in Eco/sustainable/zero waste stores both in your town or city as well as online. As soap nut trees are native to temperate to tropical climates they are being successfully grown in many regions throughout the world, and therefore becoming more widely available. Alternatively they can be found on Amazon here or what I am currently using by greenfrogbotanic.co.uk here.
Inspired by crunchybetty.com