India has a wealth of traditional practices that are not only good for your hair but also good for the environment. Today, we talk about one such practice - the use of soapnuts.
First, what exactly is a soap nut?
Soapnuts, commonly known as Reetha, are not really nuts but the fruit shell/ berries of the Sapindus tree. These 'magic berries' have been historically used for various purposes, from hair cleansing to laundry. They are gaining popularity in today's eco-conscious world.
Okay, are they grown in India?
Soapnut trees flourish in warm, humid subtropical and tropical climates. They are primarily cultivated in the Himalayas, Nepal, and some parts of South India. The Sapindus trees take about nine years to mature and then drop their berries naturally up to 90 years. Soap nuts require less water and minimal pesticides and fertilizers, making them environmentally friendly.
So, what makes soapnuts unique?
The key property of soapnuts is the presence of saponin, a natural surfactant, that creates a soapy foam in water, effectively lifting oil, dirt, and grime from surfaces and fabric. They create a mild detergent effect and are antimicrobial as well as insect-repelling. Plus, they contribute to sustainability by not polluting water bodies. The wastewater from soapnuts is reusable for plants, and they're also effective for pest control in gardening.
Great, which all areas can we use soapnuts for?
They're great for laundry, hair and body wash, household cleaning, and even dishwashing or pet care.
It all sounds so simple. But is it that simple to use soapnuts?
Yes, it indeed is simple.
You can use them in various forms -
- Using whole in a washing machine. Place the sock containing soapnuts directly with the laundry, rather than in the detergent compartment. It's fine for the sock to remain in the machine throughout the drying cycle.
- Boiling to make a liquid detergent. Add soap nuts at a ratio of two for every cup of water, and then put the mixture on to boil for 30 minutes. Strain this liquid to remove the seeds and skin and keep it in the refrigerator for storage. It should last about a month when stored this way.
- If you don’t want to store it in the refrigerator, prepare Bioenzymes from soapnuts, by adding soapnuts and already prepared bioenzymes in equal proportion and start using them after 7 days.
What do we do with the remains of soap nut in the end?
They can be reused for 2-3 times more. We recommend adding a few fresh soapnuts for a better effect. After 2-3 times use they can be composted or go in your wet waste.
So, are there any drawbacks to using soap nuts?
They are meant for regular cleaning applications and may not work effectively for extremely difficult stains. They might not remove extremely oily stains or whiten whites as well as harsher detergents.
Is there anything specific to keep in mind when using soap nuts?
- Fresh soapnuts need to be sun-dried to avoid mold.
- Avoid using them on whites at the beginning of your soap nuts journey.
But how safe are they?
Safe to the extent that one brand in India is promoting the usage of soapnuts for baby products. They are safe and gentle for washing even baby clothes, hand washes, and bottle cleaners.
Is any research available to know more about soap nuts?
Yes, here is research that has shown that Sapindus mukorossi (Areetha nut, a form of soap nut) is a promising eco-friendly saponin source for textile processing, offering various beneficial properties to fabrics.
Did you know that soapnuts are of Indian origin but have been used extensively in Germany due to their environmental benefits?
So, what’s the final word?
Soapnuts are a versatile, eco-friendly solution for a variety of cleaning needs. They can be used just like that or in combination with bio-enzymes. To keep it simple start with them for dish cleaning and then use in other applications.