I found a really strange thing to put in your washer.
Berries. Berries that call themselves nuts.
While on a recent YouData expedition, I came across a webpage for Soap Nuts. I happened to have an open position for laundry soap, seeing as how my SA-8 supplier recently retired, and I was very unhappy with the massive amount of Tide powder required to wash a load in my high efficiency front-loader. (Such a shock after SA-8.)
So I read through the webpage and found enough to like that I placed an order.
Here's the scoop, per product literature:
- Soap Nuts are berries that grow on trees in India and Indonesia (Elizabeth Gilbert's sequel is reportedly titled Eat, Pray, Laundry)
- The shells of Soap Nuts contain saponin, an natural detergent
- Soap Nuts are gentle on clothes and skin, and especially good for baby skin and sensitive (i.e. allergy-prone) skin
- Soap Nuts are totally biodegradable and better for the environment than regular detergent. Further, they are harvested in a sustainable way.
- Three small washbags
- A bottle of the essential oil of your choice (such as lavender or tea tree or lemon -- I chose plumeria, which made my sheets smell absolutely incredible)
- About 48 dried berries.
It's best to use a warm water wash and a cold water rinse -- cold doesn't release the saponin and hot depletes the berries too quickly. The bag of berries can be used 3-4 times.
With a special YouData discount, I paid $13 for the kit which should handle around 48 loads (about 40 loads per 100 grams of berries). Doing the math, that comes to about 27 cents per load. By comparison, Consumer Reports (May 2008) shows SA-8 at 42 cents a load and Tide at 22 cents a load.
(Next time, I'll get a 500 gram order, which brings my per load cost down to about 20 cents.)
So here are reasons why I'll probably stick with Soap Nuts for regular washes (but maybe not for Hubby's tougher loads -- we'll see):
- It's better for the environment
- It's natural for my family -- no chemicals
- I can make a load smell however I want it to, or make it scentless (even though the berries smell vinegar-y, the clothes come out smelling refreshingly clean)
- Our clothes got equally clean (I still added bleach to the load of whites) compared with chemical-based soaps
- It's just novel and retro. I feel I made a major nature discovery, like Ayla did on every other page in Clan of the Cave Bear
* US only because Soap Nuts are considered a fruit and are thus subject to import regulations by various governments.
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