Small Improvements: Organic, Cheap, Hypo-allergenic, Eco Friendly Detergent (or Soap Nut)

by Nyamka Bayanmunkh in


Image Have you ever noticed when you walk through the aisle where the cleaning supplies are in the supermarket you try to  hold your breath? It's because your body already knows it doesn't want to inhale it. Many synthetic fragrances disrupt our hormones, and irritate our immune systems and many laundry detergents are full of it.

Synthetic substances from washing detergents and other cleaning supplies don't just stay on clothes. As our skin is in direct contact with our clothes, the chemicals can irritate our skin. Especially if you suffer from broken skin due to a cut, eczema, or psoriasis the residue of the chemicals on your clothes can enter your body dermally. So if you have been getting odd allergic reactions, you should try changing your laundry detergents. If your cleaning detergent has brighteners, which makes clothes appear brighter (fyi, it doesn't clean, it just makes it brighter), it could be reason for the unexplained allergic reactions you get on your skin. In the case of the brightenic substance, the allergic reaction occurs later when the skin exposed to sunlight as the chemical changes in sunlight.

In laundry detergents, stain removers, fabric softeners, and bleaching products it is common to find petroleum distillates, phenols, nonyl phenol ethoxylate, IAS, and either phosphates or EDTA. These ingredients may have negative effects on your health such as lung inflammation, a disrupted endocrine system, and cancer. Also, they are and not good on the environment. As some of the above mentioned substances biodegrade  they release benzene into the environment, or if it is released into the sea it affects the growth of marine plants and disrupts ecological balance.

I have been on the look out for a better a detergent for a while. Just looking at what's on the supermarket shelves doesn't give you much options in eco friendly and hypoallergenic detergents, never mind being organic and fairtrade. Lots of products claim to be natural and safe but most are allergy inducing synthetic chemical concoctions. I have been making due with fragrance free and grey water safe laundry powder but it still smelled strange. Fortunately, my online grocer where I get my organic fruits and veg started stocking soap nuts. Everything I have used before soap nuts pales in comparison to it. Soap nuts are an organic, cheap, hypo-allergenic, eco friendly detergent, and it cleans really well.

Soap Nuts

Soap nuts are the seed pod of a small berry and not a nut as the name suggest. They grow on trees. The seed pods are cracked open and dried in the sun, which results in a slightly sticky, brown-y golden shells.They are high in saponins, and that's what makes it a such a good cleaning agent. Soap nuts are compostable/biodegradable, non allergenic, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antifungal, beneficial to grey water, not tested on animals, and the one I bought is wild harvested. You can place them in your washing machine and it's cheaper than most conventional detergents. Plus, your laundry  won't need fabric softener anymore, because the pH level of soap nuts (it varies from 4.5-6 and apparently the pH of hair is 4.5, and given that someone has made a shampoo out of soap nuts) is acidic enough to degrease your washing but not too harsh for it to become stiff and uncomfortable. I washed a delicate cashmere cardigan using soap nuts and it turned out fine. Overtime they clean the leftover residue of the previous detergents used on your laundry. In my opinion, soap nuts trump conventional laundry detergents in every level.

Soap Nut ShellsHow to use soap nuts in the washing machine

To use soap nuts in the washing machine you will need  2-6 soap nuts shells ,depending on your load. I got mine from here. Put them  in a drawstring bag (or designate a lost sock to do the job, you can just tie it up in the end ) and  chuck them with your wash. Once the washing is done just dry the soap nuts until next time. Now you can, admire your naturally clean and soft laundry. Soap nuts can be used repeatedly until they soften, on average that will be 6 washes. Then  you  can  throw them away or compost them (I am still looking into composting in a small apartment, any recommendations?).

N.B. The warmer the water the faster the soap is released. So if you are using cold water,  warm up your soap nut shells in a small amount of hot water and throw that into the wash.

I will be experimenting with making hand washing liquid and dishwashing liquid with soap nuts in the future. I will let you know how that goes, so keep in touch.

With love, and simplicity,

Nyamka