Sunday, June 22, 2008

Soaping Up

Momma Val asked for an update on the soapnut experiment. You'll remember that SmellyAnn sent me some LaundryTree soapnuts a while back. They come with a little cloth bag that you put the soapnuts in and close with a drawstring. I've used them three times and have had no problems with the bag opening. They leave a faint fresh scent and no residue (or nut chunks). My only issue with them is actually an issue with myself. I tend to do almost all of my laundry in cold water, but soapnuts only work in warm (or hot) water. If you want to use cold water, you need to boil them in water first and essentially make your own detergent. Considering I can't be bothered to cook myself dinner, I don't see myself cooking my own laundry detergent. So if you do most of your laundry on warm, these may be the thing for you.

Recently I read about switching to bar soap on Going Green. I'd never thought of the environmental impact of using hand soap before, so this was an enlightening post for me. I do buy liquid soap in big refill bottles, which is better than if I'd been buying dispensers each time. But it's been bugging me ever since I read BurbanMom's post. So yesterday at the farmer's market, I picked up a bar of locally made gardener's soap. It has little bits of cornmeal in it to act as a scrubbing agent. I put it next to my kitchen sink, and now I'm hooked. My hands feel so clean! I'll definitely be getting a bar for the bathroom too.

The real challenge will be in the shower. I am a shower gel user. I've been using those (plastic) shower poofs for 15 years and I love them. My pores have a tendency to clog easily, and the poofs are very effective at removing dead skin. But the poofs have a fairly short shelf life and need regular replacement. When my last poof was on its last legs, I replaced it with a cloth version. The cotton poof doesn't work in the same way. It takes longer to maneuver, but it exfoliates just as well (or better). I just don't think using a bar of soap would have the same exfoliating effect, and that's not something I'm willing to sacrifice.


Stacy said...

I've always wondered about bar soap at the kitchen sink - huh. I will have to try it now knowing you've had such a good experience with it AND I have seen and smelled some pretty good bars of soap at the farmer's market as well - thanks for push in that direction - would have never thought of switching.

Smellyann said...

Hm, I will have to think about switching to bar soap. Never seen any at the Farmer's Market, though. I don't know how well that will go over with the Littles, though. Tell me more about the impact of using refillable liquid soap??

Anonymous said...

Soap Nuts as a Laundry Detergent

Ever since the inception of industrial revolution, life has become fast and the developments in the fields of science and technology has made human life simple and more convenient. All the hassles of day to day activities have been taken care by the complex dynamics of technology. Every night we sleep with a dream and the next morning we are out in the market to buy the dream that has already been converted to reality.

But, in spite of this we are bothered, the cause being the technology itself. With all its goods kept on one side, technology also has a cruel face on the other side of the fence. With all its developments if, technology is giving us a hassle free life, it is also giving us a polluted environment to live in. Water, air and even sound are not being spared. The chemicals coming out as the byproducts are harming our environment and are directly and indirectly harming us. It is just that we are not able to realize until we are in danger.

Keeping aside the macro level alerts like global warming, increase in the sea level etc, let us peep into our daily life and see at micro level, the impact of technical developments. Covering every aspect in the discussion to follow may be outside the scope of this article and hence we will try to limit our discussion only to a simple chemical product- the laundry detergent.

A combination of different chemical substances to clean our clothes is what we call laundry detergent. When mixed with water this detergent creates lather and the chemicals penetrate deep inside the clothes to clean the dirt and the harmful microbes present in them. But studies show that long term usage of these detergents can lead to skin troubles, not to mention about the water pollution which disturbs the balance of the aquatic life!

A question arises, is there something to make the earth greener and pollution free? Yes, there is. Most of us are unaware of a natural substance which can substitute this laundry detergent and is 100% natural. The substance is known as Soap Nut and is a fruit of a tree called Sapindus. Native to Nepal, India and some other South Asian countries, this tree requires a warm and tropical environment to grow. The harvesting process of this soap nut is completely natural and does not call for any toxin or chemical involvement.
The Soap Nut consists of a solid and hard outer shell and a small fruit inside it. This outer shell is used for making cleaning products. After the fruit ripens, it falls to the ground from tree. It is then picked up and then dried under the sun and is ready to use. Saponin, a natural substance, is present in the Soap Nut. When the Soap Nut is soaked in water, the Saponins are released. This helps the water to penetrate the fabric and clean it. The Soap Nut is a good replacement of the commercial detergents also because of the fact that it has a natural anti-microbial property which kills the harmful microbes present in the dirt. Because Soap Nuts do not contain any added dyes or chemicals, they do not create very many bubbles or lather but are capable of cleaning clothes as effectively as the commercial laundry detergents.
Natural and harmless, these Soap Nuts can actually help us to take a step ahead in a greener and more natural world. Soap Nuts do not disrespect technology but rather attempt to save the world from a chemical holocaust. Using soap nuts as a laundry detergent is a tribute to nature and the solutions it gives us.

For more information visit

BerryBird said...

I always use cold water, too, but I am intrigued by these soapnuts. I have mastered boiling water...

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

We have both bar soap and dispenser soap and mostly use the bar soap. But we're all fogified.

I exfoliate BB's skin with a brush and vice versey.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

We discovered that they have a new thing--new to us--a new BAD thing--they have video rentals that you don't have to return. They expire in a certain number of days and you just discard them--more crap in the waste stream--very bad idea--someone needs to be taken out behind the barn and shot.

a/k/a Nadine said...

Gosh Mary, I hope you don't take advantage of disposable movies. Horrors! If I rent movies at all (maybe twice a year), I rent them through my didgital cable. Mo muss, no fuss.

SmellyAnn, the impact I was referring to is the production and disposal of the plastic bottles. Bar soap cuts that out all together. Yay!

Melissa said...

another impact of the liquid soap is that it is heavier and therefore uses more energy to transport. Plus if you buy the bars locally, you're cutting down on transportation energy even more! I worry about the soap nuts and how far they travel. I've seen some recipes for making your own laundry soap using fels naptha (sp?) and borax. I'm going to try that out when I run out of the stuff I'm using now. One final thought - what about using a bar soap in the shower followed by a homemade salt or sugar scrub for exfoliation? My sister made me a ginger sugar scrub recently and I LOVE it - plus it has some oil in it for moisturizing and it's hands down better than any store bought product I've ever used!

Anonymous said...

Soap nuts are the best laundry detergent I have ever used