Personal and domestic hygiene
Soapnuts are fantastic!
You can find out all about soapnuts here 🙂 We love ’em and have used them for years. We started using them as a laundry detergent, as directed by the vendors at Living Naturally (soapnuts.co.uk) but soon found they could serve all our soap needs. We now use them to wash the dishes, to wash ourselves, and to wash our hair.
Living Naturally Soapnuts (dried fruit shells which contain natural saponin) are a natural, non-polluting, compostable, alternative to conventional laundry detergents and synthetic soaps. No fillers, foaming agents, bleach, phthlates, phosphates or parabens.
For the laundry:
Put about 6 soapnut shells (or 12 half shells) into the little linen bag provided when you order your soapnuts from Living Naturally, and bung it into the machine with your wash. That’s it. Oh, if you’re doing a cold wash, or a quick wash, it’s probably a good idea to put the little bag of shells into a glass of warm water and let them soak for twenty minutes first. Then put the bag and the soaking water into the machine and start the cycle. When the cycle is finished take the bag of shells out and use them again for your next load. You can usually use the same shells two or three times, unless you do a boil wash. I’ve found that if I do a boil wash it uses them up. Anyway, you can tell when they’re used up when they go soft and beige, and when that happens, just bung them in your compost bin. Oh, by the way, if you don’t have a little linen bag, you can put the shells in a sock and tie a knot in the open end.
For the washing up:
Put 4 soapnut shells in a clean jar and cover them with water. Leave to soak for at least an hour, but preferably several hours. Then tip the whole jar (water and shells) into your washing up bowl and add fast flowing hot water. Look what happens:
Do the washing up 🙂 Don’t worry if the bubbles disappear while you’re doing it because you know the soap is in the water. Artificial detergents add foaming agents to make it seem soapier – don’t let them fool you. You only need as much as the soapnuts provide. We’ve even found they’re great with greasy things. You shouldn’t put anything oily or greasy directly into your water for obvious reasons, but if you wipe off as much as you can with kitchen roll, then vigorously rub a single soapnut all over the greasy surface, it will cut through the remaining grease and will be lovely and clean when you rinse it with clean water. You can put that particular soapnut into the compost, but the others in your bowl can be put back into the soaking jar and covered with water to be used again tomorrow. You should be able to use them two or three times before they need composting and replacing.
For washing hands, bodies and hair:
For this you need a plastic bottle but you don’t have to buy one – just walk down any street and before long you’ll find a discarded plastic bottle (we found these on the beach). Bring them home, wash them and stab a few holes in the lid (you can use a sewing needle for this but it’s difficult and potentially painful. The most effective tool we found was a stitch ripper).
Now, you might be thinking that the lid on the bottle in the photo looks rather dirty and unpleasant. It isn’t, it’s just a bit brown from the soapnut liquid. You can see from the bottle on the left that the shells will turn the water brown. It’s not dirty, just soapy.
Okay, once you’ve got your clean bottle with holes in the lid, put a few shells in it. For these bottles (600ml) we put 6 to 8 whole shells in. Fill it with water and leave it to stand for at least 24 hours.
When they have soaked for a day they should be ready to use. Put your hand over the lid and turn the bottle upside down to mix the clear water with the brown and there you have it. Tip some of the soapnut liquid into your hand, rub your hands together, rinse and repeat. You’ll probably notice it’s a bit lathery when you rub your hands together the second time. Rinse and dry. Put some more shells to soak in another bottle so that you’ve got some ready when you’ve used up the first one. If you find your skin starts to become dry after washing with soapnut liquid, just put less shells in your bottle. Adjust to the right concentration for you.
We also use our soapnut liquid for showering and washing our hair. I used to wash my hair every day but now I only do it twice a week. Be aware it might take your hair a couple of weeks to get shampoo out of its system (those products make your hair very needy) and you might have to put up with it being a bit greasier than you’re used to at first, but after a couple of weeks of using soapnut water you’ll find your hair looks and feels as soft and clean as it ever did with shampoo and you might find, like me, that you don’t need to wash it so often. Oh, I should mention that your hair won’t lather up when you use soapnut water, but that doesn’t matter. Just massage it in like you would shampoo, leave it in for a couple of minutes while you continue with your shower, rinse and repeat. After the second rinse you’ll notice that your hair squeaks when you rub it, – it’s squeaky clean.
WARNING: WHEN WASHING YOUR HAIR WITH SOAPNUT WATER, TILT YOUR HEAD BACK AND KEEP YOUR EYES CLOSED. IF YOU GET IT IN YOUR EYES IT WILL STING!!!
Don’t worry, we’ve got it in our eyes more than once and the stinging subsides after a couple of hours and vision goes completely back to normal, but still, for your own comfort, it’s best avoided 😀
So there you have it – not only plastic-free, but completely compostable when finished with. It doesn’t get any greener than that.
We’ve bought soapnuts from a couple of places but Living Naturally are the best because they don’t use any plastic in their packaging. Well, if you do get plastic outer packaging in the post from them it’s only because they’ve re-used plastic that they’ve been sent, and they do give you the option to request no plastic when you order 🙂
Check them out, they’re brilliant 😀
Vinegar makes a great multi-surface cleaner – for bathrooms, toilets, sinks, windows and paintwork, we’ve used it for years. Plus, if you’ve got any black mould trying to tattoo your walls and ceilings this winter, zap it with vinegar and scrub it off. Vinegar is mild acid which can kill 82% of mold species.
It’s easy to get organic vinegar in a glass bottle with metal lid, and if you’ve got an old plastic spray bottle from a previously-bought multi-surface cleaner, then you can just wash it out, fill it with vinegar and you’re all set. Cider vinegar is just as good, but we switched to white wine vinegar because cider vinegar can leave a yellowish discolouration on white paintwork 🙂