Hubby came home yesterday talking about Soapnuts. Now neither of us are Monster Raving Loony Eco Warriers but he was obviously keen on the idea, so this morning I ordered some.
Soapnuts? Here's the blurb (shamefully stolen via Google, but hey why reinvent the wheel?)
In India and Nepal, the soapnut (sapindus trifoliatus) has been used as a vegetable washing detergent since time immemorial.
The soap nut tree grows mainly in South India. In March and April, the tree is adorned with white flowers, and the ripe soapnuts are harvested in October. When removed from the tree the soapnuts are sticky and golden in colour. They are dried and their colour becomes reddish-brown. Then the nuts are cracked and the black kernel, which can neither be eaten nor used for washing is removed and the shells, which contain saponine (a natural detergent), are packed up in cotton bags.
How does it work?
The somewhat sticky saponine in the shells of the soap nuts acts in a similar way to normal soap. As soon as the shells get in contact with water, this natural saponine soap is released and creates mild suds. Place 4 to 5 half shells in one of the provided cotton bags. Tie the bag and place it with your laundry in the washing machine. Start your machine as usual, with or without pre-wash. The remains of the soapnuts can be composted or be disposed of through organic refuse.
The soap nut can be easily used in your washing machine. Unlike common washing powders and liquids that contain considerable amounts of chemicals, the soapnut is environmentally friendly and is gentle on the skin.
Can be used for all fabrics and with all temperatures.
No need for fabric softeners
Works well with delicate fabrics such as silk and wool
When washing in cold to warm water, soapnuts can be used for a second time the same day
In the case of heavy stains, we recommend adding one tablespoon of stain remover.
For a fragrant wash add your favourite essential oils
These work out at about 6p per wash against 20p per wash for your standard powder. I have also read that your clothes don't go hard on the washing line either and anything that leads to reduced ironing is a winner as far as I am concerned. I plan to use Ecover to boost the Whites wash but since almost all our clothes are coloured, I don't think I'll need much. I'll report back and let you know how I get on with them.