At a small organic food retailer, located in a three story complex dedicated to health and wellbeing in downtown Singapore, I made a marvellous discovery... organic, fairly traded ‘Soap Nuts’!
Soap nuts grabbed my attention, as during my pursuit to purchase and use only natural cosmetics and beauty products, the realisation that house-hold cleaning products also contained harmful chemicals hit me. Not only do house-hold cleaning products such as kitchen and bathroom sprays, window cleaners and laundry detergent harm the environment, but they also harm our bodies.
Just think- we wash our clothes with laundry detergents that promise to ‘eliminate stains’ with their powerful formula. We then wear these clothes day and day out with no thought to the fact that the powerful chemicals that removed those stains from our clothes still remain on the fabric in small quantities and slowly sink into our skin. Or we wash the dishes using a product that promises to be ‘tough on grease,’ let the dishes dry and then use them to eat and drink. Small remnants of the chemical that was tough on the grease remains on the cup or spoon you use and will end up in your stomach in small quantities. Such products often contain chemicals associated with eye, skin, or respiratory irritation, or other human health issues, but such allergic reactions are often not associated with the chemicals used in the house on a daily basis.
Once we are done cleaning, these chemicals run down the drain, and are released into the ocean having an adverse affect on the environment. For example, alkylphenol ethoxylates, a common surfactant ingredient in cleaners, has been shown in laboratory studies to cause adverse reproductive effects on wildlife exposed to polluted waters (National Research Council, 1999).
Of course there are many green, biodegradable and environmentally friendly cleaning products available on the market today. However, what drew me to Soup Nuts were that they are just that: nuts that naturally produce a soap like substance.
‘Soapnuts are an environmentally friendly sustainably produced, bio-degradable and compostable way of cleaning your laundry. Grown wild in India, for centuries these nuts (sapindus mukorossi) have been used for many purposes including removing tarnish from jewellery and treating all sorts of ailments from contaminated soil to migraines to epilepsy. They are most widely recognised as being an effective and environmentally friendly natural detergent however can be used for a whole host of other uses.
The nuts contain the active natural washing ingredient saponin. Similar to soap, when the shells of the soapnut come in contact with water the saponin is released and suds are produced - these are excellent for cleaning laundry and leaving it beautifully soft. Because your laundry water will only contain pure natural ingredients compared to traditional detergents, it can much more usefully be reused as grey water to reduce water consumption (your garden and plants will thank you as well!’ (Soap in a Nutshell, 2011)
As mentioned, other uses of the Soap Nut include:
- Multi-purpose cleaner
- Dishwashing detergent
- Jewellery cleaner... the list goes on
And not only are Soap Nuts good for you and the environment, their production benefits communities in India through the provision of a sustainable income. Soap Nuts, although not certified fair trade as yet, are sourced sustainably, ensuring the community in India that grows and harvests the soap nuts are paid a fair price for their product;
‘By purchasing soapnuts you are helping maintain the natural habitat and environment which has existed for centuries and are providing a living direct to some of the more impoverished areas of India.’ (Soap in a Nutshell, 2011)
If you are not yet convinced, I have used the Soup Nuts to wash four loads of washing and four sink loads of dishes thus far and have found them to be most effective. My clothes have come out fresh, clean and stainless and the dishes have been degreased very well indeed. I have to say I am quite impressed and surprised as to how effective they really are.
You can order 1kg of Soap Nuts here for a great price of AUD $35, which amounts to approximately 400 washes, or 12c a wash!
Hormonally Active Agents in the Environment, National Research Council, National Academy Press, 1999
Soap in a Nutshell, Retrieved 27 February 2011 from http://www.soapinanutshell.com.au/main/page_soap_in_a_nutshell_home.html