Last month we went out and harvested about a year’s supply of soap. Many people walk right by the soap nut tree growing wild here in Texas, and do not realize there are leaving money on the tree! These trees are classified in the genus Sapindus and are commonly known as soap-berries or soap-nuts. They are easily recognized in the early winter months, even when the trees have lost their leaves, by their attention-grabbing translucent yellow-orange color.
The soap nuts have been used for centuries by indigenous peoples. They provide an all-purpose, non-toxic soap that can be used on anything from your hair to toilet bowls. They can be boiled in water to extract the soap, which can then be used as a liquid soap. They can also be powdered and made into a paste for cleaning and scrubbing. My favorite way of using them so far is for laundry.
There has been a lot of buzz about soap nuts in recent years. Several companies have come onto the market and are selling soap nuts as a natural alternative to laundry detergent. Much of the conventional laundry detergent on the market is extremely toxic and bad for the body and environment. It is also very expensive, especially the environmentally responsible brands. By harvesting my own laundry soap, I save hundreds of dollars a year! Even when purchased, soap nuts offer a substantial savings for you and for the earth for generations to come.
The soap in these nuts goes a long way. A handful of nuts will clean 5-10 loads of laundry, leaving it clean and smelling fresh. Of course there will be no strong artificial tropical or floral scents with these, just a clean, pure smell. There are also not a whole lot of suds when used in the washer. I have tested these out on cleaning everything from cloth diapers to cloth menstrual pads, and they have yet to let me down. Since these are natural, they are great for the sensitive skin of babies and those with allergies.
Harvest is simple, we gather as many as we will use, being careful to not over-harvest. We boil them fresh for making liquid soap; you may be surprised by just how sudsy these get while cooking. I will do a whole post on the process of making these into liquid soap and the uses. For laundry soap we lay them out on a flat surface to air dry. After a week or so you can remove the seed easily (fresh they are pretty sticky). We usually let them dry for a few weeks to avoid mold, but they still work great in the meantime! Once dry, we store them in a basket in the laundry room, and are good to go!
I would love to hear from some of you who harvest your own nuts, or simply have given the store bought ones a try. What are your experiences? What are you favorite uses? Please leave comments, like, subscribe and share if you enjoy the post!