February 7, 2012

Soapnuts: The Chemical Free Solution to Your Dirty Laundry

contributed by CHA member, Jeanie Beresford

So many of us today are conscious about maintaining our wellbeing. We research ingredients, read labels, and drink filtered water. We make sure we get outdoors and get exercise, and we meditate and seek solace in spirit. However, one of the things often overlooked in our quest for health is the largest organ we have - our skin. What is on our skin every day? Clothing! And how do we wash our clothing? With toxins of course!

Some of the toxins found in laundry detergent are: Napthas or petroleum distillates that have been linked to lung inflammation and cancer as well as affecting the mucous membranes. Phenols, also in detergents, are rapidly absorbed and cause toxicity throughout the entire body. It is toxic particularly to those who are hypersensitive and can cause death even at low exposures. Nonyl phenol ethoxlyate, a surfactant has been banned in Europe as a hazard to human and environmental safety. It also slowly biodegrades into even more toxic compounds and is a proven endocrine disrupter to humans and as well as toxic to aquatic organisms. Another surfactant commonly used is LAS, and this substance releases slowly biodegrading benzene into the environment. Optical brighteners are often added and they make the clothes appear whiter, though the clothes are actually no cleaner. Brighteners are toxic to fish and can cause allergic skin reactions in humans when the skin is later exposed to sunlight. Some laundry detergents still contain phosphates, although most states have banned them. They help soften water but when added to the environment, stimulate the growth of some marine plants which then lead to an unbalanced eco system. EDTA, is an accepted alternative to phosphates, yet it does not biodegrade well and unfortunately, can re-dissolve toxic heavy metals into the environment allowing them to re- enter the food chain. Bleach, which we are all familiar with, is involved in more household poisonings than any other chemical. It is believed to cause reproductive, endocrine and immune system disorders. And how about the wonderful fragrances? Many are petroleum based and known hormone disruptor's as well as immune system irritants. Many of these chemicals remain on our clothing, brushing the skin and entering dermally to do their damage. Now, have you ever even thought about using a natural laundry detergent? Did you even know there was one?

In my quest for a more natural way to clean my clothes, a few years ago, I accidentally discovered an organic soap, commonly referred to as Soap Nuts. Being naturally curious, I purchased a small bag of Soap nuts, also commonly known as soap berries, experimented with them and now will use nothing else for my laundry. Amazingly, they truly clean! Soap nuts are not actually a nut, but a seed casing for the Sapindus mukorossi tree, so no fear for those who have nut allergies. They contain a natural saponin, or soap, and clean just as well, in my humble opinion, as most laundry detergents. 

Though Sapindus grows throughout the world, including the south western United States, the ones that contain the most saponin, however, are found in the Himalayans and India. There are ethical companies out there who insist the berries be harvested free trade.

How do you use soap nuts? You simply place 5 or 6 nuts into the provided drawstring muslin bag, and toss them in the washer. If you are using cold water, they prefer to be warmed up a little in some hot water to activate them and the little nuts do what they do best: Clean. You can use them over and over until they become soft, usually 5-7 loads, then happily dispose of them in your compost and refill the bag. That’s it! The laundry comes out unsoiled, fresh smelling and naturally soft. Because of their PH, they are safe for even the most delicate of washable fabrics. Also because they don't contain unnatural chemicals, with multiple uses, they eventually clean the cloth fibers of the previous chemicals. Diapers, for example become more absorbent. Speaking of diapers, soap nuts are perfect for babies clothing as well as children and adults e with allergies and skin sensitivities. They can also be easily made into a liquid by simmering 5 or 6 nuts in a quart of water for an hour or so, let sit overnight, and strain into a spray container with water to clean surfaces and floors, used in a dishwasher, diluted and sprayed on plants as a herbicide, used as a shampoo and body wash for humans and their pets, carpets, and more. As if that is not enough, they are 100 percent compostable, safe for the septic systems, and excellent for high efficiency washers.

Jeanie Beresford, is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner owner of Blessed Creek Soaps and owner of Re-Nourished, a holistic healing practice in which she teaches classes on weight management and promotes health based on properly prepared nutritionally dense whole foods and lifestyle choices. She may be reached at Jean@Re-Nourished.com.

You can get a great starter sample that cleans 10-14 loads plus instructions for $2.50 plus shipping at BlessedCreek.com

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