Tuesday, May 20, 2008

#226 - Oh Nuts

Taking Soap Nuts for a Spin

This is the twelfth change in my month-long pledge to give up plastics for Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown.

Well Criminy, between these soap nuts and my dryer balls, laundry time at Casa Burban is starting to sound a lot like gay porn. It's not though. I know because there's no cheesy "baw-chicka-baw-baw" music in the background.

So you know that I switched to Seventh Generation Powder Detergent back in.... oh wait. I never posted about it! Egads! You know, sometimes I'm just making so many changes, I forget to tell you about some of them. Oh well, too late now. I've been using the powdered detergent for months now and it works great. The only downside (other than the price tag) is that it comes with a plastic scoop in every package. Like we couldn't just use our own measuring cups? COME ON!

So since this month's challenge is all about avoiding plastic, I ordered up some soapnuts from Amazon. Just five of them - enough to see if they worked. Of course, silly me, they came packaged in plastic. Sometimes you just can't win.

But here's a review for those inquiring minds: They work.

Yup. Sure as soapnut shit, they cleaned the clothes. I have a high efficiency front-loader and had no problem with over sudsing.

Now for the rest of the inquiring minds who wonder what the hell soap nuts are:

Soapnuts are the dried fruit of the Soapberry tree. They contain saponin, a natural cleaner used for thousands of years to clean clothes. Soap nuts, especially Sapindus mukorossi, have become popular as an environmentally friendly alternative to manufactured, chemical detergents . A few nuts can be placed in a cotton drawstring bag in with a washload and reused several times. Soap nuts are safe for washing silk, woolens and other delicate fabrics.

So, yes, they do work. BUT. (I've always got a big BUT, don't I? Wait. Don't answer that.) I'm just not sure that importing a bunch of nuts from Indonesia is any better for the environment than using plant-based detergent made in Canada that comes with a recyclable plastic scoop. My gut tells me that, at best, it's a wash. hehehehe.

So, to avoid making another decision that doesn't feel quite right, I'm going to zig instead of zag. I think I'll give up my 7G Laundry Detergent AND the soapnuts. Instead, I'll try making my own laundry detergent using a combination of washing soap, borax and goatsmilk soap - all natural and all plastic free.

I guess that'll make me a soapnut then, eh?


organicneedle said...

Good nut testing Erin! I saw these a few months back and toyed with getting them but was sure it was scam. (Plus...the last thing I need in my house are MORE nuts.) Glad to know they work. I have to tell you...I do not like 7th Generation Detergents. Maybe my family is dirtier than most but that stuff just doesn't hold a candle to the ol'Tide. I bake a lot and it NEVER even gets the flour out of clothes, let alone the stuff my little monkeys seem to roll in. Not sure how eco it is to have to rewash everything. When I finish the 7th that I have I am going to try Method.
Better Basics for the Home, a read for Green Bean, has some good looking detergent recipes.

Anonymous said...

will you post your laundry detergent recipe??? i'm ready to give it a try too!

homeschoolmom said...

If the homemade stuff doesn't work out, I recommend Charlie's Soap laundry powder. You can buy it online at www.charliessoap.com. It's a vegetable-based, biodegradable powder; the smaller bag (like 80 loads) is packaged in a paper sack (I didn't dissect it to see if it had plastic wedged between two paper layers...it felt like just paper) and when I ordered they were out of plastic scoops. I got a very sweet apologetic email promising to send the scoop later and when I said no thanks, they listened! The laundry is clean and I've not had problems where I feel like stuff needs rewashing. The powder can also be used in the dishwasher if you have soft water. Works fine there, too. Back when I started using this last summer, I did a cost analysis and found it super cheap when compared to Tide, 7th generation and Method. I love this stuff! The only drawback is that the company is located in one of the Carolinas and I'm in California --- just about as far away as you can get, so this is definitely not local. And if you buy the gigantic size, it comes in a 5 gallon plastic bucket.

Natalie said...

LOL. Thanks for trying so many new things. It's so great to have a firsthand account of products like this. And, actually, I'd never heard of soapnuts before.

I have been mixing washing soda into my never-ending gigantic box of Tide Free. I also have a front-loader and I only use a tiny bit with every load. I once tried just washing soda on some beach towels that were barely dirty and they came out smelling funky, mechanical - like maybe the detergent is masking the smell of my washer. ??

I'm interested to hear about your plastic-scoop-free recipe.

I can't locate my copy of Queen of Clean, but she has some really great natural recipes for all sorts of things. And they work really well. No idea if there is one for laundry, but somehow I think there would be. My favorite trick of hers: baking soda to clean up dog barf. Maybe that's just b/c my dog barfs a lot! :-)

JAB said...

I wonder how hard the soapnuts are to grow. If they are from Indonesia, then they should like a warm, humid climate like Tampa or Houston. I'm going to check that out. I haven't been thrilled with 7G either, but I can't use Tide because it is so allergenic (even the "Free and Clear" version).

I like Ecos/Earth Friendly products, but they only have the liquid in a plastic bottle. I take the bottle to the recycler, but it would ruin your Extreme Eco Throw Down.

I have another question, though. Perhaps you've covered it and I missed it. Aren't the dryer balls made of PVC? I would worry about heating them, and the manufacture of PVC isn't so friendly.

It's so hard to know what is the right choice!

I'm going to try Sun & Earth fabric softener sheets. They're supposed to be hypoallergenic and non-toxic, and to biodegrade in 21 days.

MamaBird said...

yer killin me, you really are a soap nut. i made my own dishwasher soap out of borax and hrmmm can't remember and it didn't work so well, but I am all ears about your laundry detergent results. with soap residue it's possible a vinegar rinse might be in order (soap vs detergent that is). HTH

Anonymous said...

I used soap powder a while back (which was shipped from the UK and sourced from India) and have to say, I wasn't much impressed. No lather, and a funky smell to boot!

I'll stick with washing soda.

Verde said...

OK, so I've been blogging on laundery detergent as well. Hmmm 100th monkey?

I've got all the ingredients on order to make laundry soap. I'm sure I'll be blogging about how it all goes.

Never heard of soapnuts before and I was just beginning to whine in my head that I'd bought the wrong thing when you decided not to order them again. Phew, I thought I'd missed the wave.

Riana Lagarde said...

sweet! i have used the nuts too, they work great. but I usually use my homemade laundry detergent that i have been fiddling with for the last six months or so. looks like egg drop soup but works with vinegar in the rinse, even for dirty baby diapers.

its so freaking hard to avoid plastics, i love crunchies' challenges and this is a hard one!

Rosemary said...

Good idea, something I will look into. Yes, please post your recipe.


Shreen said...

OMG, I think this girl is my long lost sister... I am 35, blonde, a mom and on a quest for Green (Cancer though not Gemini). AND I use the word "Criminy"! (Twilight Zone music in the background). Was looking for a way to contact, but couldn't find it. Email to shreenrx@roadrunner.com. I would love to share a few things...

Beany said...

BTW, the soapnut powder can be used as a shampoo (when mixed with a bit of water to make a paste). I use it along with the Burt's bees bar shampoo, but the powder also comes with plastic. I'm also trying to go shampoo free in addition to plastic free.

Anonymous said...

just found you yesterday and have started back at day one. LOVE IT!

i am a live-in nanny and haven't had opportunity to make so many changes yet, but i move out soon and can just tell that you are going to be a great resource for all the stuff i can be doing for myself!

Urban (r)Evolutionary said...

I've just started reading here.. love the mix of 'trying to do good' with your very entertaining and down-to-earth reportage.

me here in australia.. the soap nuts would be better than the canadian plant-based stuff.. doesn't have as far to travel.
bet you can't get them here in australia, though. *sigh

Chile said...

This blog has some of the best tips I've seen for using soap nuts, for those of you that want to keep using them. Her tips looks like they'd really stretch the dollar!

I've yet to get soap nuts myself. No one sells them locally and sometimes I get tired of doing mail-order.

Jess said...

Homemade laundry detergent is so easy. I mix it with grated soap (Kirk's Castile), borax and washing soda, then add hot water to make a big bucket of it that lasts a long time. There are lots of websites, check out this one:

Anonymous said...

For those who don't have the time to make their own, there's always Ecover powdered laundry detergent that comes in a cardboard box with a cardboard scoop. No plastic! That's what we are using right now.

I'm wondering why homemade is better than Ecover. Anyone?

Paige said...

I noticed you mentioned that Seventh Generation is a bit pricey. And I know you said the excess plastic measurers bother you. Here's another suggestion:

If you are looking for an organic, nontoxic laundry detergent, you may be interested in checking out Shaklee's GET CLEAN line. It's so concentrated that the 14lb laundry powder ends up producing 224 medium loads versus 42 loads for 7th Generation's 112oz. Plus, I believe only the starter kit contains the measuring cups- not the refills. So that solves the plastic problem!

They also have natural fabric softener (which I noticed you said you had to stop using because you couldn't find a nontoxic one), vegetable paper drier sheets (100% biodegradable- you could put them in your compost!), and nontoxic cleaning & dishwashing products that are really nice too.

Here's the website if you're interested! http://www.shaklee.net/paigejarvie/getclean

Happy Eco Cleaning! :-)