How to Use Soap Berries or Soap Nuts
What are Soap Berries or Soap Nuts?
Soap berries are inexpensive, biodegradable, totally green goodness and most importantly – they're so much fun! You can purchase these berries online or in some specialty shops like health food stores or wherever organic personal products and home care items are sold.
Soap berries or soap nuts, are dried, reddish-brown wrinkled berries that are about the same diameter as a quarter. When you pull them out of the package, you'll notice they are hard and hollow and sure don't look like much. The first time I saw them, I was kind of perplexed, but decided to give them a go anyway.
Soap nuts are berries that grow naturally on a variety of plants in the Sapindus plant family. They are native to warm, tropical regions. The berries contain saponin, a natural detergent that is anti-fungal, hypo-allergenic, and anti-bacterial. The natural soap they produce is so mild it is often used by parents to launder cloth diapers.
Soap berries can be used as a natural, bio-degradable Earth friendly laundry soap, household cleaner and even shampoo. It's nice to use a product that doesn't pollute the water supply with all of the chemicals found in commercial products. It is safe, gentle and very easy to use!
How to Make Liquid Soap with Soap Nuts
It is very easy to make liquid soap with soap nuts. This liquid can then be used as a base for liquid laundry detergent, shampoo and other cleansers.
Add several (about 10) soap berries to 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 15-20 minutes until all of the natural detergent is released. As you cook the berries they will become soft and squishy. Press them with a spoon to get even more soap out of them. The water level will decrease a bit and that's fine.
You will notice as they cook, the water turns an amber color and bubbles start to float to the top. Once this happens remove from the heat and allow to cool. Once cool, store the liquid soap in a sterile jar with a tight fitting lid. You can strain the berries out and use them for other purposes or leave them in, it really doesn't matter.
I add several drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) to my mixture to prevent it from going rancid. It will last a couple of weeks on the counter without the GSE or you can store it in the refrigerator to increase its shelf life.
Make Laundry Detergent with Soap Berries
Your soap berries will come with a little drawstring cotton bag. You can use this to add several berries directly to the washing machine. You can get 10 – 15 washes out of the bag. If you prefer liquid detergent, add 2 to 3 Tablespoons of the liquid soap from above to the wash.
It should be noted that this soap does not provide suds, making it great for many newer model washing machines. There is also no scent to the berries. If you want your laundry scented, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil(s) to the liquid soap.
Make Your Own Moisturizing Shampoo with Soap Berries
Recently, I tried an experiment that worked very well for me. I blended 2 teaspoons of liquid coconut oil, ½ cup of the liquid soap, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar and a pinch of sea salt in my ninja to thoroughly incorporate all the ingredients. You can see in my picture it turned white and frothy. I poured the mixture into a jar and used it later that day to wash my hair.
Washing your hair with soap berries is not like regular shampoo. There is absolutely no lather and this can initially make it seem like you aren't really washing your hair – but give it a chance!
I applied the mixture to wet hair and wrapped it in a towel for five minutes before rinsing. My hair was absolutely the silkiest and shiniest it's ever been and so manageable. No frizz in my waves – just fresh, shiny, full hair. I love it and doubt I'll use anything else the rest of the summer. I am in the pool a lot and the chlorine really dries out my ends, this shampoo was amazing despite not having the lathery effect I am accustomed to.
If you don't like the idea of a conditioning shampoo or if your hair tends to be oily, you may want to just use the soap berries with the vinegar and not add the coconut oil or pinch of salt. If your hair is on the dry side, or prone to be a bit frizzy on hot, humid days like mine is, the addition of the coconut oil and sea salt (must be sea salt!) was amazing.
All-Purpose Cleanser with Soap Berries
I add ¼ cup of the soap berry liquid to a spray bottle and fill the rest with distilled water. Add essential oils to keep the mixture fresh longer. I use sage and bergamot together for a light, clean, uplifting scent. Add a few drops of each, shake well and test it. Adjust until you get the scent you desire.
Other ideas include lavender, rosemary (or a blend of these), tea tree oil or citrus oils. All of these oils have properties that help preserve the cleaner. Shake well and spray on counters, fixtures, or any area where you would normally use an all-purpose cleaner.
How to Buy Soap Berries
Hopefully you'll give soap berries a try – they sure are a lot of fun and there are many ways to use them. These are just the ones I've tried, but they can be made into many things. The berries I buy come with a little booklet of suggestions and there are several websites with other recipes and formulas.
They are not well-known in the US yet and are really just now starting to become a little more mainstream here. That can make them difficult to find locally and they are usually less expensive when purchased online.
More DIY products you can make for yourself with natural ingredients
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© 2013 Christin Sander
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