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Despite the name, soapnuts aren’t a nut, they’re the berry-like fruit of a tree (Sapindus Mukorossi) found primarily in tropical climates. Their dried shells contained saponins, a natural alternative to traditional laundry detergents and cleaners. Lisa Albrecht, a mother from Houston, Texas, learned about soapnuts in her search for a gentle laundry detergent without dyes or perfumes that wouldn’t aggravate her son’s allergies, eczema and sensitive skin. She also wanted a detergent without too many suds (to accommodate a high-efficiency washer) and without harsh chemicals. Soapnuts fit the bill — and then some. Besides being hypoallergenic, they’re also biodegradable and antimicrobial, so they’re better for the environment and a great fit for septic and greywater systems.
Today Lisa is spreading the word about nature’s natural detergent through her company, Laundry Tree. Her starter kit contains enough soapnuts and essential oils (your choice of clean cotton, energy or lavender scent) for about 40 loads of laundry. You’ll use three or four nuts for each load of laundry, and you can reuse the same nuts for up to four loads. We’ve also found uses for soapnuts outside the laundry room. If you soak the seeds overnight in boiled water, you’ll get a concentrated liquid that works as a multi-purpose household cleaner, liquid hand soap, and even shampoo.
The folks at Laundry Tree include a sample bag with their kits, so you can pass soapnuts on to a friend. Lisa knows her all-natural detergent alternative might take a little coaxing to try, but it’s a fun experiment, and you just might decide, as we did, that it’s a great idea.