Sep 6, 2011

Nuts about Soapnuts

I will start by simply saying Soapnuts are AWESOME.. and they are by far my favourite 'detergent' for washing cloth diapers.

Soapnuts in their dried shell form
Most of you probably haven't heard of them before - basically they are a fruit that is grown on trees, and when they are wet they release Saponin - natures own soap.  Unlike manufactured detergents, the suds are very mild - which makes it perfect for use on cloth diapers.  Soapnuts can be purchased as the dried shells, powder and liquid... and can be used for a variety of purposes, including:
- in the dishwasher
- liquid soap
- body wash
- shampoo
- cleaning and detoxyifying food
- cleaning jewellery
- natural pesticide
- dandruff control
- window cleaning
- general cleaning

I was very wary before I used them the first time, I didn't really understand how something so... natural.. could clean anything well enough - especially cloth diapers, which obviously have the potential to get very stinky.  My first use was just using the shells in the machine - and I was blown away when I took out a microfiber insert out of the machine, put it up to my nose and couldn't smell anything.  AT ALL.  There was no ammonia smell, no poo smell, just no smell at all.  They smelt FRESH. I put them to a second test with a load of clothes, and again the clothes came out smelling nice and fresh, and were clean.

up close an personal with a Soapnut shell
I was quite happy using Soapnuts this way for some time - then read that you could make your own liquid detergent, so decided to give that ago.  I was never too sure with my Soapnut shells, whether or not they could go through another use or not, so figured that with liquid I wouldn't have that problem.  I boiled up about 15 shells in 4 cups of water for half an hour, and at the end I had a murky brown coloured liquid, which I allowed to cool and then bottled.  Again I was a bit wary before trying the liquid - but afterward the results were the same as with the shells - if not a little better.

From then on I've been using Soapnuts liquid on my diapers, and occasionally on our clothes - for some reason I prefer to use manufactured detergent on the clothes, I think because of the scent.  That said, you can easily add scent to soap nuts, by using a few drops of essential oils with the wash.  Another reason for the manufactured detergent with our clothes, is that while Soapnuts CLEAN really well, they aren't really able to cope with stains - and with two children at daycare/preschool, their clothes come home covered in all matter of dirt, paint and other messes associated with fun.  As with the scent though, you CAN use various natural agents to remedy stains - I find lemon juice is really good for helping with minor stains, and to give clothes/diapers a bit of a brightness boost.

Last week I needed to make another batch of liquid soapnuts - and got to thinking that it'd be SO handy if I didn't need to add extra things to the wash to help with stain removal and softening fabrics, and on a whim decided I would ADD lemon juice and white vinegar to my liquid I had finished making.  While the liquid was cooling I added to the glass jar/bottle the juice of 2 lemons, and also 1 cup of white vinegar.  I had no idea if it would ACTUALLY work - but I figured if it didn't, I could tip it all out and just make another batch of the liquid.  The liquid cooled, and I poured it into my bottle with the vinegar/lemon juice mix, and we were good to go.
Soapnuts liquid - shaken up so you can see the suds that form

Because some of my diapers were getting a bit 'crunchy' from drying them inside on the clothes airer, I decided to use my liquid on the diapers first... they came out of the machine smelling nice and fresh, and I then put them in the drier - and much to my delight, when I took them out my prefolds and inserts all felt LOVELY and soft... and just a little crisper [ie white].  I figured my mixture had been a success, but wanted to know if it would last for more than a couple of days [particularly the lemon juice element] - but am happy to report that a week on, the diapers are coming out exactly the same as they did in that first wash.  Usually I keep my detergent under the washing basin, where it is cool and dark, but decided to keep it in the fridge in hopes that that would prevent the lemon juice spoiling.  So far so good.  I'm also wondering NOW if adding a certain amount of lemon juice will leave the diapers smelling lightly of lemon, but I have no idea if that's even possible.  I may experiment at some point...

As a little side note - in the 4-ish months I've been using Soapnuts on my diapers, I've not once had to strip my inserts, which prior to Soapnuts, was something I had to do once a month.  I have absolutely NO issue with stinky microfiber now.

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