Some soap nuts

A soapnut tree stands in our backyard. The shell of the nut contains Saponin which protects the tree from being eaten by insects.
Saponin creates, just like soap, foam in water and hence the shells can be used as a detergent.

This was standard practice is Nepal for many years, but now chemical detergents have replaced the soapnuts. Therefore the nuts are no longer used, but they are exported to be used as soap abroad.

Because of the raised awareness for environmental friendly and biological products, companies started to sell soapnuts mainly to be used as a laundry detergent. Soapnuts can also be used as a general detergent and as a shampoo for people and pets. It is an alround replacement for soap to clean the body.

The effect of soapnuts will surprise you! They work very good. Normal stains are easily removed, just like normal detergents. Difficult stains, like fat, blood or wine need extra treatment, just like regular detergents. After washing your laundry with soapnuts, you will notice the laundry is really soft as if you had used fabric softner.

In September 2017, Nepali Children started to export soapnuts to the Unites States and Holland. The profits are used to support Nepali Children.

How does it work?

Every soapnut tree produces around 35 kilos of soapnuts. When they are mature they fall from the tree. Local people living around our Nepali Children home gather the nuts.
The nuts are dried in the sun. After we transport all to Kathmandu and package them according to the wishes of our clients.

Looking at the shells of the nuts, you will notice a shiny layer on the inside oth te shell. This is the Saponin. This is the stuff that, in contact with water, works like a detergent. Soapnuts can be reused three times. When you make it into a liquid detergent, is usable for about 15 days.

Instructions for using soapnuts as a laundry detergent.

Take 4 shells, put them in a cotton bag, close the bag and put the bag in between your laundry. After the machine is done, remove te bag, rinse it with clean water. If the shells feel soft and spongy throw them away (in the organic waste bin). Otherwise you can use the bag with nuts once more.

Benefits and disadvantages in using soapnuts

More and more people are using soapnuts, because of many benefits. It is een environmental friendly product, it does not pollute the surface water, used soapnuts can disposed of as biological waste, soapnuts are completely biodegradble, and absolutly free of chemicals.

Soapnuts have no particular smel. If you like you can add een few drops of essential oil, to create a smell you prefer. You could use eg rose, lavender, lemon, eucalyptus, jasmin or kamille.

More and more people are allergic for chemical detergents. Soapnuts are 100% natural and very friendly for the skin.

It turns out that soapnuts are cheap to use.

Chemicals in laundry detergents bleach color. Soapnuts don't, color stay langer bright.

On the down side, fat, blood en wine stains are harder te remove with soapnuts, so white laundry will fade tot grey after a while.

Create liquid detergent from soapnuts

Making a liquid detergent from soapnuts is easy, just follow these steps:

  • Put 50 gram (about 28-30 shells) of soapnut shells into a liter of water.
  • Boil the water.
  • Leave it boiling for 10-15 minutes on low fire.
  • Turn off the heat, and leave the lid on let it cool down.
  • Filter the liquid to remove small pieces of shell.
  • For a nice smell add 10-15 drops of essential oil.
  • Store your detergent in the fridge.
  • Shake before use.
  • This liquid is usable for about 15 days. You can add a table spoon of vinnegear tot enhance the shelf time.

This liquid detergent can be used as a allround detergent in and around the houd, of for washing you body. Because its an mild and natural soap, you can also wash your pets with it.

Background information

The name "Sapindus" implies its main property: cleaning effect. About 15% of the soapnut shell (and thus 10% of the entire nut) consists of saponin.

Growing soapnuts is very sustainable and saves agricultural space: After 9 years the soapnut tree bears fruit. After that soapnuts can be harvested for 90 years. The life cycle of the soapnut tree is very long. It doesn't deplete the soil, it actuallty prevent deseterification.

Like any tree, Sapindus converts carbon dioxide into oxygen (photosynthesis).

Soapnut tree is a species from the family of Sapindaceae. These trees are located in the subtropes and the tropics. The name Sapindus is derived from th elatin word of 'sapo' meaning soap and the Indian wordt 'indus' meaning India. The fuits are called soapnuts, soapberries of washnuts. In this family of trees there are:

  • Sapindus mukorossi, the big soapnut tree which grows in northern India and Nepal at an altitude of 200-1500 meters, The soapnuts are also called Reetha or Ritha here.
  • Sapindus trifoliatus, the small soapnut tree, which grows in southern India where climate is warmer en milder. The big soapnut naturally occurs in Shivalik Hills en the outer Himalayas. In this region stretching from Afganistan till western China you find this tree naturally. It is at home in deep klay-like soil, with 1500-2000 mm of rain annually.

The tree has a benifical effect on the deforrestation in the lower 900 meters of the western Himalaya. Soial becomes more fertile and seed as well as the shell work like natural fertiliser and purifying the soil.

De big soapnut tree blossems from september till november. The flowers are small and of a white-greenish color grouped together in plumes. The nut is a so called stoe fruit with a leathery shell and is ripe in december. in january - february they fall from the tree and ar ready to use.

The fruits are round and sticky with a diameter of 2-2,5 cm. They are fleshy yellow-brown color and contain 1 to 3 seeds. The seeds are contained in a black smooth and hard inner shell.

In Nepal amoung other countries, the dried fleshy parts of the nut with the seeds removed have been used as a laundry detergent en body care lotion. The nuts are specially used to clean embroidered silk garments not harming the delicate fabric. Lately western chemical detergent are being used more and more. And because of the lack of water purification plants, these chemicals end up in rivers and lakes destroying the ecological cycle. Soapnut trees are being cut down because of the declining demand for soapnuts.

The soapnuts have a alternative use in fishing, because saponin intoxicates or even kills fish.