Friday, September 6, 2013

Soap making

I have ventured into the soap making niche of the world! It's the last thing I thought I'd do after a somewhat failed attempt to "make" my own soap powder (with borax and a bar soap) a few years ago.

It's actually something I can use. And that's nothing to sneeze at...really, it doesn't make me sneeze...unlike the powder soap experiment. Trying to locate a cheaper way to do laundry and using something more "green" led me to find a totally new concept. One that many others have also found useful.

Let me introduce you to the soap nut. I'm not talking about myself either...(I know it's been awhile since I posted and you were starting to wonder, right?) =) No, really the soap nut is a fruit (soap berry) that is dried and has been used for many years for just about anything that needs cleaning. I've used it for about 4 months now.

I make it into a liquid form which I make myself from the dried soap nuts. I add a few drops of lavender oil for a nice scent. You can use just about any essential oil you prefer. I found it to be very useful and mostly I've used it for laundry.

In a normal load, I only need to use about 1/4 cup. One batch lasts about a month for us if used for laundry alone. It does not have many suds, if at all, so keep this in mind when you try it the first time. Here's a list of the benefits of soap nuts at the Soap Nuts Pro website.

It naturally works as a fabric softener, so I actually use another soap for my towels, washcloths and cloth napkins, because I want them to be absorbent. It's great for clothes though. For someone who hates the chemical smell of fabric softeners, I'm happy to report that the soap nuts has no such irritation.

I bought mine locally here in bulk. I use the ratio in the recipe on this website: (scroll down in the box to find it). They have a good website to learn more about soap nuts. You can do an internet search and find similar recipes and sources to buy from.

I always crush the soap nuts up in a bag (I use my potato masher and a cutting board underneath the bag), before adding them to the water when heating them on the stove. And after simmering, I strain through a nut milk bag and squeeze out all I can. Then I compost the pulp! I let the soap cool, then I refrigerate it to keep longer than a few days. I find that it keeps fine for about one month this way. When I start to use it for more than laundry (for our family of four), then I will make it more often.
Here are some photos of when I make it at home:

If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I'll try to answer the best I can. Happy cleaning! =)

Update to add: I have now been using the EcoWasher in combination with my clothes washer for a while now - maybe a year or more? We have really liked it and therefore I am not using any added soap. I do however still use some spot cleaner and presoak things that need a little more help to get clean. Love this option and makes it a breeze to have children help too! 


Tammy L said...

What do you use the liquid soap for then? :) Have you tried it for washing dishes?

Also, how much time does it take to make, how long does it last (is it super concentrated?), and how much does it end up costing?

Is it similar at all to Dr. Bronner's soap? :)


Loretta said...

I mainly use it for laundry now, but plan to use it for other uses including dishes later when my supply of dish soap runs out.

This post was written back in September, but I still love using it. My original purchase of soapnuts was for one pound at $15, bought in bulk from a health food store. Unfortunately they are not in business anymore, so I may be searching for another source. Of that original bag I have maybe 1/3 still left to use. It takes maybe 10-15 minutes of hands-on time. More time to boil, then simmer, then let it cool on it's own. I follow the 15 nuts to 6 1/2 cups water ratio as the Earth's Bounty website link in the post states. In that link you'll also see the tips and other uses besides laundry that you can use it for.
I love it and it's cheap. I just don't have numbers to show.
One batch usually lasts me at least 1 month. We are a family of four.
I have used Dr. Bronner's soap. I think it some ways it is similar, but cheaper. It has a nice feel to it when things are clean. For example when I wash the pot out that I make it in on the stove, it is squeaky clean when I rinse it. Very nice. Love it.

Loretta said...

Another tip to remember when making this soap...

Leave the lid off the pot once you've added the crushed soapnuts...and then watch carefully. It is soap after all and it will boil over if left unattended. (Ask me how I know...the good part is- it's very easy to clean your stove even if this happens!) =)

So make sure you turn it down to a simmer once it has reached the boiling point.

John David said...

I heard of these just last week when I was visiting friends who use them for laundry. They just put 3 or 4 in a little cloth bag and throw that in the washer. They say it lasts for 3 or 4 loads.

Loretta said...

John David,
Yes, using them in a small cloth bags works too. It's an easy option for those especially using warm water, from what I understand.
I like to use cold water for almost all of my wash, so I like something that is already in a liquid form to work a bit better for cold water.

Loretta said...

A couple of other tips that I thought of re-reading this post.

I now use this liquid soap to wash my towels and washcloths. Since I currently have microfiber kitchen towels and noticed that it didn't keep them as absorbent as I'd like, I emailed the company that I'd bought my soapnuts from. They wrote back saying that they've heard people have that same trouble, until they add in either baking soda or vinegar. So now I add in one of those (about 1/2 cup baking soda or (Not both!) 1 cup white distilled vinegar. Please remember not to use both in the same load unless of course, you want a "volcano" reaction in your washing machine!!!

This little tip allows me to wash all of our laundry using this soapnut soap. I have even been known to add in either of these when I want a little more scrubbing power or deodorizing power. Although I will say, soapnut soap does great on it's own.

My clothes washer is an old Maytag ("vintage" 1980 - just checked with the Whirlpool Maytag Dryer is from 1979) and it's longest agitation cycle is only 10 minutes. So a little help here and there is good. I figure that the soapnut soap will help it last even longer, because there is no harsh chemicals being used in the wash.

Another change from my original post: I sometimes do not pour the soap through my nut milk bag. The reason is that most of the soap nuts go to the bottom and I just pour it off the top into another container. The leftover boiled and cooled pieces I use to scrub out a sink or two and then I sometimes use it one more time to scrub my toilet! Just flush it down afterwards. Make it do double duty, or more. =)

One more thing to note: As far as using lavender oil...I don't regularly use it anymore, but you can use any essential oil you enjoy. Lavender is a traditional laundry scent from many years ago, from what I understand.

Thanks for reading.

Loretta said...

I have corrected the links in this post. They should work correctly for new sites about soap nuts.