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: Naturoli.com (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!