Has anybody tried replacing laundry detergent with "soap berries"? I found a few interesting sites about them, and wondered if anyone in the Zero Waste Home community had tried them. Apparently you put a few of these berries in a cloth bag with your laundry instead of detergent. They are reuseable too, and can go for 10+ loads of laundry, some sites say. What do you think?
Rebecca -- I tried them and they were not bad, but in the end I switched back to ultra concentrated detergent. They do feel a bit soapy, but I didn't have confidence that actual disinfecting was occurring. I will probably return to homemade detergent at some point, but have gotten very, very busy lately...
I use them and they work really well for me. Often I will add a spoonful of baking soda to the wash drawer and a splash of infused vinegar (citrus peels and eucalyptus oil, smells amazing) to the rinse. Regular white vinegar would work as well, but I love the smell of the infused vinegar. The combination seems to work really well, especially when washing towels. They come out really soft and fresh.
I don't like the fact they are produced in India/Nepa and then shipped back to the West.
I much prefer to use shredded soap with essential oil. The only difficult part is to grate, but otherwise you always use the same container.
Or very concentrated detergent.
I used to use them - even in our HE machine. We'd soak the berries in a small (plastic) dish of hot water for a few minutes then put the water in the HE soap dispenser. If you live in the native range of the Western Soapberry (Sapindus saponaria var. drumondii) tree you could seek one out or grow your own. If you have a nearby invasive Chinaberry tree (Melia azedarach) you could harvest it's berries before you cut that sucker down :)
I would STRONGLY recommend not to use it with white laundry. I used it and now white bedsheets and T-Shirts are grey colour. My husband complaints non stop that he needs new T-Shirts now... I have read about such things before using the Soap Nuts but somehow did not pay attention.
So I am using these soap nuts for dark clothes only.
I re-use the same nuts a few times with less and less water to get the most wash for my buck. I put the detergent in an old ugly Costco liquid detergent dispenser (it makes it super-easy to get the laundry running fast). I have to wash a ton of laundry because I have little kids and we have dust mite allergies. I have noticed my whites are not ultra white but since I stopped using bleach or non-natural detergents years ago, my white haven't been as pretty. I'm ok with that and in the summer time sometimes I can get them in the sun.
For our bed linens and cleaning rags I run the sanitize cycle on my machine.
For travel I bring a little muslin baggy with 5-8 soap nuts in it.
I'm thinking of trying to make a soap-nut based shampoo.
They are a nice alternative to coconut-derived products because one of my sons gets rashes from touching anything coconut and my mom has been experimenting with growing her own soap nut tree;)