Tag Archives: laundry

Soap Nuts: My Experience (Eco Nuts Soap Nuts Sample Review)

This article is talking about soap nuts. To save time, I’ve shortened this to  ‘nuts’ during most of the article, resulting in some… funny sentences. Please try to excuse these as you read through the article.


Like before committing to doing most things, I did some research about soap nuts long before I decided to try them.

In my research, I learned that soap nuts grow primarily in two places: the Himalayan mountains, and Canada. Being in Canada, I thought it would make more sense for me to try some soap nuts that were native here. If for nothing else, it would be pretty wasteful/silly of me to ship something in from another country that naturally grows here, right?

Right. Or, so you’d think.

Apparently, Canadian soap nuts (which are commonly referred to as ‘buffalo berries’), are considered endangered, and thus are not available for purchase. While I understand wanting to preserve the plant (you can’t even buy the seeds to plant your own!), as said above, it seems silly for Canadian who want a more natural laundry detergent to have to spend money on shipping a native plant from the Himalayas.

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That said, I really wanted to see if they were worth the hype, so I found this company called Eco Nuts, and ordered their sample pack of soap nuts in late May, 2021. (They arrived early June) This was a Canadian company that unfortunately no longer exists (they were already going out of business when I placed my order). I had naively thought that if I was ordering from a Canadian company, I would be getting the Canadian buffalo berries.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case, as their About page stated that their nuts were from the Himalayan mountains.

The quest for buying Canadian soap nuts aside, I was actually very impressed with how well they worked, and was even gifted a bag of soap nuts from the biggest Canadian distributor, Sinfully Wholesome for Christmas in 2021, so I thankfully have a lot of soap nuts to go through while I try to figure out another more natural, native solution.

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Even though it was a sample box, the Eco Nuts Sample was a lot smaller than I thought it’d be. I had no idea how big the berries were, or how many I’d get to fulfill 10 loads of laundry (as the sample pack page said).

Turns out, 4 whole berries + 1 half and a mesh bag was all I apparently needed.

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Now, I’m going to be honest, I ended up reading the FAQ page wrong at first, so my soap nuts didn’t last for 10 loads.

See, the way soap nuts work is that they have this thing called saponin in them, which is the part that makes them actually clean stuff. It’s also the thing we try to replicate when making man-made soaps. To get the nuts to secrete it, you have to agitate the nuts (or rub them together in your hands) and use some warm water to soften the hard exterior shell, so it can seep out.

Now, as someone who has a lot of dark-coloured clothes, I basically exclusively wash all my clothes in cold water, because using hot water a) is bad for them, since it could make the colours bleed, or shrink them, and b) uses unnecessary resources/heat and therefore, wastes money. (And let’s be honest, not many of us have ‘extra’ money to blow on something so small)

Anyway, so on the Eco Nuts FAQ page, it said that if you were going to wash clothes in cold water, you could still use the nuts, just that you had to make a sort of tea with them – put the nuts in the mesh bag, and then pour boiling/hot water on them, let them soak (to get the saponin out), then pour the ‘tea’ into the washing machine, then wash as normal.

The part of that I seemed to miss, was the part that said you’re supposed to pour both the tea and the bag of nuts in the washer, because they will still secrete some saponins, because of the agitation of the machine. So the very first load I did with them, I just dumped the tea in, and left the nuts out.

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Soap nut ‘tea’, I used a chopstick as a stir stick.

Honestly though, I did it exactly the way I make tea, meaning I boiled water in my kettle, and immediately poured it over the nuts, so I think I took out all the saponins that were inside them. Which isn’t necessarily bad, but I think because I did this, I kind of screwed myself for the following loads.

The first tea I made, the colour was a dark brown colour, and it actually looked like I had made tea with them. The second tea I made, the water colour barely changed. And the third time I made the tea, it didn’t change colours at all.

Aside from that, when I made the first ‘tea’, I discovered that the nuts had a faint smell to them while they were soaking. It wasn’t a bad smell per se, but it also wasn’t good. It faintly smelled like clean laundry, but also had a… pungent-ness that definitely wasn’t apitizing. Which I guess is good, because even though they’re called soap nuts, you’re not really supposed to eat them.

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Close up of a dry soap nut and the mesh bag, fresh out of the sample pack.

After washing my clothes as normal, using the tea, when I pulled them out to put the in the dryer, I smelled them, and they didn’t smell like anything. They didn’t smell dirty/unclean, but they also didn’t have that artificial ‘cleanliness’ smell that most detergents leave. They were neutral.

Some people may not like their clothes smelling like nothing, but honestly since I started this more natural living journey, I found it actually quite refreshing. I don’t know if it’s my mind playing tricks, or something that happens once you start cutting out a lot of man-made chemical products from your day-to-day, but I’ve actually notice myself becoming more sensitive to those chemical smells.

And the weirdest part is they never used to bother me before! I used to just smell the smell, and not the chemicals, if that makes sense. I used to find it pleasant, and now I just… don’t. Whether it’s laundry detergent, certain soaps and shampoos, dryer sheets, or aerosol sprays, they’re just not things I want around me, anymore. (Not that I wanted them around me anyways, but that was ‘just the way it was’)

The website also said that soap nuts had natural anti-static and anti-cling properties, so you wouldn’t need a dryer sheet when drying. I’d been not using dryer sheets for a little bit before that (I made some homemade ones and had been using those) so I didn’t bother tossing in a ‘regular’ (store-bought) dryer sheet, or a homemade one.

The clothes came out not static-y at all, but I don’t think this was more the material of the clothes I was washing, and not the soap nuts themselves, because on a later load, I did the same thing, and the clothes came out very static-y.

I only ended up using this pack of soap nuts for 4 loads of laundry, because as I said above, the ‘tea’ I made seemed to get much weaker after the 1st time. I still have the nuts and the bag, though. I was actually going to save them to do a comparison for this article, so you could see the difference between new and dried up soap nuts.

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Soap nuts air-drying after being through the washer.

I say ‘was’ because while I can see with my eye that the nuts are a different colour, for some reason, the difference hardly shows up on my phone camera. I don’t know if there’s some colour setting I need to change, or if it’s just a lighting thing, but I couldn’t get a good comparison picture, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

You can definitely tell the used nuts are a lighter when compared to not-used nuts. They most likely will also not remain whole by the time you’re done with them. Especially if making ‘tea’ with them, you’ll need to stir them around in the water to make sure the saponins are actually coming out. Submerging the nuts like this makes them soft, and thus more prone to breaking.

All in all, I definitely think soap nuts are a great alternative for people looking to change to a more natural laundry detergent/cleaner. I also think if you’re able to get your hands on some (sustainably, of course), you should definitely test them out for yourself!


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2 Zero Waste Recipes to Replace Store Bought

Going zero waste might seem like a massive undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be!

No one is saying you have to throw out all your non-zero waste items/products – in fact, it’s actually less ‘zero waste’ if you do! It’s much better to use what you have, and then when it comes time to replace things, swap out landfill-bound items for more sustainable ones.

Doing this will not only ensure you use up everything you have until it’s gone, which in term will be better for the environment, but it can also help lessen the amount of stress you feel to switch your lifestyle.

Listen, I get it: now that you know, you can’t un-know, and you want to get started on being the new you ASAP. That is fantastic news – the world needs as many eco-heroes as it can get! But instead of creating more unneeded waste, start slow, and build up your eco-friendly life one thing at a time.

To get you started, I’ve listed 2 zero waste recipes you can switch your store-bought items for the next time you finish them. Keep in mind, that while these DIY recipes are better for the environment, they may not work exactly the same as store-bought products. But, I don’t want you to fret, I’ve tested and used both, and they still get the job done!

1. Toothpaste

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Baking Soda
  • 4 Drops Peppermint Essential Oil (Optional)

First up, is this zero waste toothpaste. This recipe is great, because it only has 3 ingredients (or 2), and comes together in less than 5 minutes! (Assuming you don’t have to run around your house or go to the store to order the ingredients) Just mix together all the ingredients in a jar, or storage container, and boom, you’re done. What could be easier than that?

Another great thing about this toothpaste is: you know exactly what’s in it! Not only that, but you’ll get the same benefits as traditional toothpaste, without all the unnecessary added ingredients or manmade chemicals!

Baking soda is actually the ingredient traditional toothpastes use to clean your teeth, and it’s also been used as a whitening agent. (You can use baking soda both as a whitening agent for laundry [which will be talked about below] and for teeth)

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The coconut oil has antimicrobial properties, and it’s a natural alternative to other manmade chemical-laded antimicrobial products, which means it’s naturally healthier for you. Being a natural ingredient not only means it’s SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) and SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) free, but it’s also been shown to inhibit the growth of bad mouth bacteria, like s. mutans (Streptococcus mutans is the official name). These s mutans are one of the major bacteria’s that cause plaque and tooth decay due to their acidity.

SLS and SLES are foaming agents that are often found in shampoos, soaps, etc. They are the reason for all the bubbles/suds you get when you lather, however, they have been shown to cause allergic reactions (which is something I found out the hard way when testing some Lush shampoo), and, when used in toothpastes, they can actually mess with your taste buds!

The peppermint essential oil may seem like it’s just there to give you a better flavour, which is right – it will give you that classic mint-y clean feel you’re used to, but peppermint essential oil has a lot of other great benefits as well! One of which, is giving your energy levels a boost. I’m not too sure on the exact science as to why it gives you an energy boost (I haven’t done too much research into essential oils yet), but I can definitely attest to it working!

Whether that’s a matter of placebo or not is yet to be determined, but in either case, it will definitely make this homemade toothpaste taste better (without, it will taste like baking soda + coconut oil, which is pretty salty and not in a good way), so if nothing else, you could still use it for that.

I’ve been using this homemade toothpaste since April 2021, and aside from the saltiness the first time using it (I didn’t add enough peppermint), I don’t really have any complaints. It works great! The only thing to note is that because the base is coconut oil, it may solidify, or liquefy depending on the temperature. This is completely normal, and you can still use it in either state.

However, if you need it more solid (or less solid), you can either pop the jar into the fridge, or run it under hot water, or, place it in front of a vent/near something hot for a few minutes. You may also need to re-stir the coconut oil and baking soda together if it liquefies.

*Important: Make sure if you’re using essential oil, you get one that says it’s safe to consume. Some of them say to not use orally!

 

2. Laundry Cubes/Toilet Cleaner

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Ingredients:

  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar

I know how this sounds, but baking soda + vinegar can be used to clean just about anything, and these cubes are perfect for a lot of those different uses!

I originally made these cubes after wanting to switch my man-made chemical-filled laundry detergent. I had discovered the world of soap nuts, but while I was on my quest to get my hands on some (apparently the native-to-Canada ones can’t be sold/bought because they’re protected), I still had to do laundry.

Since I had already learned vinegar + baking soda was strong enough to clean a toilet bowl, and bath tub, I figured it was strong enough to clean my not-that-dirty everyday clothing. I did a bit of research anyway, and discovered vinegar and baking soda were used often in conjunction with conventional laundry detergents to help up their oomph.

I learned baking soda was often used to make white clothes whiter, and vinegar was a natural way to eliminate odours, brighten and even soften clothing. This is because it contains acetic acid, which also makes it a disinfectant, antibacterial, and anti-a-lot-of-other things. (This is why vinegar can be used to clean so many household items)

After learning that, I figured what the hell, and decided to try doing a load. The load I did was of my reusable pads, and while I was a little skeptical when they went in, I was really impressed with how they came out! The mixture had gotten all of the blood stains (‘gross!’ I know, but that’s just what happens when you get blood in fabric) out, and had completely eliminated that used pad smell. In fact, when I pulled them out of the washer, they didn’t smell like anything. There was no ‘this is clean’ fake laundry detergent scent, but they also no longer had that ‘we’re dirty’ smell – they were neutral.

It may have also been my imagination, or the agitation from just being in the washing machine, but they also felt more ‘fluffy’ then when I had tossed them in. I don’t know if it was for sure the baking soda and vinegar, but the next load I tried I did regular clothes, and, (once they came out of the dryer) I discovered they were much softer than usual, and they weren’t static-y at all.

After test washing two loads (one pads, one clothes) with the mixture, I decided to go ahead and make a bigger batch to be used for later loads. I have an ice cube tray I had used when making shower bombs as x-mas gifts for friends and family a few years ago that I used, and I used the same formula to make the cubes.

First, I measured out the baking soda into a bowl, then, I very, very slowly (like, 1 tsp at a time slowly) added the vinegar, mixing after each spoonful, to make sure it was fully incorporated. Once thoroughly mixed, I filled the ice cube tray, and let the cubes dry out.

Once they were mostly dry, I turned the cubes out of the tray onto a wire rack (like one used to cool cookies), and let them sit for another 24 hours, just to make sure they were fully dried.

After that, I transferred them to a jar for storage. Then, whenever I needed to do laundry, I could just take a cube and toss it into the water as the washing machine filled up.

This recipe makes 12 cubes, however, you can make the cubes smaller in size, if you aren’t doing big loads of laundry. I have a double load washer, meaning I can fit twice as many clothes in 1 wash as a regular person, so a full cube is perfect for doing those big loads. But if you’re doing clothes for say, one or two people, a half-sized cube should work fine.

You could still use a full cube, since it’s not like it would over-wash your clothes, but if you want to get the most you can out of one batch, I’d recommend making half-sized ones, instead.

Of course, once you make a batch, you can always experiment to see how big of a cube you personally need.

Also, if you’re using it as a toilet bowl cleaner, it’s similar to the washing machine: drop it into the bowl, and then let it sit for a few minutes (I usually do about 5-10) before scrubbing it with the brush. Flush once done scrubbing, and it should be clean and ready to go!


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