Hair shampoo , Detergent , Bath soap , Floor cleaner , Pesticide , Dish washing liquid , Jewellery cleaner , Mosquito repellent , Bath for Pets , Kitchen cleaner , using Soapnuts , an environment friendly and sustainable solution.
My earliest memories of Soapnuts are from my childhood days when my Mom would give us (me and my sister) a hair wash using the liquid extracted from Soapnuts .
Soapnuts or soap berries grow in India , in the Himalayas and in South India. They are light to dark brown in color when ready to pick and one to two centimeters in diameter with a hard black and big seed. When dry they are shelled and can be used like soap as they give a lot of lather.
I remember my late paternal aunt used to get a big sack full of soapnuts whenever she visited us. She lived in a village adjacent to the Tirumala hills. The soapnut tree grows wild in the forests on the Hills.
Soapnuts for washing Hair :
Ok, So let’s go back in time, almost 3-4 decades ago , when shampoos were unheard of and the soapnut ritual took place every sunday at my home. Come Sunday morning , two big handfuls of soapnuts were broken by placing each one on the floor and breaking them open using a small round granite stone or placed in a Mortar and Pestle which was dedicated for breaking up the soapnuts. The big black seeds would be separated from the shells and the shells would be soaked in water .While the soapnuts were soaking , a copper water boiler would be filled with water and coals would be fired up at the bottom of the boiler drum.
The soapnuts would soften while the water got hot and they were squeezed with the hand to extract the juice from the soapnuts. The soapnut extract would be filtered into another vessel and more water was added to the remaining pulp. If required the soapnuts would be squeezed again.
This extract was the shampoo during those days. At times the liquid would get into the eyes and the eyes would burn and become red. We would sprinkle cold water on the eyes and get some relief. Very soon the eyes were back to normal.
After washing the hair , it was time to dry the hair using towels and letting the hair dry naturally in the sun. We let our hair down and stood under the sun. Mom didnt let us use the Hairdryer which Dad had bought from Italy when he went there on Official work. She felt that the heat from the dryer would damage the scalp and make the hair brittle.
Once the hair is around 70% dried up , Mom would comb our long hair to disentangle the knots and then braid the hair into one or two plaits. All our neighbours envied our long hair.
This was the morning routing every Sunday morning.
It was this ritual which helped in the growth of thick long and healthy hair , soft hair , no dandruff ,no loss of hair and no grey hair.
Very soon , we starting washing the hair ourselves and found a short cut to extract the soapnut liquid. We simply put the soapnuts in a vessel, poured water and heated the water. While the water cooled down , the soapnuts would become very soft and it was very easy to squeeze and extract the liquid. Mom somehow didnt like what we did, and complained that we were too lazy 🙂
Soapnuts as a Body scrub :
I also remember Mom telling us to use the soft soapnut pulp to scrub the skin instead of using a soap. Good for the skin as they prevent/heal skin problems like eczema and psoriasis. These nuts have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties too.
Very soon we began hearing of shampoos and initially we used these shampoos once in a while when we were in a hurry and didnt have the time to soak and squeeze .
Didnt take very long for all to forget soapnuts and shampoos were here to stay. The comfort , convenience , instant solution for a hair wash was too good. What followed was dandruff, loss of hair, brittle hair , split hair and grey hair.
Having realised the benefitsand advantages of soapnuts over shampoos , we are now scrambling back to the traditional methods.
Since a couple of years I had been searching the shelves in the supermarkets for soapnuts and didnt find any. I was surprised that they had disappeared.
To this day , I dont see them yet in the supermarkets, but glad they are available online.
Washing silks and woolens with Soapnut extract :
For my wedding , I had several heavy silk sarees and maintaining silk sarees is an art . While discussing as to how I should clean and maintain Silk sarees with Mom, she told me to soak my silk sarees in soapnut extract diluted in a in a bucket of water and give them a gentle scrub with the hands.
Delicate and expensive garments can thus be cleaned using natural soapnut extract so they last long compared to using chemical based detergents.
Cleaning Gold jewellery with Soapnut extract :
She also once told me to clean gold jewelry with this extract. I just soak the jewellery in the soapnut extract for a while and use an old toothbrush to clean them.
Soapnut extract as an Organic/Natural Pesticide for Plants :
I have been doing some kitchen gardening using Organic fertilisers/pesticides since one year and I watch videos on youtube whenever I require some information. I then learnt how soapnut extract can be used as a pesticide spray for plants. This is a natural way to control pests.
Mother Nature’s Detergent :
Eco friendly products and sustainable solutions are the need of the hour and soapnuts are Mother Natures detergent given to humanity.
The soapnuts can be used as a detergent to wash clothes in the washing machine. Tie around 4-5 soapnuts in a cotton pouch or put them in an old socks and toss it into the washing machine.
How to prepare and use Soapnut extract :
Method 1 : Prepare soapnut extract by soaking the nuts overnight. Nest morning , squeeze the soapnuts with your hand for the best results and strain the liquid using a strainer.
Method 2 : Boil the soapnuts in water for 15 mins. Let the water cool down. Now you can squeeze the softened soapnuts and extract the liquid. Strain the liquid using a strainer.
The extract can be stored in a refrigerator. If left outside it will begin to smell and has to be discarded.
Fresh extract is recommended.
Other uses of the Soapnut Extract :
The extract can be diluted with water and used for all the following purposes .
- Dish washing liquid
- Washing Fruits and vegetables
- Floor cleaner
- Mosquito Repellant
- Glass cleaner
- Hand wash
- Glass, Tiles, Kitchen counters
- Giving a bath to your pets
The water that is left after all the washing can be let into the water harvesting pit or used for watering the plants in the garden.
I have begun using soapnuts for laundry, washing utensils, floor cleaner, as a bath soap, washing hair, as a pesticide, washing silks and also as a hand wash.
Laundry detergent , Dishwash liquid , Handwash liquid etc are available online.
While searching for good products to sanitize fruits and vegetables, during the ongoing pandemic , I came across one good product named Bubblenut Wash. Here it is –
There are other cleaning products sold by the same company. It is very convenient to buy and start using them.
I now prepare a batch of soapnut liquid by soaking the soapnuts overnight and use it the next day for all my cleaning jobs.
Old is gold !!