How to Use Eco Friendly Soapberries for Laundry




Introduction: How to Use Eco Friendly Soapberries for Laundry

About: I am married with two children. Spring, summer, and fall are my very favorite times of the year. I enjoy working in the yard, sewing, cooking, quilting, gardening, and creating. I do this to keep my sanity.

It seems to me the past few years going green has gained popularity; not just because it is trendy but in many cases it is a necessary choice. When I was a young woman I rarely heard about anyone who had allergies. Now, I am not surprised when I hear someone tell me they have them. It can be discouraging when you think about all the chemicals we are exposed to everyday; no wonder so many people are suffering with allergies from the chemicals that are being used.

With that said, a green laundry soap would make unique Eco friendly gifts or favor bags and would comfortably fit into any budget and bring about green awareness. Adding a pamphlet with the benefits and washing instructions would be a plus. I believe they would be well received.

I have been making my own laundry soap for the past few years and have been very happy with the results. I have been wanting to try different methods, using fewer ingredients, less water, and electricity. We will be moving sometime this year and the price of water and electricity is much higher where we are moving; than what we pay now. We plan on designing a way to save grey water when we re-locate.

This instructable will share how to use soapberries to wash clothes and how well they worked. This is an entry for the instructables contest. If you are interested in voting please vote at the top right corner and thanks in advance. Lets get started.

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Step 1: Ingredients and Supplies

You should use a small cotton bag to place the soapberries in so it is not a nuisance to remove the berries from the washer. I suggest making several. One thing I noticed with the bags that I made; were they had to be tied in a knot to prevent the berries from falling out. I think it was because I did not use a heavier cord. I tried a heavier cord and it was too heavy. I could not find an in-between size to purchase. The next time I make them I will try a button or Velcro instead.

Supplies and tools:

De-seeded and dried soap-berries from your own tree or order them online.

Scraps of cotton fabric Matching thread

Sewing machine or sewing needle

Iron optional but very helpful

Embroidery thread and hoop if you want to make them pretty

Sewing scissors

Tape measure

Brass safety pin and a sewing pin

Pencil and pattern optional

Seam ripper optional

Small cording for draw string or Velcro or button for closure

Lighter or match

Step 2: Soapberry Tree

I have been reading discussions over the internet about the soapberry tree for sometime now. I live in an area where the western soap-berry tree is a native tree. I was interested in the tree for harvesting soapnuts so I could use the nuts for an Eco friendly laundry soap.

I called my friend who owns a seed store and she told me where a soapberry tree was in our area. So I took pictures to share with you. The western soapberry tree grows in zones 8-10. Sadly it takes ten years before they produce soapberries. For best results; scarify the seeds and pour boiling water over them and soak them until you see roots. This could take up to 3 months. Plant them and in a few years you will have a great shade tree and in a few more years you can harvest the soapberries.

The soapberry flowers can be male or female or both and may or may not pollinate. The tree is a drought tolerant shade tree that attracts butterflies and bees. Soapnuts contain saponins which are considered an Eco friendly soap; if of course the trees are grown without the use of chemicals.

Soapnuts have been used for washing clothes for thousands of years. The nuts are harvested in the winter, cleaned, de-seeded, and are sun-dried. The shells are used to wash clothes, hair, and for cleaning. Soapberries are safe for septic tanks and HE washers.They are great for people who have allergies and are gentle enough for babies. They are used for pet shampoos and deter fleas and ticks and for homamade cleaners.

If you are fortunate enough to live in zones 8-10 you might have a soapberry tree in your back yard. If not you could plant one from seed. You may purchase soapberries from a different variety that do produce larger nuts if they grow in your planting zone. The ones that grow here are rather small compared to the soapnuts I ordered.

Soapberries are picked when the berries are a dark brown and fleshy. They are cleaned and de-seeded by hand, sun dried, and the ones I received were stored in a cotton draw string bag. I did an extensive search online to make a decision on where to purchase them because a lot of sites mentioned those from China were not so good.

I read that the chinaberry tree is often mistaken for a soapberry tree. Infact I thought I found a soapberry tree and after looking online I am pretty sure it was a chinaberry tree.

Step 3: How to Make the Soapberry Bag

Here are the instructions for making the soapberry bags: If you will be embroidering the bags allow extra room for the fabric to go into a hoop before cutting it down to the pattern size.

Cut 2 pieces of fabric 7 X 3 3/4 inches ( I suggest making 3 bags)

Iron the top corners towards the wrong side of the fabric as shown.

Iron the top edge of the bag over to form a hem and press.

Turn under again and press for a nice finished edge.

Hand stitch or machine stitch the hem as shown.

Trim threads and press.

With right sides together; begin stitching at the side seams and bottom of the bag leaving the top open as shown.

Do not begin sewing at the very top of the fabric, see picture.

Clip threads and turn right side out. Use a sewing pin to pull out the corners; making them a nice sharp corner. Press.

Using a safety pin thread the cording through the top hem going all the way around the bag leaving the cord long. Thread a second thread and thread through the top hem of the bag, this time go through the hem at the opposite end. Leave a long cord.

Estimate how long the cords need to be and cut off as desired.

Place the strings together on each side and tie a knot at the ends on both sides.

Use a lighter to burn the ends of the cord.

That is it!

Place 5-6 soapnuts in each bag and tie the bag securely.

Step 4: Washing in Different Temperatures

There are several ways to use the soapberries:

Grind into a powder and use 2-3 teaspoons in wash water. My grinder is plastic and I did not wish to do this method.

For cold water wash; soak 5-6 soapberries or soapnuts in a cup of hot water for several minutes, pour water and soapberry bag into the washer. Re-use 4-7 times.

Soapnuts are no longer effective when they turn mushy and grayish and become very thin. At this point you may use them as compost.

Using hot water will reduce the number of times you can re-use them.

Soapnuts or soapberries should be re-moved after wash cycle to extend the number of times you may re-use them, however it does not hurt them to run the entire cycle as they will work as a fabric softener. They should be dried completely after the load is complete unless you are washing another load.

You can make a large batch using the ratio of 20 soapnuts per quart of hot water and soak them for about 10 minutes. Pictures show I used 1 cup of water to 5 soapnuts.

Remove the soapnut bag and air dry.

Refrigerate the solution for a few days or pour the liquid into icecube trays and freeze.

I removed the cubes from the tray and placed them in a plastic bag because I don't like to remove them from the trays.

For stains soapnuts do not work great so you will need to pre-treat and soak using a Eco friendly product.

The picture of the suds show that soapnuts have low suds.

Step 5: Washing Light to Medium Soiled Clothes

I washed my husbands jeans and shirts which were dirty from working in the yard.

I placed 5 soapnuts in the soapnut bag I made and secured the cord.

I placed the bag into the washer first and then loaded the jeans and shirts.

I washed them in warm water and allowed the soapnut bag to go through all the cycles.

I placed the soap nut bag on the counter to dry until the next load.

I was very please with the cleaning results and noticed they smelled fresh and clean with no noticeable scent.

I did not use dryer sheets and noticed immediately the jeans and heavy shirts felt much softer than usual.

My husband had to crawl under the house after I posted this instructable so I decided to add these pictures. He removed the clothing and shook off the dirt and I washed his shirt and work jeans, this time I placed the clothes in the washer with the sopanuts, warm water and allowed the cycle to finish washing and used a second rinse cycle. I did not add any laundry boosters and you can see how well the soapnuts cleaned the jeans and around the neckline of the shirt.

If you are washing childrens clothes or heavily soiled laundry add some washing soda to the soap nuts and soak in the washer for 20 minutes before completing the cycle.

This will saturate the fabric which will clean the laundry with better results.

Pre-treat stains as needed using an Eco friendly product.

Folks soapnuts really do work!

Step 6: Laundry Boosters

Vinegar can be used in the rinse cycle for an Eco friendly fabric softener and to sanitize.

Baking soda,oxygen bleach, and Super Washing powder are great laundry soap boosters and appear to be on the green list.

Step 7: Washing White Laundry

Washing the whites:

Washing whites using soapnuts will require a laundry booster.

I washed my first load of whites using 5 soapnuts in a soapnut bag, 2 soapnut ice-cubes and added washing soda to the load.

I soaked them for 20 minutes in hot water and then allowed the soapnuts to go through all the cycles and dried the soapnut bag on the counter.

You can see the results from the pictures.

I am going to try and find some oxygen bleach to try in the future.

I really do not want to use Clorox bleach. They are not as white as they might be by using bleach but they did come quite a bit cleaner than they were and they smelled nice.

Step 8: Advantages of Line Drying Clothes

Line drying clothes is a practical way to conserve energy. I have always liked to line dry my clothes because they smell so fresh when you wear them. My mother lined dried all of our clothes and I always knew when she washed the sheets. The unique smell from the sheets swooned me to sleep. I miss my clothesline!

The heat and tumbling action of the dryer will break down the fabric fibers in laundry; causing them to wear out faster. If you want your clothes to look nicer and last longer the secret is line drying. The more lint in the lint trap; the more damage to the garment.

I did notice after using the soapnuts that my dryer had a lot less lint. Usually the lint trap is completely full and it is thicker. Soapnuts do not leave a residue in your clothes like regular laundry soap.

Step 9: Sunshiine's Final Thoughts

After reading tons of reviews and comments; I have been washing clothes for 2 weeks using suggestions to some of the problems, such as does not perform well in cold water, stain removal, and whites were dingy. I am totally happy with the results. ( I have a He washer). Whites are brighter using real bleach but I don't choose to use it. I have not tried the oxygen beach but I plan to. You will need pre-treat and soak for stains using soapnuts. A small sacrifice when you think about reducing the amount of chemicals used that pollute the water. The laundry had a nice fresh smell with no noticeable scent. If you follow the instructions listed in this instructable I think you will be happy as well. I never read a review of anyone who had an allergy problem using soapnuts. I read a lot of reviews. If you have any questions please feel free to comment and I will answer them the best I can.

I have used this one for several years:

It is difficult for one person to estimate how much impact their efforts contribute to the green movement but when you view the results from a community perspective; the numbers change dramatically. All of the methods used in this instructable might not be something everyone will use but if they practice just one; it will increase the numbers and bring about change for our world.

I like to take a moment to thank instructables and contributors for making this community a great sharing experinece. Keep it green and healthy! Sunshiine

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    4 Discussions

    Passion Make
    Passion Make

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome Idea and so neatly presented :) Thank you for the Information :)


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks so much for commenting! I hope your day is bright and happy!



    5 years ago on Introduction

    The result is Amazing.. Ur thinking are always creative and Unique One.. Appreciate that :) Have a Great Day Sunshiine!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I enjoy experimenting and I love the concept of using this method. It is a lot easier than making my own from scratch. Have a beautiful day!