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My darling partner is a chef, which means he comes home with all manner of suspicious foodstuffs splattered across his chef whites and aprons. He’s actually pretty fastidious about being clean at work, but sometimes, that red sauce just ends up places it shouldn’t. And those chef whites are not easy to wash. We both suffer asthma from time to time, and strong detergents and chemicals set me off worse than almost anything. I used to pull our laundry from the washing machine and a huge waft of sickeningly sweet chemicals would hit me in the face. As I started this journey towards a more eco-friendly and toxin-free life I started thinking, ‘which horrid chemicals am I washing our clothes in and what is it doing to us??’
I began researching natural washing alternatives in a quest to rid our machine of nasties, and came across these little beauties: Soapberries. Now, this isn’t going to be like one of those awful washing detergent ads where I show you an extraordinarily hyper-saturated ‘before’ and a magically perfect ‘after’. I’m here to share what has worked for me, and some of the benefits that have come along with it. Simple. I mean it’s just washing your clothes that we’re talking about. Not saving the planet. Except that…it kind of is! Every load of washing you do with chemical-filled detergents is flushed out into the environment, where the toxins leak into our eco-system. Not ideal.
So what are Soapberries? If you haven’t seen them before, the concept seems kind of weird. Like, you throw these brownish red little balls in with your whites, and suddenly they’re clean? What?! Soapberries are actually the fruit of the Sapindus Mukorossi tree, found most prominently in the Himalayas. The shells of these fruit are very high in saponin, which is pretty much nature’s version of soap. They are anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and the That Red House soapberries are certified organic. That Red House sources sustainable Soapberries, and supports the ‘Grow Nepal’ initiative which according to their site ‘provides an income and fair working conditions for small Himalayan communities.’
Soapberries are super easy to use. Your kit will come with a largish canvas bag that contains the soapberries, and a smaller canvas bag that actually goes in the wash. The soapberries themselves are small crinkled reddish-brown little balls- about 4-5 will fit in the palm of your hand.
So, how do I use these mysterious little balls? Load your washing into the machine as you normally would, and then place 4-5 Soapberries in the small canvas bag and throw it straight in with the washing. Program your settings and start the load. So easy! Wash as per normal. You’ll find that after the first wash, the Soapberries have cracked open a bit.
I usually hang up the small canvas bag containing the used Soapberries in our laundry to dry out between loads. You can reuse the same 4-5 Soapberries around 4 times before they lose their washingability. That’s not a word. But you know what I’m saying. After that, I throw them in the compost and put some fresh ones in the bag.
And the result is…clean washing! Mostly. It’s a little more complicated than that. The Soapberries are more than capable of handling your day-to-day loads. Your weekly towels? Easy! Bed sheets? No problems! Bolognese-stained chef whites? Not going to happen. Sure, the rest of the jacket will be nice and clean, but that red stain will still be there. The That Red House website has a number of recipes for using your Soapberries in creative ways, one of which is a stain remover. I haven’t quite gotten around to mixing up my Soapberry-stain-removing potion yet, but when I do I’ll update you on the result.
- Less nasty chemicals rubbing against your skin (especially if your clothing is organic and/or naturally dyed).
- My partner has had no reactions to Soapberries, and he is allergic to nearly all laundry detergents.
- Less chemicals running down the drain.
- Compostable product.
- Re-usable bags and storage.
Sweetening the deal:
After using Soapberries, your washing will come out smelling gently…fresh. Which is fine, and much better than a ‘Tropical Lily’ scent from a bottle that most certainly doesn’t contain tropical lilies. But, sometimes it can be nice to mix things up a little bit. You know, get a little wild with your washing. When I feel like doing this, I just add a few drops of an essential oil like lavender or eucalyptus for sweet-smelling sheets.
You can purchase these little beauties here to begin your organically-clean laundry journey.