Sunday, September 21, 2014

Preserving Soap Nut Liquid

I started using soap nuts last spring when I was fighting a nasty battle with the yeast in my daughters' cloth diapers.  I'd been cloth diapering for nearly seven years without ever having this problem.  Everything I used to strip the diapers of the yeast and get rid of the horrific yeast rashes on my girls wasn't working.  Someone recommended washing them with soap nuts and at that point I was willing to try anything.  I did it and haven't turned back.  In fact, I loved them so much I started using them for all of our laundry.

Soap nuts are actually berries that grow on trees native to India and Nepal.  These berries contain saponins, making them a wonderful, natural cleanser for everything from laundry to dishes to even personal care.

Soap nut suds for the dishes

Soap nuts are also an extremely environmentally-friendly soap option because the trees they grow on do not need to be sprayed with pesticides.  The berries are naturally pest-resistant.  The soap does not contaminate water and the nuts can be composted after use.  It doesn't get much better than that!

The annoying little laundry bag

The most common way to use soap nuts in your laundry is to crack open a few, place them in a cloth bag, and toss them in with your laundry.  I have found that using them this way in my laundry creates several problems - it can be annoying to find the little baggie in the clean load of laundry and it can be difficult to determine whether or not your nuts are still creating suds.  Each nut should last through at least three loads of laundry, but I have found that their length of use is dependent on which cycle you are using on your machine.  Cloth diapers, for example, typically have an extra rinse, so if I do not fish the baggie out between the wash and rinse cycles the nuts will be exposed to water again and lose more of their strength.

To fix these issues I decided to make my own concentrated soap nut liquid.  But this liquid can spoil, so I had to figure out a way to preserve it.  Many people freeze their liquid in ice cube trays and throw a few in each load, but with limited freezer space in my house (and a slight canning addiction) I figured canning would be a better option.

Here's how I do it:

I use smaller jars - pints or half-pints - since the liquid can spoil.  Each half-pint will get me about three loads worth of soap, so with a family of six that cloth diapers I can easily use that up before it spoils.  I place 2-4 cracked nuts in the bottom of each jar.

Next I fill the jars with water.

Process in the pressure canner for 15 minutes on 10 psi or the water bath for 30 minutes and you have your liquid soap.

It's that easy!  

When I open a new jar I strain it into a different jar and then throw the cooked nuts into the compost.

A few things to note about the soap:

*I use approximately 1/4 cup liquid per load of laundry.  

*The soap itself is nearly scentless.  If I had to describe the smell it would be slightly fruity, but none of it remains on the clothing.  If you like scented laundry soap you could add a few drops of essential oil to the liquid after you open the jar.

*I have not had any issues with staining clothing, but when I do a load of whites I make sure to add the liquid to the water instead of just throwing it directly on the clothing.

*I use vinegar as a fabric softener and have not had any issues with it combined with the soap nut liquid.

*If I open a jar and am not going to use it within a few days I will put it in the fridge.  I'm not quite sure how long it would last in there before spoiling, but I've used some after a week and it was fine.

The laundry cabinet

If you're looking for a cheap, environmentally-friendly, and gentle cleanser I would definitely try out soap nuts!  My next experiment will be using the liquid as a shampoo.  I'll be sure to share how it goes.

God bless!