Entries in Soap Nuts (5)

Friday
Nov022012

Footprints

A lot of people these days are legitimately concerned about the sustainability of products and the extensive processing and distance these same products have to travel to get into their homes. Something that grows in your backyard garden always tastes better than something that grew far away, then had to travel via various means to get into your veggie drawer. Unless of course it's something that just doesn't grow in your climate. If you've ever tried to grow bananas or pineapple in your backyard anywhere north of California you'll know what I'm talking about. Pretty well impossible, and whatever you end up getting in terms of fruit (if you get that far) is most likely inedible. However, when I need a pineapple or a banana, I can get them from the store down the street thanks to someone importing them. For that I am thankful. The variety of foods we have these days, thanks to fast transport such as aircraft, is amazing. Although importing cucumbers from Mexico when the farm down the street sells them seems kind of goofy to me.

I find the same thing rings true with how many ingredients are in what I buy. Somehow the more I understand of what is in it, the better it tastes. The ice cream that has 5 ingredients (all of which I can pronounce) just tastes better than the stuff that has 20, half of which are chemicals that, in my opinion, I don't particularly wish to consume. I suppose the best option would be to have everything made with ingredients that are grown somewhat close to home, rather than having something made with heavily processed ingredients created in large factories overseas. But that is mighty hard to come by unless you commit to making everything completely from scratch with local ingredients. Quite frankly, I don't always have time to do that.

Laundry detergent really isn't that different. What most people don't realise is that even the super eco-friendly detergent made in North America has many ingredients in it, several of which are guaranteed to be produced in large processing plants, most likely overseas. Take this one for example http://goo.gl/hTZV8.

That's one thing that I really love about soap nuts. One ingredient. Yes, it has to come from India or Nepal, but that's simply because they don't grow in our climate. And there is only one ingredient coming from overseas, not several that then have to be processed further, combined, and packaged in plastic jugs. The environmental impact that is the result of the refining of other natural products, such as coconuts and corn, to get them to the point of being useful as detergent, can't even compete with the one process soap nuts have to go through. Drying. And even that is done by the sun. I don't know about you, but that more than makes up for the fact that they have to come from far away. It's like the raw food diet of the detergent world I suppose. Simple, effective, and better for you and the planet.

Sunday
May012011

Used Soap Nuts

There is always going to be some debate as to when all the soap is gone from a soap nut shell, but we believe this is a reasonable representation of "all used up".

The shells in the first of these photos just came out of the wash, and if I am remembering correctly they were used for somewhere around 4 cold washes, 2 warm and one hot, not necessarily in that order. We tend to use them until there are no more semi-transparent patches, they've began to split and crumble, and when we squeeze them while their wet, very little or no bubbles come from the flesh. As you can see, the outside of the shell has turned a lighter tan and almost grey colour, and the inside is a fleshy tan, and is now opaque. For a picture of a completly unused shell please refer to the first picture on the Notes on Quality blog post.

At this point we put them in a mug that lives on the dryer. These used up shells then get hot water poured over them while the next wash is filling, and the "tea" is added to the next wash. This is purely a way of getting every little last bit of soap from the shells, and is not a necessary step. I just like knowing I'm not getting rid of good soap!

These next two photos are of dried out used up shells, and when they are dry it is much easier to see that there is little no no thickness left to the shell. They are paper thin, tear very easily, and have almost no weight left. Just as the wet ones, they are now opaque, and are cracked and crumbling. If they go through the dryer they will either come out looking like this once they are used up, or once they have dried out by any other means. If they still have some soap left, they will have semi-transparent patches, and will be much tougher to tear.

Hopefully this is useful to those of you who are always left wondering if you are getting all you can out of your soap nuts! And remember, you will get more than the estimated number of loads if you have an HE washing machine.