Do you ever get irritated with the heady, fake fragrances of chemical-based laundry detergents and fabric softeners? I do. Which is why I have enjoyed using nature's alternative cleaning agents--namely, my allies, "Essential Oils," "White Vinegar,"and "Soap Nuts"!
Have you heard of soap nuts? They are your 100% pure and natural alternative to those glaring, plastic-packaged detergents and fabric softeners lining grocery store shelves. Soap nuts (or soap "berries") grow on shrubs in the tropics, and have been used in Asia since ancient times. They're hypoallergenic, eco-friendly, and dual-purpose as both detergent and softener. They're cheap--reusable for up to several loads. And they're zero-waste—discard them into your compost pile, and viola! your laundry routine becomes regenerative agriculture!
I use soap nuts in two ways. By making them into liquid detergent, or simply "bagging" them. My favourite way is the latter. It's easy, with zero preparation time. Just place a handful of dry soap nuts (6 - 8) into a small cotton bag tied at the top with a pony tail and toss it into the washer. For this method I use warm or hot water--the higher temps activate the "saponins" in the soap nuts, producing that wonderful "soaping effect."
However, when washing with cold water I like to use my homemade liquid laundry detergent (check out the link below for a great recipe for liquid detergent). All you need is a large pot, a lid, about 30 large soap nuts, 12 cups of boiling water, 20 drops of essential oils of your choice (Lemon, Tee Tree, and Lavender are some lovely options), a strainer, and a glass jug or jar to store your detergent in. There's an option to add salt to your liquid detergent as a natural preservative, but with 11 people in our house, 1/2 cup of detergent per load, and a cold basement to store it in, there are plenty of laundry loads completed before the detergent has a chance to go bad.
Depending on the type of load or its soil level I'll do an extra rinse and spin cycle. Heavily soiled and heftier fabrics like jeans, towels, and dishcloths seem to need this. White vinegar does the job beautifully, and even offers its own softening effect. 1/2 cup of vinegar, mixed with 8 - 10 drops of essential oil of choice added to the rinse and spin cycle, helps penetrate and remove any extra dirt and grime still lodged in the fibres, leaving your fabrics smelling fresh and happy! Lemon is a beautiful oil for this. When fused with the clean, fruity smell offered by soap nuts, lemon's fresh, invigorating aroma can turn a basketful of clean clothes into a potpourri to nestle your nose in. Truly irresistible.
Clear water, blue skies, and clean clothes are some of life's nicest things; and clothes that smell of wind and sunshine just add to the pleasure of wearing a clean garment or sleeping between fresh linens. Which brings me to our next ally, that ingenious, solar-friendly "Wash-line"!
Solar and wind-powered energy is amazing. Learning to use it takes time and skill, but the result is both interesting and satisfying--not to mention how the exercise keeps you in tune with the day-to-day weather patterns and makes you appreciate the days of sunshine (and your wash-line!) even more. Sunlight is already known to sterilize fabrics, so it makes sense that to air your clothes outdoors would give an extra boost to the cleaning job your clothes and linens receive from nature--and the laundry-maid.
Once your laundry has dried on the line and been crisped and waved by the wind, next comes the time to fold and put it away, and then--for some--to iron, and then--for all--to use, and wear, and wash again. And so is the grand cycle of household textiles--and the blessing received through cleaning them with soap nuts and sunshine!
I hope you have found this article to be helpful in some way. If you use soap nuts, or essential oils, or vinegar in your laundry or home cleaning routines, please feel free to share your experience with us. We'd love to hear from you!
Liquid Detergent recipe: "Mammypotamus"