• All About Soap Nut Powder

About Soap Nut Powder: A metamorphosis in both personal and household cleaning has occurred over time. From ancient Ayurvedic shampoos and hair treatments to the best 100% organic modern scouring powder, soap nuts are making an indelible mark upon history. We are watching a worldwide paradigm shift towards effective, healthier and eco friendly natural soaps and cleaners in process. And it’s one P&G is not going to be happy about.

Powdered soap nuts (soap berries) have been used for literally thousands of years, being referenced in numerous ancient Hindu texts and in folklore. It’s simply dried soap nuts ground into powder. In Indian Hindi it is known as Ritha, (sometimes Aritha or Reetha). Specifically, it is the ground shells of the sapindus mukorossi fruit. Shikakai (literally “hair fruit”) is used similarly. Both are Ayurvedic ingredients used in soap and hair care, yet Ritha and Shikaki powders are derived from different plants. Their differences in benefits are far from clear. Much online information is convoluted at best, hence be skeptical of seller’s claims. Many will know less than you.

USDA Organic - Award Winning - soap nuts - soapberries

USDA Organic Sapindus Mukorossi Soap Nuts / Soap Berries: Two-time Green Dot Award winner. The jury proclaimed, "NaturOli green detergents' and cleansers' use of saponin, which is derived naturally from soap nuts, is possibly the most significant green innovation in history for everyday household cleaning needs."

Put in a general historical context, these age-old powders are reasonable to be considered possibly the oldest lathering shampoos and soaps the world has ever known. Interestingly most folks today relate it to laundry products, but their origin and history is in most definitely personal hygiene – a long way from the laundry room.

As awareness of the benefits of saponin and soap berries have spread, interest in the powder form has likewise spread. Saponin alone will change much of what we do and how we think. For ages – long before 1837 when P&G was founded – man found in nature the means by which to resolve problems and improve our overall quality of life. The soap berry is a perfect example of this. Who knew that soap could be grown in your back yard?

As more people begin to see greater applications outside of laundry, saponin is poised to literally explode into numerous markets. We are merely getting a glimpse into what the future will bring. I predict that saponin will become a household word. Likely a new and catchier name will even pop up. Without doubt, soap nuts – in all their forms – will become part of our everyday life. It has for me. I use very few synthetically produced cleaners and soaps today. I don’t need them anymore. You’ll likely discover the same things as I did.

Back to soap nut powder: Ironically, I don’t see huge growth for the raw forms of soap berries in hair care in Western cultures due to its lack of convenience in use. However, I see major growth other markets. Once consumers realize its enormous potential and effectiveness across such a wide array of uses, its hard to imagine a health-conscious American household without it. Being chemical free and eco friendly make it a no-brainer. There’s few products with such broad applications. Consumer awareness is the key. And that’s what this post – this entire web site – is all about. Every day the word spreads further.

Pure sapindus mukorossi powder ground from de-seeded, dried mukorossi shells. From hair loss treatments, to camper's soap, to household scouring powder that is 100% organic - soap nut powder is changing the way the world thinks about soap and cleaning products. (Photo courtesy of NaturOli.)

Pure sapindus mukorossi powder ground from de-seeded, dried mukorossi shells. From hair loss treatments, to camper's soap, to household scouring powder that is 100% organic - soap nut powder is changing the way the world thinks about soap and cleaning products. (Photo courtesy of NaturOli.)

Hair and scalp care: It’s common to see powder used in esoteric circles of those making Ayurvedic treatments (often medicinal) – with emphasis on remedies for hair, scalp and skin problems. and hair restoration and regrowth. It’s also popular as an anti-dandruff treatment, and for the relief of itchy scalps. There is definitely a market for soap nut powder in hair care, but I see it more as a periodic treatment rather than a routine shampoo. Ease and convenience of use are the drawbacks for powder. As put by one from “The Long Hair Community Blog”, she referred to using Ritha and Shikakai in its traditional method as “a grainy mess.” We are accustomed to and want the benefits of saponin – but with the convenience of a ready to use liquid. I concur.

I will personally testify to the traditional “paste method” (directions below) being a refreshing experience. My scalp felt deeply cleansed, and I was left with a tingly-clean feeling. My only negative criticism is that it’s both time consuming – and very “messy”. Much more rinsing was required. The “tea method” is quicker and easier, but it was too watery and lacked enough lather for me. I use NaturOli’s EXTREME Hair liquid soap berry shampoo formulas which offer the benefits of saponin, plus other nourishing botanical extracts – and it lathers just fine. (i.e., It’s quick and easy to use.)

NOTE: I have no hair or scalp problems anymore, and don’t need to shampoo as nearly as often. I hear this comment from most users. My hair and scalp have been detoxed of all the old junk from traditional shampoos, and my hair is now healthier than ever. It took a few washes before my hair found its natural balance. I went from needing to shampoo almost daily to maybe twice a week now. That was remarkable.

If I did have scalp problems, I’d reconsider the hassle and time factors of the paste treatment for its exfoliating ability, plus experiment more with the tea as a periodic treatment. There are a few common methods and techniques depending upon your personal issue(s). If you have dandruff, flaky/itchy scalp, or even hair-loss problems the rub-in paste method is likely best (at least to initially help the problem). For this method, combine powder with water and to form a paste which is massaged into the scalp. It is deep cleansing and the most purifying method. In rubbing/working the paste a light lather will develop. The “tea” method uses the powder with hot water to brew the tea which is then poured through the hair and on the scalp when cooled. You simply have to evaluate your hair / scalp condition and experiment. There’s no one use that’s for everyone.

Scouring powder / surface scrub / multi-purpose household cleaner / dish wash: This is where I see use of powder excelling to tremendous heights. The benefits are undeniable, and frankly there are very few good “green” products currently in this product space. In India, a new company named Kyra Sustainable Goodies recently launched with two products: 1) a natural laundry detergent powder, and 2) a natural dishwasher powder. They are the first company I’ve found in India with entirely non hair-care related uses for soap nut powder. More will follow suit to be sure.

Soap nut powder is packaged and sold in convenient sizes for household and personal care usage. Notice the shaker/sifter type cap of the larger jar (similar dispensing method to that of Ajax or Comet). A spoon size opening on one side allows for measuring the right amount for a load of laundry. Smaller jars are handy and go a long, long way - especially when used for personal care.

Soap nut powder is packaged and sold in convenient sizes for household and personal care usage. Notice the shaker/sifter type cap of the larger jar (similar dispensing method to that of Ajax or Comet). A spoon size opening on one side allows for measuring the right amount for a load of laundry. Smaller jars are handy and go a long, long way - especially when used for personal care.

Can you imagine how much toxic chemical scouring powder is sold in the US? I don’t have the numbers, but I’m sure it’s staggering. Knowing that we have an effective, totally sustainable, and 100% chemical free alternative to Comet Cleanser is absolutely remarkable. Why isn’t everyone using it? There’s only one reason: People don’t know about it. Granted, Comet and Ajax type cleaners are very cheap. But after a consumer realizes that the active ingredients are akin to commercial chlorine cleaners, one may think twice about cleaning the kitchen sink with it. The product labels devote more words to the “hazardous” characteristics and precautions than its benefits. That’s pretty scary.

Given soap nut powder’s slightly abrasive yet soapy nature, scouring powder is my most common use. I haven’t used a traditional scrub (i.e. Comet or Ajax) ever since first using it. Rubber gloves aren’t required anymore. Its gentle, non-toxic and chemical free. It doesn’t eat your skin away like a pool cleaner! It’s great for toilets, sinks, tubs, tile, porcelain, grout, etc. Use exactly like you’d use its chemical equivalents. You may need to use a bit more elbow grease at first for there are absolutely no toxic chemical foaming agents. This may vary depending upon the purity and quality of the powder. The more pure, the better – and this applies to all potential applications.

Laundry usage: Soap nut powder works very well for high efficiency washers. The saponin releases faster than using the berries. Powder also makes a good stain remover for heavier colored fabrics and stains. It’s especially effective for spots and stains if moistened and gently rubbed into the affected area. For laundry, my personal favorite still remains EXTREME 18X and homemade liquid as they reign supreme for HE and front-loaders, and are so easy to use.

When using soap nut powder, do NOT use more than required. You don’t need an ounce or big scoops to do a load. I typically use a level teaspoon for an average HE load. If very soiled, I’ll use two. Using too much is wasteful (as discussed elsewhere here on SoapNuts.Pro). Used properly it’s still very cost effective. If half ends up down the drain before releasing all saponin, well, your money goes down the drain, too. Rule of thumb: Use LESS than you think you need. Use more only if you’re not happy with the results. Keep it simple.

Homemade detergent recipes: For you with DIY homemade laundry soap recipes, powder may just be your ideal missing link. It’s the surfactant (what creates the soaping effect that loosens the soling from the fabric). Many DIY recipes don’t utilize a good surfactant, and the difference can be major. It’s better than common soap shavings BY FAR. Regular soap shavings leave a soap scum that you do NOT want in your washer – especial with HE machines. Soap residues are highly problematic for new high efficiency (HE) units – usually resulting in their top problems: nasty odors, fungal mildew and mold.

OTHER USES:

Pet grooming: Whether dogs, cats, horses, or your hairy critter friend of choice, powder has many benefits. Skipping the obvious (organic hair/fur and scalp/skin cleansing), the saponin has inherent insect and pest repellent properties. You can give your pets a chemical-free washing, while helping to minimize fees, flies, ticks and other nasty buggers, too. Plus, you’ll enjoy your pet’s beautiful new coat – without an annoying scent. That’s a big win-win and win!!!

Camper’s soap: Just as all forms are ideal from an ecological perspective, powder has extra benefits at times. The mild abrasiveness (exfoliation) aids in many types of cleaning – from dirty skillets to deep personal cleansing the ground-in dirt and grime from your outdoor adventures. Personally, I can’t think of a more convenient eco-friendly way to scrub off the dirt (or smelly fish slime) than shaking a little powder into my wet hands and washing up – without concern about pollutants. That’s fantastic! Once again, the mild pest repellent properties of the powder’s saponin pays obvious extra benefits, too.

Brushing teeth: I had to add this because it’s more common than you think. Many swear by it. Some mix it with baking soda and a little peppermint oil for taste! I’m going to reserve commenting for I don’t use it for such. When I do, I’ll let you know what I think. I see no reason to think it wouldn’t work perfectly fine. I just haven’t tried it.

NOTES:

Soap nut powder is also available in large bulk sizes (often poly bagged as shown). Typical sizes are 8-ounces to 2-pounds even for those making custom DIY soaps and detergents. Photos are 100% pure powder from finely ground and sifted USDA Certified Organic sapindus mukorossi shells. No fillers or additives. It is processed and packaged in the USA. Large users and resellers can order any quantity desired. Amounts up to 100-lbs. can be simply bought online. (Photo courtesy of NaturOli.)

Soap nut powder is also available in large bulk sizes (often poly bagged as shown). Typical sizes are 8-ounces to 2-pounds even for those making custom DIY soaps and detergents. Photos are 100% pure powder from finely ground and sifted USDA Certified Organic sapindus mukorossi shells. No fillers or additives. It is processed and packaged in the USA. Large users and resellers can order any quantity desired. Amounts up to 100-lbs. can be simply bought online. (Photo courtesy of NaturOli.)

– When buying powder, be aware that fillers can be used which will degrade its effectiveness. Low quality powder can be made using inferior species of soap berries (i.e., trifoliatus or saponaria) or whole soap nuts – including seeds, stems, leaves, etc. plus an array of cheap additives. All can be ground up to make a powder. Once ground there’s no easy way to tell the quality difference without having both side-by-side and actually testing them. Without doubt in my mind, poor quality powder will end up on the market – exactly like we’ve seen happen with the berries and likely worse. There’s few retailers of powder. The well established US companies are selling high-quality grades.

– Look for “ground from mukorossi shells”, “no fillers”, etc. in descriptions to help ensure getting high quality. Price is always a good barometer. You typically get what you pay for. Powder isn’t cheap – and is certainly more costly per ounce than the raw berries. Just use common sense and good judgement before buying.

– Can you make your own soap nut powder? Yes, but it’s trickier than you may think. The shells must be very dry, or you’ll end up with lots of sticky chunks. A good, fine sifter is a must. A common internet myth is that soap berries should be moist to work best. This is totally wrong. The only difference is WATER content. The all-important saponin does NOT evaporate. I guarantee you that. And when buying by weight (as you should be), more water equals more weight. Frankly, it takes years using soap nuts to find those ideal balances. Sometimes there’s just no simple answers to questions with many variables. Being moist aids in the quicker release of the saponin when used raw, but that is quickly remedied by a little pre-soaking. I don’t use the raw berries much anymore (too much hassle), but when I do I keep them just slightly tacky. That’s it. But even “tacky” is far too wet to make powder from. Allow them to become very dry first. You want them dry (think of them kinda’ like coffee beans). Imagine the clumpy mess you’d have trying to grind wet coffee beans…

– Hence pure soap nut powder (with no fillers or additives) is VERY potent. When grinding you’ll create a lot of airborne powder (especially if making a bunch) that’s unpleasant if inhaled. A face mask of some kind is also a must. I recommend simply buying it pre-made. You can get sizes from a few ounces to many pounds. Even if using it for numerous applications, a pound or two of quality powder will last a VERY LONG time!

– Use powder with an extra degree of care. The very fine powders I’m accustomed to using will irritate eyes and sinuses if inhaled. It’s far better than inhaling toxic, chemical scouring powders in this regard, but this is simply a notice. A user wrote me after dumping out two pounds to fill small jars. She took no precautions, and was sneezing all day. If handling large amounts, do wear a mask and some eyewear. Don’t rub your eyes if your fingers are coated with it. A personal experience: Kinda’ humorous now looking back, but I had such a situation first hand. The only difference was that I was bagging up 1200 pounds of pure bulk soap nut powder! I learned my little lesson the hard way!

CAUTION: Don’t miss the updated post about China-grown soapberry seller(s) found in violation of U.S. Federal law, USDA regulations – and carrying a high risk of contamination. Many grandiose claims, and statements of being tested safe are made – however none (not a single one) has ever been substantiated. Online and third-party availability only. No address or phone is provided for the seller. The berries are characteristically soft, slimy and oily while having a dark reddish purple to black color (like old, dirty motor oil). Commonly noted is the scent of petroleum. Best to return (if possible) or discard in an environmentally friendly fashion.
(See full post in left-side column for the latest info.) – Just say “NO” to China-grown.

• Soap Nuts / Soap Berries & Front-loaders

Having a clean, fresh smelling front-loading HE washer is easier than you may think. Your answer even grows on trees. Welcome saponin from soap nuts / soap berries!

This is an article that my team and I were prompted to prepare in response to the December 11, 2013 email from TreeHugger called “The latest spin on washing machines.” We feel it can be VERY helpful for many of you with the issues you’re experiencing with your HE and/or front-loading washers. The original article, entitled “Lawsuit over front-load washers may drive consumers back to energy-wasting models”, was written by Kimberley Mok, and published on 12-10-13.

The only issue we had with Treehuggers’s article (and its followup) is that a MAJOR remedy was overlooked: That is the use of saponin – derived from soap berries (aka soap nuts). Only in reader’s comments were soapberries mentioned. Guess we need to have a good talk with Treehugger. They simply missed the boat – and it’s right up their alley. As even service techs will attest to: An HE or front-loader that uses soap berries instead of the commercial HE soaps will be sparkling clean by comparison – even the areas and parts you can’t see. No gross chemical residue or gunk, no mold, no mildew, no odors. It’s so simple! For the most part, the problem never begins.

Yuk! Typical stinky mold and residue build up.

Yuk! Typical stinky mold and residue build up.

Ms. Mok also wrote a good follow up article on 12-13-13 entitled, “8 Easy maintenance tips for front load washers.” She’s obviously been writing away same as I. She covers the main helpful tips well, and the reader comments are excellent (especially in the first article). We haven’t even corresponded. No doubt we will at some point. I’m looking forward to that!

The interesting thing though is that the tips and comments are geared to reducing a problem primarily through user maintenance – plus simple things like keeping the door open to relieve the excess moisture. Our approach is a far more proactive one. We focus on eliminating the entire problem from the start – and doing so without a bunch of extra work. – Big difference!

Be assured the gist here has nothing to do with your “green-ness”, or lack thereof. This is to assist with real, everyday problems we all face. As the founder of NaturOli, and the author of SoapNuts.Pro (SNP), of course I will speak to our remedies and solutions to the front-loader issues. If you feel my NaturOli association biases my opinion, so be it for that’s your opinion. However, it’s via NaturOli, SNP, and reading tons of feedback from consumers that I’ve acquired the knowledge to write an informed article on this topic.

From my homework and with input from service technicians, there are no major mechanical differences between the older and newer front-loaders (bells and whistles aside). HE labeled units have been modified to be more energy and water efficient, plus there’s more (often confusing) features. Some are needed, but many are for show and likely will rarely to never be used.

HE units require much more user care and maintenance mainly due to less water usage. They don’t utilize enough water for a thorough self rinsing and cleaning after each use. They attempt to extend time and agitation to offset that lack of water flow. This sounds good in theory, but doesn’t always work out very well – creating numerous problems for consumers. This is why they now need a “cleaning” cycle. (As usual, we consumers had no say as to what constitutes “efficient”, but I’m avoiding that issue. Let’s leave it as “they” just told us – again.)

Manufacturers have made tweaks and adjustments to help with the mold and odor problems, but the real problem is within the fundamental design of a front-loader (HE or not). If HE, the problems is only worsened due to the lack of water used for flushing the left over soap scum and gunk out with each wash. It’s imperative to use a low sudsing “HE compatible” detergent with an HE washer. Yes, they are usually more expensive. No surprise. And typical softeners are a no-no. They definitely add to the crud that builds up. But just hang in there with me for we’re going to get to the EASY fix soon.

It’s like night and day between USA and Europe when it comes to washers. In Europe there has been greater emphasis on both water conservation and space efficiency for (ever…???), hence many won’t even relate to the water-gulping top-loading monsters that we’ve grown to love here in the US. Separate moisture-filled laundry rooms are not part of everyday life for many of our European friends. Washday habits here in the US are quite different. We’ve been spoiled in many ways. Those mainstay front-loaders at the laundromat have big advantages over our “home” units: They are “commercially” built units, they’re typically bigger, they’re regularly maintained, and they’re commonly left open – quite a different ballgame than found in our tidy US home laundry rooms. (“Tidy” may be a stretch. It certainly doesn’t describe mine.)

Properly well maintained laundromat.

Properly well maintained laundromat.

As reported by numerous companies, “bad odors” (also referred to as “The Smelly Washer Syndrome” by the makers of the DIY “Washer Fan”) is the #1 service problem for front-loading and HE washers in the US. The “Washer Fan” is a pretty cool idea ($70). It would have to help. IMO there should be one built-in on all front-loaders in the first place. However, detergent and additive residues, plus pent up moisture are the culprits behind the odor problem. A lack of routine cleaning is also high on the list. Thoroughly cleaning our washing machine is only a slightly more frequent task than “spring cleaning” in most households that I know. And this now takes us to the heart of the matter: The laundry soaps / detergents, softeners, and other additives used.

Due in part to our big top-loaders, we’ve grown to love seeing suds. We’ve also been taught to equate cleaning with suds. (Yep, there’s even a post here about it.) It was a long-running marketing strategy that backfired (big time) on the detergent producers with the onset of the home front-loader models. And one they are still struggling to overcome. Most Europeans never developed such a love affair with suds. You can’t easily watch the suds in a front-loader.

Apparently we have a bit of a dilemma in the US with front-loaders. Like Ms. Mok, most of us hate them. At best it’s a love-hate relationship for the eco conscious. However, there is a very simple remedy for most of our problems. – And it requires no extra work nor significant lifestyle change.

Residue and corrosion on washer heater element.

Residue and corrosion on washer heater element.

NaturOli began in 2007 as a formulator of olive-based natural products (mainly personal care). Hair care plus home cleaning products followed after we began working with saponin which is derived from soap berries. We discovered soap berries (aka soap nuts) about a year or two after we launched nationally. (BTW: They’re not nuts at all. There’s a whole article here regarding that issue, too.) Soap berries contain saponin which is a natural surfactant that leaves no residues or build-ups as all the chemical surfactants do. The detergent developers just can’t seem to produce a “clean” chemical surfactant. Saponin however will nearly purge washers of old build up and all the associated nasty molds, odors, etc. (I should say saponins for it is a family of them, but we’ll leave that for another day.)

Given the large number of comments from Europeans to the TreeHugger article, it should be noted that Germany has been and remains the largest importing nation of soap berries in the world. It’s also noteworthy to mention that the Swedish manufacturer, Electrolux, developed and won a 2007 Design Lab award for a prototype washer that uses soap nuts exclusively.

For years we’ve been getting rave reviews and feedback from users who had terrible problems that are simply GONE. Nasty musty odors are GONE. The mold, mildew, and detergent residues are GONE (or have lessened dramatically). Use of saponin is the best and easiest remedy – by far – to resolve these problems. It’s that simple.

Being free of toxic chemicals, saponin is a “greener” remedy. That’s a given. Again, that’s not what this article is about though. Saponin works better than the standard or all the psuedo-green products. Even if you don’t care about that, being healthier is a certainly a nice bonus. Thousands who suffered with skin sensitivities due to today’s commercial detergents are now living irritation free lives again – and there’s tons of testimonies here to support what I write. (See Reviews and Testimonials here, on the NaturOli site, or on Amazon.) It was humorous to read a commenter’s input regarding fragrance tablets as a remedy for the musty odors. No thanks. I’m not one to spray perfume on a pig. Solve the problem. Don’t try to hide it. Yuk.

Overstuffing loads is a common problem. Understandably.

Overstuffing loads is a common problem. Understandably.

There are other articles on SNP about the inherent mechanical design issues with HE washers and front-loaders, plus discussions about the plethora of problematic detergents and additives on store shelves. These troubling issues are only compounded further by common “human” errors – i.e., overstuffing loads. It appears that the mainstream machine technology has surpassed that of the mainstream detergents being produced – causing lots of problems in the process. The chemical product producers have yet to find good viable solutions, and equipment manufacturers are now being hit with the lawsuits. I’ve yet to see an owners manual that the average person will likely read completely. Most folks won’t get beyond the basic functions, or will find a YouTube video for a quickie demo.

The manuals are loaded with “don’t dos”, while failing miserably to communicate all the “dos”. The only thing covered well is their indemnification: Basically stating that virtually all typical problems will be your fault. What a mess and joke! It’s no wonder that there’s lawsuits in the works.

We found a viable, effective solution to this mess years ago – while winning TWO international awards in the process. And frankly, we’re only scratching the surface of the iceberg we found.

After California loosened up on some building codes, the LA Times wrote about our soap berries and saponin-based cleaners in the “Top 4 Best” grey-water safe detergents. Note for our green friends: Regardless of washer type (HE, top-loader, front-loader, or the kitchen sink) use of a grey-water system ranks as one of the greenest things you can do at home. The majority of home water consumption is grey-water – not sewage. Hence, that beloved big old top-loading Maytag no longer wastes ANY water! And when using soap berries and saponins – your lawn and gardens will love you for it.

It’s all quite amazing what saponin will do. Putting it simply, cleaning up your washer is a no-brainer. Washing machine technicians have even written us commenting about never seeing machines so clean before. The internal plumbing, gaskets, heater elements, etc. remain cleaner than they’ve ever seen when servicing the machine of a soap nut user.

So, soap nuts / soapberries are key. There’s different techniques in using them. All are discussed here on SNP. However, front-loaders are the most challenging in obtaining optimal results because they fall short in agitation and even more importantly – adequate water flow for the proper dispersion of the saponin. So, here comes the only sales pitch from me:

Use our flagship formula: EXTREME 18X.

NaturOli EXTREME 18X soap berry liquid concentrate, 8oz with micro-dose pump.

NaturOli EXTREME 18X soap berry liquid concentrate, 8oz with micro-dose pump.

In these past years we’ve become the largest importer and distributor of soap berries and saponin products in the US and Canada. Our EXTREME 18X is effectively a pure saponin extract. Angele Sionna of Examiner.com’s “Early Child Parenting” column put it as “Soap Nuts in a bottle” in 2009 – shortly after we unveiled it. That’s a darn good description. (Today, both the bottling and liquid look nothing like the original in 2009. We’ve come a long way since then.) But EXTREME means extreme for a reason! A tiny 8oz bottle will wash 96+ HE loads. You can stop lugging big jugs around. You need so little that it comes with a micro-dose 2-ml squirt pump to dispense it properly.

Hands down, EXTREME 18X is best for front-loaders. It’s a one squirt and done. Traditional methods of using soap nuts are not as effective due to that lack of adequate water flow, and circulation is problematic. Due to the typically tiny front-loader drum space, many folks over stuff them, and that’s the worst thing you can do (regardless of detergent type) if you want clean laundry. As a very potent liquid, EXTREME 18X disperses immediately and thoroughly. Alternate methods require more effort and care for best results. (See the post on “Common Problems” for more details.)

Incredibly, saponin is also a natural fabric softener. And does so without any residue left behind. There’s no “wicking” of the fabric fibers. This is why cloth diapering moms were one of the largest market segments to first embrace soap berries. Cloth diapers came out so soft, and diaper rashes disappeared. (This must almost sound too good to be true, huh? But it IS true. It actually works – and works very, very well!) Simply refer to the user testimonies. They are real folks, with real stories.

EXTREME 18X comparison

Sorry for the cliche, but I can’t resist: “A picture says a 1000 words.”

Here’s just ONE recent feedback posted on 12-11-13 that you can find yourself in NaturOli’s feedback on Amazon: “I was skeptical about the promises made by this cleaner but it is great. I have 2 kids with eczema and I only used all free and clear before. This uses so much less and I have noticed the scaly buildup in my HE front load washer is almost gone. I’m not a “green” fanatic but this product really works.” – Carrie L., Bangs, TX. There’s literally been thousands of such comments since the formula’s unveiling.

I could write all day about this. We won’t mask the problem with fragrance – we eliminate it. Plus save you lots of extra work in the process. We guarantee it.

Soap berries have been around for ages. Various species grow across the entire globe. I’ve written many articles about why they are not well known in the US. For this post, let me simply state that nobody can patent an apple, an olive, or an orange. They’re fruits. If anybody was to have a patent, it would be Mother Nature, but she’s not profit motivated like P&G. So, figure it out yourself. It’s doubtful that P&G wants us growing our own soaps and detergents in our back yards. Plus, they certainly don’t want one small-footprint product out there that decimates the need for all their ancillary product sales. Ouch.

There’s some 30+ articles here on SoapNuts.Pro, and you can learn more at NaturOli.com. You’ll also find us on Amazon, iHerb, and scattered amongst select specialty stores across the US, Canada and abroad – plus with more and more dermatologists, homeopathic doctors and their like. For the greatest selection and options, you’ll find them in NaturOli’s Online Store. Ordering direct is currently the only way to obtain large sized refills, plus up to gallon sizes in the online Warehouse Department.

We do not seek mass merchandisers. Sorry, no Walgreens or Targets for us. That’s not our way. We like it the way we are.

We think you will, too.

Sorry, but due to recent technical issues, the comments link below may not be displaying and functioning properly. We are working to resolve this issue. If not working, please feel free to send your questions and/or comments to [email protected] – They will be responded to.

CAUTION: Don’t miss the updated post about China-grown soapberry seller(s) found in violation of U.S. Federal law, USDA regulations – and carrying a high risk of contamination. Many grandiose claims, and statements of being tested safe are made – however none (not a single one) has ever been substantiated. Online and third-party availability only. No address or phone is provided for the seller. The berries are characteristically soft, slimy and oily while having a dark reddish purple to black color (like old, dirty motor oil). Commonly noted is the scent of petroleum. Best to return (if possible) or discard in an environmentally friendly fashion.
(See full post in left-side column for the latest info.) – Just say “NO” to China-grown.

• Soapberries & Saponin: Here to Stay!

Soapberries – The Future of Natural Organic Soaps and Cleaners.

Finally, I’m becoming comfortable calling “soap nuts” for what they actually are – berries.

It’s been six years since I began writing about soapberries and the potential they offer us as a genuine, viable, sustainable and renewable, safe and environmentally friendly alternative to commercial, chemical-based detergents and cleaners. You may have just recently become aware of them. You may still be wondering if they really work, or if they’re just another gimmick or fad. Believe it – they work. They’re for real.

USDA Organic - Award Winning - soap nuts - soapberries

USDA Organic Sapindus Mukorossi Soap Nuts / Soap Berries: Two-time Green Dot Award winner. The jury proclaimed, "NaturOli green detergents' and cleansers' use of saponin, which is derived naturally from soap nuts, is possibly the most significant green innovation in history for everyday household cleaning needs."

The whole key is that the family of sapindus plants produce fruits containing saponins (natural surfactants / i.e., soap) in high enough concentrations that they are being recognized as a marketable commodity of significant value. Many plants contain saponin (such as agave, yucca, soapwort, etc.), but only soapberries contain enough of the precious saponins to make them a practical, sustainable, and economically viable source of it. It’s actually the combination of the tree’s prolific fruit bearing capacity, and its hardy nature that make annual harvesting possible. Other known saponin producing plants don’t produce enough saponin to make them viable or sustainable as a resource.

As most of my readers probably know, I’m particularly fond of the mukorossi species. That’s a very large tree with a big fruit. It’s like a big, juicy cherry, except golden colored. They’re very fleshy with lots of pulp. Hence, it’s the reigning king species of soap nuts. However, sapindus plants vary greatly. Some grow more like shrubs. I should say “weeds” because wherever they take hold (be it tree or shrub like) they tend to flourish! As you would expect, the fruits vary accordingly. Some are small with thin pulps and skins.

There are species that grow well in almost every climate and elevation, hence various species are found worldwide. Regardless of species, they are all sustainable saponin producers. Research is in progress to isolate all the differences in the saponins. In time, we will know much more. But just like different apples, oranges, corn, etc., the usefulness of each species will be determined. Surely we’ll even have hybrid soapberries someday. It’s inevitable.

Anyway you shake it, soapberries and saponin are here to stay – and the fruits and market will only get better with time, study and experience. I see no risk of over harvesting. Virtually all are growing wild today, and are under-utilized. We’ve barely even begun commercial tree farming. Supply in the wild is bountiful right now! Imagine what can and ultimately will be done…

The future points towards a world with less chemical production of soaps. More green forests and trees. Less chemical processing plants and pollution. More farming and harvesting. Procter & Gamble will fight this transition to be sure. They’ll kick, scream, plot, and execute strategies with every tool and penny in their box. But, they’re a dinosaur – and their end (as they function today) is nearing.

Mother Nature has made it so that the best and strongest will always survive. No amount of money on Earth will change that. Nature’s way and our ultimate destiny won’t be changed by the conglomerates. They will only slow our progress towards a world without them.

Saponin has made this all possible. It has opened this crucial gateway for us. All we need do now is walk through it – and start playing on the other side!

I hope you enjoy your visit with SoapNuts.Pro. Please visit often. We have an in-depth approach to soapberries (soap nuts) with an emphasis on education – almost 40 pages of information and “how to” tips. We explore science, testing, botany, history, and a plethora of uses – plus FAQs that are second to none (over 10,000 words in our FAQ page alone). This is not a store. But you’ll learn the ins and outs, the pro and cons, plus how to use them, buy them, and even sell them. You’ll learn to find good, honest sellers in a marketplace full of rather cagey opportunists – so you’ll never get taken, scammed, or ripped-off. You’ll learn how to get the best product – and great deals! You’ll learn what they will do, and what they won’t do. No sales hype or BS allowed.

Most importantly, you’ll discover the facts about soapberries – the truths.

Quick Links: (Our most popular pages.)

• FAQ

• Soap Nuts Scams – EXPOSED

• Common Problems

• Soap Nuts with Seeds

• Sustainability

• How to Buy Soap Nuts – The 12 Tips (Note: This is very detailed page. The “Tips” are in order of priority. It’s a lot to digest in any single session. Much like our FAQ page, it’s updated often. Such pages remain timely with the most current info. We suggest visiting them often.)

• Many Uses Part 2 – Shampoo

• Many Uses Part 1 – Beyond Laundry

• Many Uses Part 3 – Liquid

• Reviews & Testimonials

• Welcome (About SoapNuts.Pro)

• Soap Nuts and Suds

• Why from the USA?

• Just Say “NO!” to China

• How to Buy Soap Nuts

The “12 Tips” to Ensure Your Satisfaction When Buying and Using Soap Nuts:

Purchasing soap nuts (soapnuts, soap berries etc.) isn’t simple. Let’s face it – it’s a fruit, and there’s lots of sketchy and erroneous info floating about. If you know little about apples, how do you know which ones to buy? Are you going to eat them raw or bake a pie? Are they best for your intended use? Are they a good value? Exporters and retailers create confusion by selling different species, different grades, and making claims that are misleading and not factual. Different instructions compound the confusion. This article can’t cover everything, but it helps you make better decisions about what soap nuts are best for YOU: what to look for, how to obtain the best value, and what to avoid. These tips ward off the majority of common mistakes – and help ensure a good buying experience.

NOTICE – October 2013: Like it isn’t scary enough that Chinese schools, airports, and entire cities are being shut down due to toxic smog, plus 1000’s of US pets are sick, dead or dying from tainted doggie treats from China, now China-grown soapberries of questionable quality are being imported to the US. One tenacious Chinese business owner in SC boasts to reap “long term benefits” by “conquering” the US market through sales of the low cost berries. The owner continued, I know you do not want us in this market. We are here, and we will stay.”
– Learn more: China Soap Nuts – Just Say “NO!”

As mentioned on our Welcome Page, we avoid calling out specific brand names (good or bad). Sometimes it’s simply unavoidable to make vital points. The goal is to our teach readers how to think, and what to consider. Content is subjective and based upon the educated opinions of the author, plus input and reviews from readers. Visit our Welcome Page for more detailed “who, what and whys”.
– SoapNuts.Pro is here for YOU!

A quick outline:
1) Buy soap nuts by weightNEVER by loads claimed.
2) Buy only “DE-SEEDED” soap nuts.
3) Be mindful of what’s real and what’s only marketing “hype”.
4) Avoid soap nuts packaged for retail in Asia – and say NO to China grown.
5) Know exactly what you’re buying.
6) Expect nothing, assume nothing.
7) Be certain the soap nuts are returnable.
8) Pay for soap nuts with a credit card, Paypal or similar.
9) Stick with suppliers that are proven reliable.
10) Don’t let price alone be the determining factor in your buying decision.
11) Buy mukorossi or trifoliatus soap nuts.
12) Know what’s normal for soap nuts – and what’s not!

1) Buy soap nuts by weight – NEVER by number of “loads” claimed. This should be a no-brainer, but it’s the #1 Tip for good reason. To compare value you must compare NET weights. Any claim about loads is subjective, and usually used as a sales tactic to fool you. Sometimes it’s hard to find the weight! I’ve often had to zoom in on a product picture to locate it. Sounds crazy, but it’s true.

Selling soap nuts by “Loads” is a dubious, antiquated marketing tactic that is commonly practiced. Even if apples-to-apples (in product quality), the number of loads received varies a lot from user to user. It’s an unreliable and misleading means of measurement. Just consider for a moment how many variables there are when washing your laundry: Washer type (regular or HE, front or top loader), washer size, cycle(s) selected, duration of cycles chosen, load size, water hardness, water temp, degree of soiling – just to name a few. ALL affect the results – and yields. And that’s not factoring in YOU. The number of loads obtained depends greatly upon the user.

Many NEW users get taken by this one. Many don’t give this much thought when buying soap nuts for the first time? Most folks are more focused on whether if they will be pleased with the results, or if they’ll even work at all – far from how many loads they’ll get. A retailer can claim almost any number of loads they choose – and maybe even show that it’s possible. But using the outer limits of something’s potential as the primary measurement of quantity makes no sense. I’ve seen loads “guaranteed”. Given our busy lives rarely will anyone keep track of every single laundry load done in their household. Such a guarantee is a hollow promise that the seller will rarely – if ever – be held accountable for. Consumers are unknowingly misled. That’s disturbing – particularly when saving money is one of the reasons for buying the soapberries!

THINK - before you buy.

THINK – before you buy.

It’s impossible to accurately provide the number of wash loads YOU’LL get from X-amount of soap nuts. Again, there’s too many variables. Many folks are just beginning to learn how to use them correctly. At best we can only calculate rough estimates based upon weight.

Using “loads” as a yardstick for measurement began with the first (now defunct) big retailer of them in the US. It was – and remains – a very bad method – for YOU! Thankfully, we pay closer attention to details than we did years ago. We read labels more thoroughly. We check those “costs per ounce” or “per unit” prices at the grocery store. We’re much smarter shoppers today. Soap nuts were an esoteric product years ago, and buyers couldn’t really compare brands. Not anymore. However, soap nuts are still primarily sold in small stores and on the Internet where we don’t have the luxury of using those convenient “per unit cost” tags that the big grocery stores provide. For the time being, we have to look closer, think for ourselves, and crunch a few numbers. It’s not hard.

This problematic means of measurement creates confusion for shoppers. Exaggerated claims of “loads” is a way to make a seller’s product appear cheaper than the other guys. That’s the strategy. – WEIGHT is the ONLY reliable benchmark for wise, prudent shoppers. Never base your comparisons upon loads claimed. Keep it simple. What’s the cost per ounce? Period. Do that, and you’re almost finished. Next we look at the quality. First issue being “de-seeded” or not. Simple, huh?

NOTE: Akin to “loads” are SIZE claims. (i.e, Small, Medium, Large, Family Size, etc.). Size is also subjective. It’s only marginally useful when “packages” of the same brand – never between brands. Enough said. This should be common sense.

The following calculation is based upon personal experience and TONS of feedback from regular soap nut users:
It’s simple – and easy to remember:  10 LOADS PER OUNCE.
Disregarded all claims that deviate far from that. Depending upon your personal efforts and your variables at home you may get more or less to start. It’s a great benchmark and reasonable expectation to begin with.

Used traditionally (the wash bag method), a half-ounce (around five average sized, de-seeded, mukorossi soap nuts) is the normal amount you should use. That will typically wash 5-7 loads with good results. I’m using 5 loads to be conservative. Using 5 soap nuts per wash bag, and 5 washes per bag, it’s a safe bet that you’ll be pleased with the results from EVERY wash. If you get more – great! With experience most learn to extend the effectiveness of the soap berries (more on this later).

If you cut back on how many berries used, or if you use the berries for too many washes, their effectiveness will decline. In either case, the amount of saponin (the active ingredient) released decreases. Again, common sense: Less soap, less cleaning power.

When using reasonable benchmarks: A pound of good quality, de-seeded, mukorossi soap nuts should yield around 160 washes. You can significantly increase your yield as you get better at optimizing their performance. You’ll be amazed at all you’ll begin to learn. It’s fun experimenting with them.

Misrepresentation of load yield.

Here are two 100 gram (3.5oz) bags pictured. The soapberries look okay to me (probably ~35 actual berries per bag), but the seller claims one bag to yield 100 loads. 35 (or up to 50 loads tops) is realistic. That’s two – three times actual yield.

• Common claims deserving extra scrutiny:
“360 LOADS” — from a 20.5 oz box.
(210-290 loads is closer.)
“360 LOADS”
from a 16 oz (1 lb) box. (160-200 loads is realistic.)
“100 LOADS”
from a 6.5 oz. box.
(65-80 loads is closer.)
“100 LOADS”
from a 5 oz. box.
(50-60 loads is realistic.)
“10 LOADS”
from a 1/2-oz box. (5-8 is more like it. Particularly when new to soap nuts – who are usually those buying such trial sizes.)

These are all inflated claims. They’re not even consistent in the math. All correlating “costs PER LOAD” will be equally distorted.

Try to keep in mind that some sellers are often almost as new to soapberries as you may be. I’ve talked with many that are nearly clueless, and simply regurgitate whatever their supplier tells them. Some others make up stuff on their own to try to gain a competitive edge. That’s even worse sometimes, particularly those that are not experienced business people.

At right is a new brand I’ve found that are a tad overly “creative” in their marketing. I had to dig deep to even find the details about what they were selling. I was so buried in other sales jargon that it took a long time to find out that they were only tiny 100 gram (about 3.5 oz) bags. These are a perfect example of the stuff “newbie” sellers commonly do. To the experienced eye, it’s obvious how small the bags actually are. Look closely. You’ll see that the bags are about the width of about four full soap nuts. That’s small.

I must admit that I didn’t even notice it myself right away. I can only imagine what a new buyer would see – or not see. These little bags currently sell for about $12-13 each – some expensive soap nuts! But yeah… We do get a “Bonus Tracking System” for FREE: Use safety pins on the wash bag to keep track of the loads done. Oh, joy! I can get stuck and bleed all over my laundry when I eventually get stuck by a sprung safety pin. (I’m seriously not kidding about any of this. And still haven’t been able to determine if any safety pins are even included or not. Let’s leave that at intentional vagueness.)

Simply follow the common sense tips you are being provided here – and always think for yourself. Do that and you’ll do fine.

Freshly harvested and de-seeded mukorossi soap berries.

2) Buy only “DE-SEEDED” soap nuts. – Be 100% certain this is spelled out – plainly and clearly in the description. Be aware that many photos are simply “stock images”, so don’t rely on pictures. They may or may not be representative of the actual product.

A very common term I see used that is a major red flag is “WHOLE”. Almost invariably it means NOT de-seeded. My best advice is to simply avoid any referred to as “whole”. If ever considering “whole”, a fair price should be approximately half of the prevailing rate for de-seeded mukorossi.

One caveat: It is common to find trifoliatus or saponaria berries with seeds. These are the lowest valued of all. We’ll discuss these species in more detail elsewhere, but for now simply keep in mind that there’s many such soap nuts on the market. Their ultra-low cost can be very attractive to retailers. It’s common to see sellers of these just “gloss over” the specifics. (More on typical tactics below.)

It’s common to find seeds once in a while (a few seeds out of 100 soap berries is no big deal). Some just slip through unnoticed. However, throughout the “batch” purchased they should show breaks or cracks in the skin and pulp where the seeds were removed. It’s typical for there to be a mix of full and partial shells (the latter often being referred to as the “pieces”). When sorted and graded in the US, you can often select your quality level of choice. When packaged overseas, they are almost always a mix. Sometimes, these are referred to as “bulk”.

As with all “Tips” here, the focus is on ensuring you of a good value, and protection from possibly unsavory sales people and practices. As shown, the seeds should be removed – leaving only the valuable saponin-rich hollow outer skin and pulp that is dried. Most long-term users know this. Today however, the market is growing so rapidly that many consumers don’t understand this, or know how to tell the difference. We’re going to fix that problem.

A soap nut containing a seed will weigh DOUBLE (or more) than a seedless one. It’s a big seed! Being sold by weight when exported is precisely why we are finding so many soap nuts with seeds on the market. They create “lucrative” opportunities for both exporters and retailers alike. (Lucrative is such an interesting word…don’t you think?) Whenever such lucrative opportunities arise, there’s always someone who will capitalize on it. – There was a day when it was rare to ever find sellers of soap nuts with seeds.

Some interesting sales tactics have arisen from this scenario of “WHOLE” soap nuts. Here’s just a couple:
1 –
The seller markets them at very cheap prices – typically with very little specifics and/or a lot of generalized information. The effort being to simply let the story, benefits – and price – sell the product. This distracts the buyer from looking at the truly important details. The buyer of them is often one who still thinks that they’re all the same. No major harm is done here, aside from some disappointment. Ultimately it’s not the “good deal” the buyer may have thought they had. (Oh well…you get what you pay for.)
2 –
The seller sells them at or near the prevailing market rates for top-quality – and pockets “a bundle”. This is the very bad scenario, and harm is most definitely done. The consumer ends up getting stung – big time – paying double or more than a fair price. Here again, either a lack of specifics, or a whole bunch of vague and generalized information, descriptions, instructions, etc. are typically used by the seller. A lot of info (even if useless to an experienced user) can give an appearance of credibility to a newbie.

“Whole Soap Nuts” (i.e., obviously with seeds). Notice how pristine their condition is? Not a single crack in the shell. They look as though they were picked right off the tree – which is actually the case. They are too perfect. Most of the weight of such soap nuts are the big seeds inside. Those seeds have no functional use at all for washing or cleaning purposes. They are usually very cheap – no additional labor cost, heavy, and sold by weight. So, the bottom line: As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”

Even when you’re buying by weight (not by loads) – as you should be – then seeds add unwanted weight that YOU are paying for! My advice again is to just steer clear of any that don’t specifically state, “seedless”, “de-seeded”, or “pieces”. – It’s really that simple.

NOTE: Seeds can also permanently spot or stain laundry – particularly when left in contact with wet laundry for even a short period of time. Their dense, jet black outer skin can leave a dark spot on your favorite blouse or linens. So, remove all seeds found. You’ll sometimes hear them rattling a bit in a mukorossi soap nut – not the case with the smaller species (such as trifoliatus and saponaria). When berries of the smaller species dry out and shrink down the shell and seed become very tightly bound. Hence very tough to remove. A larger mukorossi soap berry (with a seed) may leave a slight air gap between the shell and seed, hence looser and easier to detect. Break it open and the seed will often fall right out.

I have read only one seller ever attempting to justify a benefit to seeds that boiled down to what I will describe as “increased agitation.” (The importance of agitation is discussed at length in numerous posts here.) It’s a great idea, but one problem: They won’t work like that. I’ve tried. I’ve experimented with this notion in mind years ago. Once being soaked, that big seed does not bounce around in that soft, wet shell – no more than the seed will in a big ripe black cherry. There isn’t a large enough weight differential once saturated. I truly do appreciate the creative thinking, but just apply some common sense.

example of soap nuts with seeds

Another good example of soap nuts that have NOT been “de-seeded”. If they look like this – avoid them. Look for the tell-tale signs that they’ve been cracked open. These are near perfectly round. After de-seeding they’ll be more irregular. Such “whole” ones will be heavy and feel solid. It’s VERY easy to tell the difference – even just from pictures.

(Dropping a few significantly heavier typical marbles or even a couple large stainless ball-bearings into the wash bag is a FAR, FAR BETTER WAY to achieve this effect much more effectively. They work – if you don’t mind the noise at times. Plus they last indefinitely – with zero risk of staining anything! Just be sure to tie the wash bag extra tight, or double tie the bag so they can’t possibly fall out. DON’T EVER use small ball bearings that can get stuck in your machine! Been there… BIG hassle… I quit playing with this idea after that episode. Not worth it…)

Only use seeds for cultivating new tress – or be creative with them. See the post at left called “Soap Nuts with Seeds” for more info! Also see post at right, “Soap Nut Trees”, to learn more about the trees. It includes info on how to grow your own, too!

 

 

3) Be mindful of the marketing oriented claims – the “hype”. There’s a lot of creative marketing that’s getting thrown about. It’s always in an effort for a company to try to differentiate their brand in some way. Just stop and think. Your common sense will go a long way. “Organic”, “gourmet”, “generic” are just trick terms. “Gourmet” being humorous of course. (I can’t wait to scarf down my next plate of soapberries!) For the most part, “organic” is now being tossed around so much that the term has become almost useless. All soap berries are “organic” by definition (same as they are “natural”). Don’t think any such generalized terms are meaningful. Look for OFFICIAL Organic Certifications. Ask for proof. Statement of “organic” alone means nothing – at least unless someone invents synthetic ones. I’ve seen it claimed that a company doesn’t sell cheap “generic” soap nuts. Hmmm… So, what is a “generic” soap nut? Some of the marketing is simply ridiculous.

Only OFFICIAL USDA Certified Organic and EcoCert Certified Organic (the international certification agent) provide assurances of chemical-free processing and sanitary processing conditions. There are very steep fines and stiff penalties for fraudulent use of them that inhibit their abuse. However, when buying soap nuts, the species, condition, and reputation of the seller remains paramount. Keep in mind that there is nothing to stop an exporter of inferior quality soap nuts from obtaining official certification that a seller may then use. The species, quality, effectiveness and value of the soap berries are NOT criteria used in the official organic certification processes. Write me at [email protected], or leave a comment if I confused you on this. I understand. It gets confusing.

But let’s address a more important issue regarding “creative marketing” & “product differentiation”:

One small retailer (brand) now claims better soap nuts because of using a “proprietary sterilization process”. Sterilized? This process is claimed to also magically increase the effectiveness of the berries. Oh, brother… Please spare me… But even forgetting about the claim of increased effectiveness, claiming a need to sterilize Certified Organic imports becomes a very serious matter.

This is clever marketing to be sure, but it’s terribly irresponsible. Personally, I believe the claimed reason for sterilizing is simply not true at all. If it was, we’d be hearing about it all over the news! (Think about all the consumer scares: tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, pork, etc., etc.) Those were real – and documented cases. To actually create a public “scare” or concern for the sheer purpose of marketing is about as downright low as I can imagine. This issue is currently being investigated by the State of California. It’s been reported to the proper authorities. This is not an issue to play around with. If the claimed reason were true, then by law the company was required to file a report with the Department of Health and Safety. (I also address this issue in the FAQs for I’ve received many questions about it. It compliments this, and has a little more of my personal spin put on it.) This issue has received more attention than usual because the company was pitching for venture capital (investors) on a popular TV show. Many consumers saw it. They received no offers on the show, and it was very embarrassing, but I’ll elaborate in the FAQs.

This whole issue greatly intrigues me for it utilizes the powerful marketing tactic of FEAR. – By design, it is to stir concern in the minds of the consumers – and worse, create an unwarranted fear of other brands. Use of “fear tactics” in consumer products marketing strategies is essentially never done – at least never initiated by any reputable firm. It’s playing with fire. The issue is huge, and it raises questions of monumental importance. (Sure, we see lame fear tactics every single day used in the political arenas. And, yes, we all hate it. But it’s taken for what it’s worth, and usually just shrugged off being seen for what it is.) – This matter is another ballgame. We’re discussing matters of public health and safety!

The BIG problem here: We’ve seen absolutely zero substance, evidence, documentation or proof of any kind whatsoever to support any need for sterilization – NONE. – Please keep in mind that this company has a long track record of exaggerating and making blatantly false claims – this time caught outright on national TV!

So, in a nutshell: This appears to be one more attempt of this company to try to differentiate their brand. But in this case, it’s without regard for the very serious consequences. The company will likely face big problems. If an agriculture product is brought into this country, and found to be contaminated (by a lab no less as was stated on TV and Facebook) then there must be an official report filed – again, by law. If there was any truth in this matter, without a filed report (California’s response was that is no such report exists) then laws were violated, and the company will face grave consequences.

Frankly, I don’t think this scheme was fully thought through, or reviewed by a competent trade/commerce attorney. Be it due to zealousness, greed, or simply ignorance – a major line was crossed. Albeit all earlier references are deleted now, what was stated (on TV and some of what was posted online) was documented, and there’s no back-peddling that will ever undo it. I sure wouldn’t want to be in their shoes right now.

Certified Organic exporters, importers, handlers, and sellers across the globe will be (or are) outraged. The implications of such reckless claims and statements aren’t taken lightly. They’re an outright and unjust indictment of the reputations of many companies. That company is now in the cross-hairs of many large, reputable companies. It’s taken years of hard work and tons of money for so many companies around the world to become Certified Organic compliant under stringent and often overbearing government regulations.

Consumers wanted assurances of receiving genuinely chemical-free cleaning alternatives – and companies responded. Official Organic Certified products are now available for them. Going beyond Organic Certification especially for products not for human consumption appears counter-intuitive to me, and based in marketing efforts alone – not consumer need. However, I am doing my due diligence as you have come to expect of me.

Here is some preliminary information that should prove helpful.

The Government in India requires strict quality assurance programs be in placed and followed by Indian Exporters. They are very serious about protecting their status as a major agriculture exporter.
IMPORTANT NOTES:
– Legitimate exporters are to be providing a Certificate of Analysis with each export.
– A reputable Indian company exporting agricultural products to the US will have a US FDA Reg. Number.

(Does this raise any questions for you regarding this issue? This brand? Their supplier? Their claims? – It sure does for me.)

Certified Organic products from India are certified by EcoCert (recognized by the National Organic Program, NOP, and the USDA). There are very specific requirements with regard to the handling and storage of product.
There are inspections at the US receiving port by US Department  of Agriculture, Customs and Homeland Security.

Also very interesting: Post harvest sterilization of a Certified Organic product can alter the product, plus involves the use of substances such as:
– either ethyl or isopropyl alcohols
– bleach
– carbon dioxide
– chlorine
– detergents
– ethylene
– ozone
– peroxide
(List courtesy of the Arizona College of Agricultural and Life Science.)

Final note: There are many illegal exporters in India and Nepal. The Indian Government advises companies/importers to verify that they are buying from a registered legitimate business so that they can be assured that Government regulations have been followed.

4) Avoid soap nuts packaged for retail in Asia. Plus just say “NO” to China grown!

A detailed post has now been published (04-2013) on this important issue of China-grown soap berries. Please see: China Soap Nuts – Just say NO!

There are numerous reasons for this. Once sealed and packaged for retail, nobody will inspect your soap berries before you own them. Let’s remember we are talking about a raw fruit here. The overseas sorting and inspection of soap berries prior to packaging is often low in quality control. Keep in mind that these retail packages will be at sea in large cargo containers (without climate control) for many weeks or even months. They will travel on open seas over a great distance through all kinds of climates and weather. Who knows what will happen to them during this long journey. They will get very hot and very cold. Condensation and moisture can build up and degrade the soap berries. I have received soap nuts packaged overseas that were overly wet and stuck together, blackish in color, plus contained many seeds, hairs, and all kinds of leaves and debris.

It’s much cheaper for retailers to purchase them “ready for retail” because of the low Asian labor costs. Interestingly though, soap nuts that are packaged overseas are usually comparably priced to ones that have been inspected and packaged in the US or Canada. Buy soap nuts that have been inspected and sorted AFTER their long voyage. This will assure you of better quality control over the final processing and packaging. You can also feel more comfortable that Fair Trade practices have been adhered to.

China grown soap nuts

China grown soap nuts: The worst of the worst. These are pictures known to be used by sellers of China grown soapberries. Jan, 23, 2014: US Dept. of Agriculture enforcement agents concluded a 6-month investigation finding them in violation of US National Organic Program regulations. The seller’s web site was shut down. They are currently still found on third-party web sites usually undercutting prices of reputable sellers. The list of grandiose and wholly unsupported claims made by the seller(s) is long and forever changing. Evidence shows operations out of a residential apartment in S. Carolina and without proper business licensing. These represent the “black market” for soap nuts. They are brought into the US from China. It is unclear if smuggled or through the proper channels of US Customs. – They potentially carry hazardous chemical and biological contaminants.

Update 5-2012: For the most part, I have been referring to soap berries coming out of Southeast Asia from numerous new unestablished exporters that have jumped on the soap nut bandwagon since their rise in popularity. However, in recent months a new country of origin has arisen. You guessed it: China. As usual, if something is selling, it’s only a matter of time before China catches on. And numerous species grow in China.

Here’s my issues: I’ve already been approached by Chinese exporters claiming that they have “plantation grown” soap berries – at cheap prices. “Cheap” certainly doesn’t surprise me for it is almost synonymous with consumer goods from China – both in quality and price. It’s important to realize that a China “plantation” means “field-grown and harvested” – NOT wild-crafted as those from India.

The seller(s) of China-grown soap nuts appear to have no bounds in the claims they make. It’s common to read “Certified Organic”, “Organically grown”, “from remote mountains…” and all kinds of bogus claims. Many claims are in direct violation of the Regulations established by the National Organic Program (NOP) of which all USDA Organic suppliers and handlers must adhere to.

Now please follow me on this: One Chinese seller actually listed their soap nuts as a seller of brands that truly are Certified USDA Organic on Amazon. The Chinese seller was selling their berries under the name of a legitimate seller. The #1 Amazon seller stopped this via threat of legal action (both for consumer fraud and violations for misuse of the USDA Organic Seal). The Chinese seller then started listing again under the name of a different seller! It’s outrageous, but true!

So, a few points:
1 – There are soap nuts grown and harvested in China under “who knows what?” conditions.
2 – Typical Western consumers want nothing to do with Chinese products – particularly anything grown there.
3 – Nothing claimed can be believed. They change product titles, names and descriptions routinely. Sometimes their China origin is never mentioned – at all. Numerous claims are in direct violation of NOP Regulations. No proof of ANY claim has ever been provided. In other words: They’ll simply claim ANYTHING to sell their berries.
4 – “Plantation grown”? What does that tell you? Commercial fertilizers, pesticides, chemicals, etc.
5 – The Chinese seller will provide no proof or evidence of a legal US Customs entry number. i.e., Basically, we have no clue how they even got here.
6 – The primary seller stated that they’re in South Carolina and are shipping from South Carolina. To date we can find no listing in the SC Corp. Commission for the company. i.e., If operating under the radar – there’s no business license fees, taxes, etc.
7 – They have fraudulently posed as reputable established brands.
8 – They make utterly grandiose claims, yet present zero to substantiate anything.
9 –  No official Certifications are presented whatsoever. No Organic Certification. No mention of Fair Trade. Nothing…
10 – We get cheap generically packaged soap nuts of highly questionable quality – nothing more.
Lastly – And frankly, I really don’t like their arrogance. Read their own words posted in the “must read” post: China Soap Nuts – Just say NO! Personally, I’d trash them if they were FREE! And no Chinese profiteers are going to dictate anything to me (nor anyone else that I’ve spoken with). They actually speak of “conquering” our markets.

Well, they can’t “buy us” by peddling their cheap goods. Nor will they undo any of the good we’ve accomplished these many years in providing aid to all the hardworking villagers in India and Nepal. No way…

You’re going to have to be watchful for these. I’ve given you enough dots to easily connect yourself. i.e. If you see a name brand product on Amazon or eBay or similar being offered from some seller at half the regular price, ask yourself, “What’s wrong with this picture?” If you think you’ll just return them, don’t kid yourself. You’ll have a hard time ever getting a full refund. In the end – you’ll have been had. – Count on it.

5) Know exactly what you’re buying. Be certain of what you want. Soap berries are still so new to the general public that there are many big gaps in the information available. Retailers tend to focus on the general, when the specifics are vitally important to a good transaction. As I’ve written hundreds of times, “A soap nut is NOT just a soap nut.”

High-quality, de-seeded mukorossi soap nuts.

Understanding that takes a bit of study. And we still must also separate the hype from the facts. It is crucial to understand that many soap nut retailers are simply trying to sell the concept that soap nuts are a better, natural way to clean. Very few are educating consumers about all the very important particulars. Sellers tend to tell you what you want to hear. Period. This oversimplification is the root of the problem. Only when consumers become well schooled regarding the differences, will sellers recognize the need to become more knowledgeable in order to satisfy the marketplace. Understand that, and we are almost home. The burden is truly upon us – the consumers. Only in recent years have most of us started reading product labels much more carefully – and with much more skepticism. Be skeptical. That’s great! Soap nuts may be exactly what you want. They may not. We must learn to ask the right questions.

6) Expect nothing, assume nothing. If it isn’t spelled out clearly, something is likely wrong. Good soap nut retailers are very knowledgeable and will specify all the important aspects. They’ll describe their soap nuts’ species, weight, condition, de-seeded or not, age, packaging, accessories such as wash bags and instructions, etc. Quite simply, assume nothing and you won’t be disappointed. If everything about the soap nuts has been clearly verified by the seller, you will most likely be pleased. There are many start-up soap nut businesses today. Some really care and are sincerely promoting this wonderful green alternative. Others only want to sell something, and don’t care much about what it is. The ones that do care will show it.

7) Be certain the soap nuts are returnable. All good sellers will stand behind their products. Unless you’ve made a certain “deal” and are willing to agree to a no return policy, returns should be acceptable. Expect to lose the shipping costs and to have to pay to ship them back. At least you won’t get stuck with poor quality soap nuts.

8) Pay for soap nuts with a credit card, Paypal or similar. In a worst case scenario, this will provide you buyer protection and an out from a bad transaction. You can always dispute a charge for “merchandise not as described”. Be extremely leery of any seller who wants cash, debit card, wire transfer, Western Union, etc. Getting your money back will be unlikely. A good seller will have credit card processing and/or Paypal available. If not, beware. As always, when buying soap nuts online be certain that you are purchasing through a verified secure store.

9) Stick with suppliers that are proven reliable. Good sellers will have a well-known and documented reputation for quality products and customer service. The exception to this is the new seller. I highly support the efforts of so many people that are developing new, honest, green soap nut businesses. Everybody has to start somewhere. With a new seller that has little history, get to know them. Follow the above tips, and if all is in order, support them. They are foot soldiers of the green movement and deserve our support.

10) Don’t let price alone be the determining factor in your buying decision. That’s a huge mistake, be it whether you are paying a lot or a little. If buying cheaply priced soap nuts, that’s asking for inferior quality and disappointing transaction. Paying more however does not ensure better quality. I’ve seen prices go from A to Z without any correlation to quality. Only by knowing exactly what you are buying can you expect a good transaction.

11) Buy mukorossi or trifoliatus soap nuts. I personally prefer mukorossi soap nuts because they are the species of choice for quality exporters and are consistently of high saponin content (the all-important active ingredient in soap nuts).

Trifoliatus is often being sold with seeds, and sometimes misrepresented as mukorossi. It’s a cheap alternative with lucrative profiteering potential. Trifoliatus (seed excluded) is high in saponin content, same as mukorossi, but it has a lower market value. If you are buying trifoliatus you should be paying much less. If you really know your soap nuts and/or are making liquids and powders in volume, it can be a cost effective way for you to go without compromising effectiveness. Trifoliatus is however much more similar in appearance to other species with lower saponin content, hence more difficult to be assured of what you actually have. Only one soap nut being harvested in high volume is distinctly different in appearance than other species. That is mukorossi. Particularly for the new soap nuts user, sticking with mukorossi makes for a far safer bet that you’ll be buying a quality soap berry. Both whole soap nuts and pieces are equally effective. Pieces also make for good buying opportunities. Note: As mentioned above, be aware that “whole” may be used by some sellers to describe soap nuts that have not been properly de-seeded. Be sure that this is clear.

Images added to illustrate age:

Exhibit E: Aged soap nuts. Species not determined.

D and E: Miscellaneous images showing soap nuts of significant age. Once soap nuts have reached a black coloration as shown it becomes very difficult to determine the year of harvest. It is not uncommon for older soap nuts to become very gummy due to high humidity at time of packaging, moisture release from the berries, and condensation if they have been sealed in plastic bags for long periods.

Exhibit D: Aged mukorossi soap nuts.

Exhibit D: Aged mukorossi soap nuts. Black in color. Photo: Maggies Pure Land.

12) Know what’s normal for soap nuts – and what’s not. Akin to Tip #5 above, this is the only way you can evaluate your transaction. Soap nuts are mainly harvested from January through March (particularly mukorossi). The new harvest will typically sell at a premium price, while the previous year’s harvest will be discounted to clear floor space. Very freshly harvested mukorossi soap nuts will be large (about the diameter of a U.S. nickel and up to the size of a quarter), sticky, and yellow/golden in color. A good processor will allow them to air dry before packaging or sealing if overly moist. As they age in the first year they will darken to a reddish and then brownish color. Ultimately the soap nuts will turn black. If overly moist they will darken more quickly.

It is quite common to find black soap nuts as seen in pictures D and E, and they may be up to two or even three years old. If soap nuts are processed and stored properly they will be somewhat dry, yet remain a bit tacky to the touch, and get no more than dark brown in color. They can remain this way for very long periods, but require a stable storage environment. Storage at a humidity level of 25 to 30% and temperature of 60 to 65°F is ideal for extended storage periods. Unfortunately maintaining such stability is difficult for many suppliers, hence overly dry and overly moist soap nuts are commonly found. It is recommended to buy as fresh of soap nuts as possible. If needed, allow them to dry to the point where they are slightly moist and pliable. Then seal in an airtight container and store in a cool, dark place. This will ensure long term freshness. Trifoliatus is similar except they are much smaller, usually darker in color, and drier even when very fresh. The important thing is to get what you are paying for.

Know the species you are buying and when the soap berries were harvested. If you do, you’ll then know exactly what to expect. If it’s Springtime and you are buying – and paying for – high quality, de-seeded mukorossi, then you’ll know that the soap nuts should be large, golden-ish and tacky. If they are small (like a U.S. dime), or very dark, or very gummy, or very dry, or full of seeds, then something is definitely wrong. Don’t pay as much for previous year’s soap nuts as the current harvest. If the soap nuts have been properly stored, the previous year’s harvest can create great buying opportunities. They will still be highly effective and available at bargain prices.

I want to sincerely thank all the fair and honest sellers that have done their homework, and are properly and accurately representing their products. Hopefully, these writings and pictures will help you to quickly identify such good sellers. They are the ones who are not just after a quick buck, and will help lead consumers to the wonderful experiences soap nuts offer us all.

You are now ready to buy soap nuts with a minimal risk of being disappointed.

Good luck and enjoy!

IMPORTANT: Please see the article “Soap Nuts with Seeds” for a more in-depth discussion regarding this serious issue with many being sold these days. – There are good pictures from active sellers and exporters used as examples of this growing problem.

ALSO: Please see the article “Why from the USA?” for a more in-depth discussion regarding the issue of processing and packaging soap nuts in the USA vs. overseas.

CAUTION: Don’t miss the updated post about China-grown soapberry seller(s) found in violation of U.S. Federal law, USDA regulations – and carrying a high risk of contamination. Many grandiose claims, and statements of being tested safe are made – however none (not a single one) has ever been substantiated. Online and third-party availability only. No address or phone is provided for the seller. The berries are characteristically soft, slimy and oily while having a dark reddish purple to black color (like old, dirty motor oil). Commonly noted is the scent of petroleum. Best to return (if possible) or discard in an environmentally friendly fashion.
(See full post in left-side column for the latest info.) – Just say “NO” to China-grown.

• Great Green Gifts

Originally published during the 2009/10 Holiday Season:

Soap nuts are truly a timely rediscovery for environmentally friendly detergents and household cleaning products. People are actively seeking better earth friendly products more than ever before in history. What could be a better gift idea than soap nuts? They are a perfect green gift!

Soap Nuts Sampler Stocking StuffersThis is a holiday season when we all want – and need – to be frugal. It is a year when green shopping has taken on much greater importance. This year soap nuts have actually become a “buzz”! However, few people really understand them. So, what makes the ideal green gift that is both fun and practical; a gift that will be used and appreciated; a gift that just might change someone’s life for the better – and certainly will be better for our world? SOAP NUTS – the only true 100% natural, chemical-free, green laundry detergent and cleaner.

Tremendous credibility was given to soap nuts (soapnuts, soap berries, etc.) this year by the “Green Dot Awards – Celebrating Excellence in Green Products and Services.” Some of the largest and most innovative companies in the world compete for their awards. Their jury reads like a who’s-who of green movement leaders. In their own words, “NaturOli green detergents and cleansers. Use of saponin, which is derived naturally from soap nuts, is possibly the most significant green innovation in history for everyday household cleaning needs.” And further proclaimed, “Although the Green Dot Awards are worthy unto themselves, they are also a consumer guide to excellence in environmentally-sustainable practices. A business with a Green Dot Award is a business that can be trusted by consumers with stewardship of the environment.”Soap Nuts in Holiday Canisters

We have an incredible opportunity to spread the word about soap nuts and their fantastic benefits, and do so very economically – plus have some real fun in the process! “No, mom, they are not lumps of coal.” LOL!!! I can hear it all now. People are absolutely astounded that such a wonderful natural thing exists!

For those of us that use soap nuts we realize they are a dream come true. Not only are they the best and purest earth friendly detergent, but they can replace 90% of the everyday chemical cleaners around the house, too. To understand soap nuts is to love them. We veterans realize that to use them is the only way to fully embrace their wonders. So, let’s spread the word about these little gems from Mother Nature with our loved ones, friends and co-workers! We can share these healthy and fascinating green gifts to better people’s lives! That sure beats chocolates or silly things, don’t you think? (Oh, I wouldn’t recommend it as the only gift for your significant other. That might be a problem.)

The NaturOli team has been putting together lots of creative green gift ideas for you. And there are more soap nut products this year to consider – such as soap bars, soap nuts shampoo bars, liquid concentrate and maybe more. You will find a lot of fun soap nut gifts on the NaturOli Store.

Soap Nuts Starter Gift SetsHowever, here’s the simplest, most inexpensive way to share soap nuts and spread the word in a major way: Little soap nut samplers and trial sizes as green gifts and stocking stuffers! You can get soap nut samplers and trial bottles of Extreme 18X Soap Nuts Liquid Concentrate for very little cost. There are packages where you can get a bunch of them for parties and stuffers that are marked way down. You can be creative and even more frugal by simply getting large sized bags and start making up your own special green gifts. You will use about a half ounce (5 or 6 soap nuts) per each raw soap nut sampler. Get as many wash bags as you’ll need. Add some ribbon or a bow and you are good to go! (Eco-friendly embellishments are getting easier to find.) Now you just made lots of very inexpensive, environmentally friendly green gifts that are sure to be a huge hit! How cool is that?

(btw: If you have one of those with huge families, are throwing huge parties or planning the corporate holiday party, don’t be shy about writing for special orders and prices. The NaturOli team can accommodate just about anything. That’s a win-win for everybody! Try to plan ahead – it’s an exceptionally busy season.)Soap Nut Deluxe Gift Sets

If you choose to get soap nuts from NaturOli, the team will help you spread the word by providing information and directions pamphlets for every gift of soap nuts you give. (Printed on recycled paper with soy inks, of course.) Be sure to add a little note in the comments with your order that you are giving them as gifts. These info and instructions for soap nut use will make your earth friendly gifts all that much more meaningful and interesting. There is a lot of information in the pamphlets. Even Extreme 18X Liquid is described.

So, take a bunch of these great little green gifts to the holiday work party, to family get-togethers, block parties or whatever occasion! Put soap nuts in every stocking. Have some fun with them! One thing is a certainty – Everybody is curious about soap nuts. You’ll be amazed at the responses. Many are still skeptical, but they all want to see, touch, feel and try them! They are so new, unique and just plain cool.

My warmest wishes to you all! Happy green holidays!

• Storage

Storing soap nuts and/or preserving soap nut liquid is simpler than you may think.

This is touched upon in FAQs and various soap nuts related articles, but warrants its own post. I am frequently asked about the shelf life of soap nuts, so here you go.

Let’s break this into two kinds of storage: Storage of the raw, dry soap nuts and preserving soap nuts liquids.

Raw soap nuts:

Whether whole, pieces or dry soap nuts powder, this is very simple. First remember that a soap nut (soap berry) is a dried fruit. They are originally sun dried, and then continue to dry during open air storage (unless it’s very humid, of course). How long will a dried fruit last? A very long time – years. No preservatives are needed. The soap nuts should be stored in a stable, relatively dry environment.  Just for reference, the perfect conditions are approximately 20 to 30% humidity and cool to room temperature. Avoid direct sunlight due to the heat created. Nothing special needs to be done by the average user for short-term storage (less than a year). Use common sense. If you are in a very moist environment use of an airtight container may be helpful. Be mindful of temperature changes and possible condensation. Silica packs can be helpful to dry out excess moisture in some cases. (You can find packets in many products you buy, such as electronics or anything where the manufacturer wants to avoid condensation and moisture. These work great.)

Lots of soap nuts in muslin bags.

Lots of mukorossi soap berries in muslin bags. Photo: Private collection.

We do not have any culinary use for soap nuts; hence we do not need to be concerned with them becoming stale. The active ingredient, saponin, does not evaporate – but the moisture will. Potency may decrease if very old, and particularly if very dry or very moist from improper storage. (If sealed when overly moist, you’ll end up with a black gummy mess.) So, plain old-fashioned, dry-cabinet storage will be most peoples’ soap nut storage solution. The more stable and moderately dry the environment remains, the more they will continue to resemble the soap nuts on the day you put them away.

For long-term soap nuts storage, the basics are the same. However, use an airtight container becomes much more important. Vacuum sealing is a great option if you have the capability. I personally have soap nuts that are three years old and they are still effective and look good. The trick is to have them just a little pliable and slightly tacky – neither too dry or too moist before sealing them up.

It is common for soap nuts to change in color over time. That pretty golden color from a fresh new harvest will only last for a few months. They will continually deepen in color over time. Color is often your best indicator of age. When buying soap nuts, I recommend buying the freshest ones you can get. The reason being: Why not? I’ve often seen soap nuts that were new out of the box, but obviously a year or two (or more) old. They’ll work, but I’d much prefer big, plump soap nuts (preferably mukorossi soap berries) to ensure I’m getting the maximum level of saponin content.

Soap Nuts Liquid:

Storing soap nuts liquid is an entirely different story. Shy of being professionally preserved, there are two age-old ways to go: Freezing or canning. Period. Unless you really know what you are doing, don’t bother with at home preservatives (e.g., citric acid, tea tree oil, rosemary, etc). These are not full spectrum preservatives and will have limited usefulness. You may be able to extend the shelf life of the soap nuts liquid a little, but not enough to make much of a difference. If you are purely preserving the liquid (that is, strained of the soap berries), I suggest making soap nut liquid ice cubes. These are very convenient to use. Melt them as needed, or just toss some in with your laundry. If you are making other soap nut cleaners, melt as many as needed for the solution. Don’t make up more than you’ll use in a week. Having “ready to use” soap nuts liquid doesn’t get much more convenient.

Canning is another great option – particularly for long-term storage. It’s great if you are preserving the whole soap nut “stew” to play with another day. Most likely you either know or don’t know how to “can” food products. I won’t spend time here explaining how, but it is very simple. If you want to learn, there are many sites that will teach you step-by-step. Grandma could can her garden tomatoes and fruits, so you can do the same with your soap nuts.

So now, how difficult is it to store or preserve soap nuts regardless of form? Not at all. I’ve received emails from people that actually seemed overly concerned about the shelf life of their homemade soap nuts liquids. That’s a bit silly. Any unpreserved plant, fruit, vegetable or food product will go bad over time – particularly if in water. There’s no need to be afraid of it. If it goes sour, you’ll know it. You may still use it in compost or to water plants with it. My plants seem to love soap nuts regardless of state or condition.

Professionally preserved soap nut liquid is available, and also available in a very highly concentrated form. See NaturOli’s Extreme 18X soap nuts liquid cleaner for a highly concentrated formula with a two-year shelf life. You can also find it on Amazon and sometimes on Ebay. It can be used for laundry or a plethora of household cleaning needs, and is to be diluted as desired. I highly recommend it – and it has a long shelf life. Do be aware that there are numerous ways to extract saponin from soap nuts. Some processes use harsh chemical solvents. It’s fast and cheap. Needless to say, that’s not what most of us want to see for it defeats the purpose of safe natural liquid. Look for only products using a water-based saponin extraction process.

Go enjoy your soap nuts for a long time to come. Larger sizes cost less per ounce.  So, I hope this will help you to take better advantage of those significant savings on soap nuts.

• Best High Efficiency (he) Detergent

Hands down soap nuts (a.k.a soapnuts, soap berries, wash nuts, etc.) are the best HE (high efficiency) detergent or laundry soap available anywhere at any price. Period. Soap nuts actually accomplish everything that the HE chemical detergent producers are still trying to accomplish – and soap nuts do it even better  completely naturally – and totally green.

Typical he front loading washer.

Typical he front loading washer. Stock photo.

Soap nuts release precisely what the chemists at the major detergent producers are struggling to develop. Soap nuts simply accomplish it naturally and synthetic chemical free. A low sudsing, effective surfactant is the objective of any good HE detergent. Such is saponin – the all-important active ingredient that the soap nut releases to produce the “soaping” effect.

(Just in case: A surfactant is an agent or substance that reduces the surface tension of liquids so that the liquid spreads out, rather than collecting in droplets, hence allowing easy water flow through the soiled fabrics and facilitating the removal or release of dirt, oils, grime, etc.) Saponin does precisely that!

Soap nuts also come with some truly major extra benefits. They are naturally anti-fungal, antimicrobial, biodegradable and hypoallergenic. Plus to top it all off, used properly they are by far less expensive than the commercial chemical detergents. Geeez…what more can we ask for? See the article on affordability.

Virtually everything written in this article applies to all front-loading washers. Front loading washers are essentially HE washers by design. Newer front loaders that are called HE are simply more efficient than older units. They use tumbling as opposed to agitators to clean your laundry and use less water. Tumbling the laundry is the ideal way to agitate the soap nuts. It further enhances their release of saponins.

A very interesting point to be noted is that most HE washers have a maintenance cycle that is required to be run to keep the machine operating at peak efficiency. I very recently wrote an article specifically about purging and cleaning your machine using soap nuts (regardless of machine type). See the article on cleaning up washing machines with soap nuts for more detail. Soap nuts do not leave the residues and build ups that chemical detergents do (even the so called “green” ones). They actually break down such residues. Given that much less water is used in HE washers, a good “flushing” of the detergents, residues and additives out of your laundry and your machine is not achieved. Hence this newly found need for a maintenance cycle to help clean it out periodically.

Chemists are struggling to keep up with the washing machine technologies, and not doing a good job of it. Most of those I speak with that own HE and front-loading machines are not happy at all with the commercial detergents. As the founder of NaturOli, I speak to a lot of people every day about different detergents and the effects of using soap nuts. I routinely hear stories of these nasty odors and gross build-ups – and how well soap nuts work to eliminate the problems.

So, if you have a new or old HE washer (either top or front loader) simply try using soap nuts. It’s my bet that you will be totally astounded. You’ll love what they do for your laundry, your machine and your pocketbook, too!

Electrolux 2007 Design Lab winner. Soap nuts washer prototype. Photo courtesy of Electolux.

Electrolux 2007 Design Lab winner. Soap nuts washer prototype. Photo: Electrolux.

I’m certainly not going to try to address every single machine out there. They all don’t operate alike. Fundamentally they are the similar, but there are differences. It is very important to realize that the machine manufacturers are working with the chemical detergent producers and writing their manuals accordingly. They are certainly not addressing soap nut usage. Soap nuts are not even on their radar screens. As of 2009, it appears that only one European manufacturer, Electrolux, has actually demonstrated their foresight and vision by addressing soap nut usage.

Soap nuts are a 100% natural alternative to the synthetic, chemical detergents. Using soap nuts in a wash bag is such a radically different way to wash laundry, some experimentation on your part is going to be needed for you to determine the best method to achieve the best results using soap nuts in your machine. But, that’s part of the fun of them. Soap nut liquid and powder are used much like you would use any other liquid or powder detergent.

When using the wash bag method just forget about the compartments. Even if using liquid or powder, I recommend not using the compartments initially. Simply add the soap nuts (in whatever form) directly in with your laundry. Experimentation over time is the only way to know what works best for YOU. Since washing machines function differently the compartments and their dispersion methods introduce variables. As any good scientist will tell you, if you want to learn more and learn faster, minimize variables. Forget about the fabric softener department, too, since you normally don’t need fabric softeners when using soap nuts.

If you are using soap nuts in the traditional method (soap nuts in a wash bag) and washing in cold, definitely make a cup of soap nut “tea” and pour the tea and bag right in with your laundry. Heat helps to activate the release of the saponins. The starter “tea” method works great. You usually don’t need to make the tea again when doing loads back to back. Alternately, just boil some soap nuts and make a liquid, or grind them to a dust-like ultra fine powder. How you use soap nuts is purely a matter of personal preference. All methods work.

An exception regarding compartments: If you are using EXTREME 18X, dilute it as instructed to whatever amount of liquid is typical for your machine. Use both the wash and pre-wash compartments. It is very pure and void of any oils, hence it works great using the compartments – and immediately starts to work clean up your machine’s internal plumbing.

All in all, simply use good old-fashioned common sense. Know that heat and agitation help to release saponin from raw soap nuts. Using powders and liquids are simply convenient alternative methods. Many people really enjoy producing their own homemade detergent concoctions.

What’s most important to know and understand is that you have available to you (right now) the absolute very best HE detergent you will ever find – soap nuts. Soap nuts are the perfect HE detergent in every way – and again – more affordable, too! I guess Mother Nature is a little smarter than all those laboratory chemists. Why am I not surprised?

• Soap Berry Liquid Detergent: Efficacy Test

NaturOli’s soap nut liquid detergent goes toe to toe with leading chemical detergents in independent laboratory testing to compare cleaning power. This is the first time in history an independent US laboratory detergent comparison included soap nuts.

Just in case: Efficacy: ef-fi-ca-cy, noun. The ability to produce the necessary or desired results. (Courtesy of Encarta World English Dictionary)

Independent laboratory efficacy testing. Photo: Private collection.

Independent laboratory efficacy testing. Photo: Private collection.

Recently documented (June, 2009) via laboratory efficacy studies, soap nuts and saponin are proved equivalent in cleaning power to the some of the most popular mainstream synthetic chemical detergents on the market. The testing was for cleaning power only. There is no consideration given to the “mile long” list of additional benefits (either health or environmental) from the use of soap berries and saponin. For most, soap nuts sound to good to be true – but this is real. These are the facts. Here is the proof.

In June of this year, a diluted version of NaturOli’s Extreme 18X concentrated laundry soap was provided to Specialized Technology Resources (STR) in Canton, Massachusetts for comparative testing and analysis. The dilution of the 18X was done to approximate a one-ounce to one-ounce single load comparison. One ounce of “pure” Extreme 18X will wash approximately six to 12 loads. A full ounce of Extreme 18X would not make for a realistic comparison. It was diluted to equate to a single load dosage to compare apples to apples.

Comparisons were made against Tide 2X Ultra, Tide Free 2X Ultra, Seventh Generation Free and Clear 3X Concentrate and Method’s 3X Detergent Concentrate. Tests were conducted using a cold water (70F), normal wash cycle and used top loading vertical axis washing machines.

In the final analysis it is quoted by STR, “At approximately a 35% lower Use Level than both the Tide and Seventh Generation products and at the same Use Level as the Method product (NaturOli’s liquid soap nut detergent) demonstrated approximately 98% Tide’s, Seventh Generation’s and Method’s Overall Soil Removal Capability.”

That’s using 35% less product in the comparison with Tide and Seventh Generation. The tests were conducted using cold water with vertical agitation – one of saponin’s most difficult scenarios for maximum effectiveness. Amazing! Of the numerous tests, even with additional enzyme boosters by the competitive brands, the very lowest comparative results proved 91-93% effectiveness. There are currently no enzyme boosters whatsoever added in NaturOli’s Extreme 18X saponin laundry soap. This is a due to NaturOli maintaining the product’s purity.

Virtually across the board in every single test the results were comparable. The tests compared soiling by dust, clay, coffee, cosmetics, grape juice, grass, blue ball point pen, spaghetti sauce, motor oil and more. Test evaluated results on fabrics such as cotton, polyester and blends.

Hands down, this is a major victory for saponin over synthetic chemical detergents. Please don’t think that the supposedly “green” products that the saponin detergent was compared are actually “green”. Read the ingredients for yourself. They are far from it. SLS is still a primary ingredient.

Bottom line: The first of NaturOli’s saponin-based detergents went head to head with the leading detergents on the market and the jury called it a draw. Given that the emphasis of saponin-based products is placed on purity from all hazardous chemicals, this is a monumental achievement.

• Affordability

Soap Nuts – Possibly THE MOST Affordable Way To Wash Laundry.

I have read erroneous articles discussing soap nuts as an expensive alternative to chemical detergents. Interestingly I have received more than one apology from journalists that simply didn’t do enough homework on the subject of soap nuts. Anything used improperly will produce unreliable data. One journalist claimed that the cost of soap nuts was in the 50 cents per load range. I promptly set her straight. Frankly, properly used, soap nuts can be one of the most affordable ways possible to do laundry – and the math is very easy.

Now, it is important to realize that it is not cost effective at all to buy samplers of soap nuts. The purpose of samplers is to try them. Period. If you like them, then you would certainly buy them in larger quantities to reduce your cost per ounce. That’s a very nice thing about NaturOli. Not only do they offer very large sizes of reasonably priced quality soap nuts. They even work well with co-ops, similar type groups and resellers of all sizes on even larger orders.

But let’s first compare the cost of using soap nuts to using commercial detergents – as average consumers. Let’s just crunch some numbers:

You can purchase 32 ounces of high quality soap nuts for around $30. That should be enough to last an average household six months to a year when it comes down to simply doing laundry. Used in the traditional manner, you will use approx. one-half ounce in a wash bag and will average about 5 loads from it. That yields approx. 320 loads. Now I can usually get more loads than that, but that is only because of some tricks I use to extend their life and maximize saponin extraction. To be conservative, let’s even just go with only four loads.

Oh, a note worth mentioning: I’ve seen some soap nut sellers claim less loads being possible. That is very likely a good indicator of the type and quality of soap nuts being sold. I’ve also heard of people claiming to use half the amount of soap nuts I suggest using. (I still don’t get that one.) But let’s bare in mind the many, many variables in how people do their laundry. We will devote more time on this subject later.

Again, being very conservative, at only four loads per half ounce that would yield us only 256 loads. $30 divided by 256 equals $0.127 per load. And we are talking standard loads – not high efficiency (HE) loads that will lower the cost per load dramatically.

Soap nuts affordabilty - cost comparisons. Photo: Private colellection.

Soap nuts affordabilty - cost comparisons. Photo: Private colellection.

Now let’s run some comparisons with NaturOli soap nuts at various popular sized bags with leading “natural” and other types of detergents in typical sizes in which they are available. Note all comparison items were priced from discount yet reputable and respected sellers. All NaturOli prices per load are based upon standard loads, not HE loads. He loads would be approximately half the stated costs per load.

– NaturOli’s 64 ounce bag of soap nuts: $57.95 for 512 loads ($0.113 per load)

– NaturOli’s 32 ounce bag of soap nuts: $29.95 for 256 loads ($0.117 per load)

– NaturOli’s 16 ounce bag of soap nuts: $19.95 for 128 loads ($0.155 per load)

– NaturOli’s 8 ounce bag of soap nuts: $12.75 for 64 loads ($0.199 per load)

– Seventh Generation’s Free and Clear Natural Laundry Detergent 2x Ultra: $11.99 for 50 loads. ($0.239 cents per load)

– All’s Small and Mighty 3x Concentrate for HE washers: $8.49 for 32 loads. ($0.265 per load)

– Mrs. Meyer’s Lavender Laundry Detergent: $13.49 for 32 loads ($0.421 per load)

– ECOS Laundry Detergent, Ultra Concentrated with Soy Fabric Softener: $9.49 for 26 loads ($0.367 per load)

– Tide’s 2x Concentrated Laundry Detergent: $14.99 for 32 loads ($0.468 per load!) This one really surprised me!

– Seventh Generation’s  Free and Clear Powder Laundry Detergent: $10.99 for 42 loads ($0.262 per load) Note: This is based on a package priced 4-pack at $43.99)

– Dreft’s 2x Concentrated Baby Laundry Detergent: $31.99 for 110 loads ($0.290 per load!)

– Babyganics 3x Concentrated Laundry Detergent: $13.49 for 33 loads ($0.408 per load)

– Method’s 3x Concentrated Baby Laundry Detergent: $10.99 for 32 loads ($0.343 per load)

Very quickly it becomes apparent that soap nuts (even when using our very conservative estimates) are very inexpensive compared to commercial detergents. The cost per “soap nut” load is dramatically lower! Used properly soap nuts can cut laundry costs by half or more. And this does not even factor in that you have virtually no more need for fabric softeners or dryer sheets.

(Forgive this brief departure, but at this point I can’t resist mentioning the environmental impact. Can you imagine the mega-tons of big plastic jugs and boxes that are completely eliminated from existence forever when using soap nuts? That’s staggering – and that’s only one of the many ways soap nuts are better for our planet. We will drill into this much more deeply in other articles.)

I gave a single mother, good friend of mine with three children a bag of soap nuts for the holidays. She has been working hard to make ends meet. Since that time she has raved about how wonderfully they worked, how her laundry never smelled so clean and soft, how her washing machine no longer smelled like mold and mildew. She had difficulty describing the scent, because there is no scent. How does one simply describe the scent of clean? Think about it.

She didn’t stop with laundry. She hasn’t stopped experimenting, and I last heard that the liquid she made cleaned her coffee maker better than even CLR did. Amazing.

We are all stretching our dollars as far as possible these days. We are also very concerned about all possible health hazards, and living greener lives. Unfortunately, what usually goes along with even supposedly “greener”, better products are higher price tags. One walk down any aisle in a grocery store, and this becomes immediately apparent. I have recently read numerous articles on the green profiteering that is occurring in nearly all industries.

Soap nuts are not only growing in consumer awareness when green is “in”. It is growing in awareness at a time when we all can use conserving a little more of our own green. No time could be better than now to discover all the wonders of soap nuts.

• Laundry Use: The Wash Bag Method

Let’s get to the age-old, traditional method of soap nuts (soapberries) laundry washing. That is, using the dried soapberries in a wash bag. It is extremely simple, but the most difficult method to wrap our brain around. It is simply such a different and unique way to wash laundry. Never use soap nuts without a wash bag. That would be very wasteful, plus you would likely get bits and pieces of the soap nuts in your laundry. Do not put soap nuts into the detergent compartments (either loose or in a wash bag). Doing so will not permit the agitation that helps the soap nuts release their saponin – their all-important active ingredient.

With traditional soap nuts wash bag usage, forget about your washing machine’s compartments entirely. Put five or six soap nuts (approximately a half an ounce) into a muslin or cotton wash bag. Tie it closed and simply toss the wash bag right in with your laundry. Period. That’s it. It doesn’t matter whether your machine is standard, HE, front-loading, top-loading or whatever. All we want to do is get the wash bag to be “washed” right along with the rest of your laundry.

NOTE: Be sure that the soap nuts do not contain seeds. (You can tell very easily if they do. The seeds are large, like a seed in a cherry. There are some soap nuts being sold on the market that are not de-seeded. The seeds are big, very hard and black as coal. They have no cleaning benefits at all, and can potentially leave spots on your laundry. This is not to mention that since you purchase soap nuts by weight, the seed will weigh about as much as the shell (the part that produces the saponin). Beware of very cheap prices.

VERY IMPORTANT FUNDAMENTALS:
Certain things are necessary to understand how to use soap nuts traditionally and to achieve the best results from them. Some basic points:
1) The dried soap nuts must become saturated with water. The dried fruit will become softer when it is releasing saponin at a desirable rate.
2) Heat is a catalyst that can be used effectively to more quickly soften the soap nuts and facilitate a faster release of the saponin.
3) Good water flow in and around the soap nuts and laundry, plus agitation are key factors to effective and ongoing release of saponin throughout the wash. Overstuffed laundry loads will not produce desirable results.
4) Cold water merely reduces the degree to which the saponin is released. There is no need to remove the soap nuts during the commonly cold rinse cycle. Saponin is so benign that a little in the rinse cycle has no negative effect whatsoever.

The traditional method of soap nut usage is the most economical method of use. Soap nuts’ cost per load is far less than most commercial detergents – particularly the so-called “natural” laundry soaps. Plus you will need no fabric softener or dryer sheets anymore. You will typically get around five loads per half an ounce of soap nuts. When washing and rinsing in cold water or when using an HE washer, you can often extend that to 6-7 loads. Tip: If you choose to, you can remove the wash bag prior to the rinse cycle and that will also extend the useful life of the soap nuts. This is not necessary at all. It may simply get you an extra wash or two per soap nuts wash bag.

If using a cold-water wash cycle, it is best to soak the bag of soap nuts in a cup of warm water first. Make a soap nut “tea” so to speak. That will help to stimulate the release of saponin from the soapberries. Then pour the cup of liquid and the bag right into the machine, add your laundry and start washing. If you have a pre-wash cycle, that’s fine. It won’t make a difference. Many people do not do take this extra step, and get great results. Water hardness and the exact water temperature are other variables. One person’s cold can be many degrees different than another’s. Softer water will allow the soap nuts to begin working more quickly, too. Hence, it is best to simply experiment to determine what works best for you.

Overstuffed laundry loads is the #1 reason for less than desirable results - regardless of detergent type.

Over-stuffing laundry loads is the #1 reason for "less than desirable" wash results - regardless of detergent type.

Be certain not to over-stuff your loads. If water is not flowing adequately through the fabrics, no detergent of any kind will work well. You should always be able to see your laundry intermixing and moving about. If nothing appears to be moving about freely, then your  laundry load is packed too tightly. Overly packed loads may save water, but at the price of having laundry that has not been properly cleaned.

Once you begin using soap nuts you will quickly understand just how simple they are to use. I feel that much of what I write is not because we need to learn so much about how to use them, but rather to explain the many things that we have come to believe about doing laundry that are just plain wrong. Given the fundamentals above, you would figure most of this out for yourself through trial and error. However, I hope that to help shorten your learning curve, bring clarity to certain issues about using soap nuts, and minimize any confusion that occurs during the course of changing our ways of doing laundry.

Through the course of business I meet many people in the laundry business. As one professional specialty laundry cleaner of many years put it, “Most people shouldn’t do their own laundry.” He stated that there are just too many things that most people do not fully understand about what actually causes the proper cleaning of their laundry. That’s very interesting, don’t you think?

We learn more about soap nuts and saponin every single day. The list of benefits that the soap nut offers us and our environment gets longer all the time. It is ultimately my goal to move on to addressing all these wonderful benefits and the many other soap nuts uses. Mother Nature handed us a remarkable gift when that first soapberry tree took root. I look forward to sharing all I have learned from soap nuts. They will change our lives forever.