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• 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

• What are Soap Nuts?

Are they soap NUTS or soap BERRIES? A little botany:

Soap nuts are not “nuts”. Of course you can take that a few different ways, but I am referring to only the botany. A soap nut is not a nut at all. It is a berry – a fruit. This has confused many people. Most consumers have never seen a soapberry growing on the tree. Most only see the dried fruit. Being hard and crinkled it looks like a nut. It erroneously began being referred to as a soap nut, and the name stuck.

One can become very confused when trying to determine what is rightfully a “nut”. It is a very broad term. Using some definitions, a soapberry could be referred to as a nut or seed. Botanically speaking, a nut is a dried fruit with one seed. That fits for a soap nut. However, the BIG catch is that with a true NUT – the fruit cannot be separated from the seed. A freshly picked ripe soapberry will resemble a cherry. They vary from species to species, but they have a large single seed in each berry and a juicy pulp and skin. Of course, some can get nit-picky here because some nuts have shells, hence they can be separated. However, those “shells” were never a fruit-like pulp. They are woody – nothing like the pulp of a cherry. A soap nut is NOT a nut. It IS a fruit.

Even in India, the soapberry exporters refer to them as soap nuts because that is what most people call them. This does not help the situation. Most all sellers call them and brand them as “nuts”. It is common to see both the one and two word versions of each name to further complicate matters. As usual, the consumer is left confused. I use all the terms interchangeably mainly because “nuts” is so ingrained now, but would prefer for readers to think of them as berries. Again, think of them much like a cherry – a de-seeded (hopefully), dried cherry at the consumer level.

Many different species of soapberries grow around the globe. Simply visit Wikipedia searching under the genus sapindus for some of the many types of soapberries:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapindus

Be they shrubs or trees, we know that soapberries come from sapindus vegetation. We know the species differ significantly. A great deal more study is required to isolate all the differences.

Please be wary of what you read. As stated on Wikipedia, “Common names include soapberry and soapnut, both names referring to the use of the crushed seeds to make soap.” This statement is VERY misleading. It is not the crushed seed that produces soap. It is saponins (the natural substance within them) that produce soap. If it helps, think of saponins as soapberry juice. Saponin predominantly is derived from the pulp and skin of the fruit. The seeds have yet to be determined of significant value.

Personally, I feel much of the confusion is semantics. Much is written by those other than botanical experts and then copied and pasted over and over. I try to write to how I believe most of us think. Is a cherry a fruit or a seed? That depends upon HOW you think. However, most of us think of it as a fruit or berry. It has a big seed inside and we eat the pulp and skin. It is with THIS mindset that I describe soapberries.

I have read claims that soapberries are closely related to the goji berry or wolfberry. This is a little troubling for they VERY different in most of their characteristics. Goji berries are more similar to tiny tomatoes, and often are for culinary and nutritional use. They do not come from the same order of the plant kingdom – and you DO NOT want to eat soapberries.

One seller (that I am not yet permitted to disclose) will soon launch a massive campaign that may earmark a turning point. The soap nut may begin to become more rightfully known as a soapberry. In the meantime, don’t get confused. Regardless of the term, they are all a fruit, and there are different types that yield different results.

That is all that the average consumer NEEDS to know – for now.

Pages

• Nut Allergies? No Worries.

Have nut allergies? No worries.

A soap nut is not a nut. It is a fruit – a berry to be precise. Many, particularly those in Eastern countries, more appropriately call it a soap berry. While on the tree the soap nut is similar in physical characteristics and appearance to a cherry. So, if you have nut allergies, do not be concerned.

A soap BERRY is a far more botanically accurate description of it. Throughout this site you will find the use of each of these terms, but do not be confused. I am referring to one thing.

Nobody really knows when or where soap nuts caught on as the most popular term for them. When they are de-seeded, dried and ready for use they have a crinkled nut-like appearance. This is how most consumers first see and experience them. Very few people see the soap nuts while still on the tree. If more people did they would be more commonly referred to as soap berries.

Given that the possibility of an allergy is the gist of this article, remember that virtually everyone can be allergic to something. From experience and hard data from NaturOli, I’ll have to put soap nuts close to olives as far as human sensitivity to them. Out of thousands of known customers and users (as of July, 2009) we have documented only two individuals that experienced an allergic reaction. In both cases they resulted in a mild, itchy rash that lasted a short period (less than 24 hours).

If you knowingly have high sensitivities and many allergies, it is always a good practice to do a small patch test. Take a patch of cloth, get it wet and soapy by rubbing the soap nuts, and then place it on your arm or leg. You don’t need to leave it on for long, but let it dry on your skin. Don’t rinse or wipe it off. Your skin will absorb the saponin. It is the saponin that would be the cause of an allergy. Saponin is the active ingredient in the soap nut.

Allow an hour or two to see if you experience any reaction. If you have an allergy to soap nuts, this test will show you, and do so with minimal discomfort. Most likely the treated area would become red and itchy. Possibly small bumps could emerge. Of course at this point you should wash the affected area. It is only prudent to state that if there is any reaction more serious than described, you should consult your physician.

As we get into much more depth be aware that a soap nut is not just a soap nut. There are many varieties. There are specific articles on this topic. When being referenced in articles and posts the vast majority of the time the soap nut being discussed is the Sapindus Mukorossi variety (the highest quality and most highly valued of the many varieties).

Given that there are numerous species and differing saponins, there is a possibility to be allergic to one particular species and not another. This is very unlikely, but a possibility. Much more study, research and testing of all the varieties of soap nuts is required.

There is a recent 2009 toxicology test that compares ocular irritation from a saponin-based detergent relative to other popular commercial brands. (See Soap Nuts Ocular Toxicity Test) It should be noted that in this independent laboratory test the saponin detergent was the LEAST irritating of all brands tested. Particularly given that this was an eye irritation test (eyes being very sensitive), It is a good indicator of the very benign nature of soap nuts and saponin.

The odds of having an allergy to saponin (soap nuts, soap berries, etc.) are very remote. You should be able to freely partake in ALL the incredible wonders and benefits that soap nuts offer us.