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• 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

• 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.

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• Liquid Detergents

Important information about soap nuts in liquid form:

Soap nuts truly natural laundry detergents and cleansers are beginning a new age in safe, green, healthy household cleaning solutions. Soap nut liquids are convenient and effective for many uses, plus also simpler when doing cold water washes. However, there are potentially serious health issues regarding the liquid form of soap nuts that consumers must be aware of.

Recently, soap nut liquids began showing up on the market. When there is demand, supply will follow. Hence, a race began. The race for the next “new thing” is amusing. The inherent problem with a “race” though is that speed often leads to errors and mistakes. The race for soap nut liquids led to some serious problems.

Although we have growing concerns about all the possible health hazards of commercial chemical detergents and cleaners, soap nut liquids present reasons for concern, too. As with any botanical liquid, a pure soap nut liquid will go rancid within days unless preserved properly. One US seller who must have been in a big hurry to get a soap nuts liquid to market stopped selling it within weeks. I bought some. It became rancid within a month. I keep samples of soap nut liquids from the main producers to evaluate their shelf lives. I open them and then tightly re-close them. They are kept at room temperature. Nearly all have become contaminated. They visibly show cloudiness and coagulation. In the worst cases they have developed black spots of bacterial growth and/or fungus floating on the surface.

"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." -Green Dot Awards Jury

"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." -Green Dot Awards Jury

So, be wary of soap nuts liquids. My review of an official MSDS (Materials Safety Data Sheet) that was provided by an India/Nepal exporter was frightening. It read like a poison. This particular soap nut liquid is very well preserved, but why use it? Apparently, in the big rush to develop the liquid, the exporter used less than eco-friendly, synthetic chemical solvents in the saponin extraction process, plus loaded the solution with cheap chemical preservatives. The precious saponin’s inherent healthy, green characteristics were totally destroyed. All the benefits of using soap nuts were undone.

Most soap nut exporters and sellers are not up on their chemistry, and have little to no prior experience in genuine natural product formulation. They just don’t have the mindset for developing natural, eco-friendly, safe and healthy botanical liquid detergents. It’s not a skin care product or for consumption of which may have necessitated deeper study and more precautions.

IMPORTANT: Very little is required to be disclosed to the consumer. A seller can simply label a product with saponin or soap nuts liquid extract and be on safe legal ground. There are no laws requiring companies to tell you hardly anything. There are no FDA requirements for complete disclosure for soap nuts, detergents or other cleansers. To worsen the problem, many soap nut liquids will be produced, bottled and labeled overseas. It is – by far – the cheapest way to produce it. Don’t expect the label to explain any of this. It will only speak to what you want to hear. Avoid imported soap nut liquids or any of questionable origin. Buyer beware!

Use great care in preparing your own homemade soap nut liquids. It’s exciting to see people experimenting and developing their own concoctions. Although saponin is naturally anti-fungal and anti-microbial, once liquefied it becomes highly susceptible to microbial and bacterial growth that can quickly pose serious health risks. A 100% pure soap nut liquid will have a shelf life of only a few days. Refrigeration helps, but not much. Freezing is a good way to preserve a homemade soap nut liquid. Beyond that, a common sense approach to use of well-studied, high quality, safe preservatives is required to extend the shelf life properly. Citric acid simply does not do the job effectively. It takes time and very lengthy testing to ensure the integrity of a soap nut liquid. If you want to be 100% natural with soap nuts – and remain 100% safe – stick with the traditional methods of soap nut usage or experiment with powdered soap nuts.

(Although this is not the topic of this article, on the note of shelf life: Never expect any truly , “natural” skin care or cosmetic product to last years. Formulas designed for topical application that ultimately enter your bloodstream should be used within six months for maximum benefit. Discard after one year.)

High quality, safe soap nut (saponin) liquids and concentrates are available – some are phenomenal. Do your homework. Labels are often very deceptive and misleading, but check the ingredients. If it does not clearly spell out quality ingredients or show adequate preservatives – move on. Questions the seller. Move along if your questions are not answered to your total satisfaction. Don’t be shy about requesting a MSDS. There is no rating system for detergents and cleansers as there is with cosmetics. Hopefully there will be one someday.

For truly green, chemical-free, natural product formulators, saponin is the Holy Grail of ingredients. Conversely, for chemical formulators, sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) is an inexpensive yet effective foaming agent; hence it is one of the most common (and often the primary) active ingredients in commercial detergents and cleansers today. SLS is a highly suspected skin and lung irritant with potential toxicity to other organs. The soap nut’s saponin eliminates the need for all such hazardous ingredients.

NaturOli has developed a concentrated soap nut liquid laundry soap and cleaner that utilizes a proprietary saponin extraction process requiring no chemical solvents. It is a water-based extraction producing a quality “cosmetic grade” saponin of extremely high potency. Safe “food grade” preservatives are used to obtain a two-year shelf life and ensure the consumer’s safety. Other ingredients are healthy, natural ingredients used to enhance the formulation. The professional chemists and formulators in the NaturOli lab are developing effective, yet safe formulas that as free as possible of all potentially hazardous chemicals. The same standards and care that apply to their skin care formulations apply to their soap nut detergents and cleansers. The label clearly spells out the facts with no hype.

Bottom line: A soap nut liquid must be thought of differently than soap nuts in any other form. Additional concerns must be considered, and extra measures taken. Be prudent and use good judgment. Be safe – not sorry.

Update:
For Immediate Release –
FEBRUARY 1, 2010: EXTREME 18X Soap Nuts Liquid Detergent Concentrate wins NaturOli its second “Green Dot Award” for the unprecedented reduction of the carbon footprint, toxic chemicals and waste products created by the manufacture, packaging and transport of detergent products.