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• 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.

• Liquid or Powder: Better Natural Laundry Results?

Soap nut liquids and powders are growing rapidly in popularity because they are more inline with how we typically wash laundry today – primarily liquids. Statistics show liquid detergents are over 90% of the detergent market and are still growing. The traditional soap nut method (the dried fruits in a wash bag) is so radically different it warrants its own post. I will discuss the traditional method of using soap nuts or soapberries in a separate article. For now we will look at only the pro and cons of soap nuts liquids and soap nuts powder.

Use of soap nuts date back to antiquity, but modern manufacturers know little to nothing about them. Hence, don’t expect to find a machine with a soap nuts compartment for quite some time. So, where does that leave us? The answer is very simple: Use of our common sense. All that is required is a basic, understanding of how your washing machine and soap nuts work. Armed with that fundamental knowledge, you will find all your answers.

During a recent trip to look at new washers and dryers, I must admit that they appear to be quite complex, but appearances are just that. The fundamentals are still similar to that 20-year-old Maytag.

An aside: Ironically, if we would have ever been taught the real science of washing and cleaning (other than the technologically improved energy saving mechanics), we could use that 20 year old Maytag and get fabulous results without ever using a drop more water than absolutely necessary. We have been trained to wait for “somebody” to come out with a better way so we can purchase that better way. In essence we are trained to be dependent on businesses to offer “push-button” solutions. That is exactly how big business wants us to think. I believe that we finally are beginning to realize that if we use our brains and learn more, we can stop waiting for the next solution to be sold to us. Knowledge is power. There is truly a great deal to know about effective cleaning and washing that most of us simply do not know and have never been taught – or taught properly. I believe the Internet and information age are going to change many routine and everyday ways we do things in our lives. I believe the future holds many age-old fundamentals that will be rediscovered. The time is coming when less money and resources will be wasted on needless things, and those resources will be rerouted to development of products that will genuinely improve the overall quality of life. The recent economic downturn coupled with the green movement has provided very good reasons to take a second look at how we live our lives. That “second look” is very likely to evolve into an entirely new era for mankind. A very interesting thing about knowledge – when you get a little, you want more.

Getting back on track: There are more bells and whistles in the new machines. There are some extra features and cycles available. Some of them can be very useful. Just keep in mind that we must simply think a little differently and make adjustments as needed to accommodate proper use of soap nuts. Experimentation is always helpful. From household to household there are many variables. Some are environmental. Some are due to our personal habits. Regardless, we are all different and we do things a bit differently. Finding our own personal best way is a function of thought and such experimentation.

Soap nuts are available in liquid and powder forms in addition to their raw form (right off the tree and dried). The soap nuts liquids and soap nuts powders can be made at home or specific formulations can be purchased from a handful of developers. That makes usage much more similar to using standard and HE detergents, and therefore much simpler. However, note that the manufacturer of your machine has written instructions based upon typical “store-bought” detergents and additives – not soap nuts detergents. And once you are using soap nuts, it’s a whole new ballgame. For example: the fabric softener compartment. It is simply not needed at all anymore. (That is going to make some companies unhappy.) Some other compartment will prove to be useful.

Now stick with me on this for it is very important: If you have a high efficiency (HE) washer that requires HE detergents, soap nuts in any form are ideal when used properly because they are naturally low sudsing. They blow away every HE detergent on the market. If you have a standard machine, they are still ideal. Many people get confused at this juncture. What you must realize is that suds are not required to clean. Nor are they a barometer for evaluating the cleaning that is occurring in your washer. That is one of the big myths regarding detergents and soaps. Regardless of machine type only three things are required for effective washing of everyday laundry:

1 – A surfactant to lessen the water surface tension allowing it to break up and loosen dirt and grime.

2 – Adequate water flow.

3 – Agitation.

That’s it. So, for now try not to get hung up on the whole suds issue. I am going to address suds at great length in another article.

Given the above, now let us get to the nitty-gritty of using soap nuts liquids and powders. The variables here (aside from amounts to use) are primarily the concentration and potency of the liquid, and/or the fineness of the powder. If you are making your own liquid then the potency of saponin in the liquid will vary depending upon how you make it. If you are using a CleanNut, Terra, or Maggies soap nut detergent, they will be used very much like all others (a little more or a little less depending upon the machine type. Water hardness is a variable here. If you have hard water use a little more. Experiment and let the results speak for themselves. Back to the suds issue, do not use suds as a barometer to gauge results. Results are determined when your laundry has dried. Does it look and smell clean and fresh? Is it soft and absorbent? This is where you gauge results. This is where it counts. I had to laugh one day as a woman explained her first experience with soap nuts. She said, “I felt like I was just washing in water.” But stood in amazement at the dirtiness of the water coming from a “not all that dirty” load of laundry. She was astonished at how fresh, clean and soft her laundry came out. (She’s another one who will never look back.)

Comparison: 96 loads with 18X soap nut liquid concentrate

Comparison: 96 loads with 18X soap nut liquid concentrate

If you are using NaturOli’s EXTREME 18X soap nuts liquid concentrate this is quite different. The same “little more” or “little less” principle still applies, but this is a very highly concentrated soap nuts detergent. You will typically use only a half to one teaspoon per load. No kidding. That’s just a squirt or two if using the dispenser bottle. That’s a no-brainer. You can use the compartment as you would with any liquid detergent. You simply use much less. You are probably best to start with a teaspoon (2 squirts) and then cut back and compare. Overcome that feeling of needing more – and let the end results speak for themselves. This is where “concentrated” takes on an entirely new meaning. It is actually more of a pure soap nut extract. A small 8 ounce bottle of EXTREME 18X will have as much or more cleaning power than those  that come in a big 32 or even 64-ounce jug. I know, it’s tough to grasp that, but that is only because of the brainwashing factor again. NaturOli set out to produce the greenest detergent and cleaner possible – and did (winning a major award in the process). There is no laundry soap on the planet with a lower carbon footprint. Why do companies  ship all that water anyway? For that totally pure, unaltered, soap nuts clean and fresh result, you will be happiest with EXTREME 18X. It contains no essential oils that can leave residue and cause “wicking” of the fabric fibers, plus it is totally unscented. If you desire a scent I recommend using an absorbent cloth with a little of your scent of choice and tossing it in the dryer. Use more or less as desired. The oils will not impact the cleaning effects when used in such fashion.

If you are using soap nuts powder, you want it to be as fine as you can possibly get it (dust like is preferred). It’s likely better to purchase finely pre-ground and sifted. A course grind and/or a short wash cycle will result in much saponin just going down the drain and being wasted. It won’t have time to fully release its saponin. (Grinding your own sounds easy enough, but it is a bit trickier than you may think. The shells must be very dry first, and if you have a grinder that will produce an ultra-fine powder, plus a fine filter, an airborne soap nut “dust” will be difficult to avoid. The dust will be irritating if inhaled, or if gotten into eyes. I recommend purchasing it ready-made for use.) Approximately a teaspoon of very fine, quality soap nut powder (added into the powder compartment or directly in with your laundry) will wash an average load. Using powder may be a less economical method of using soap nuts because you’ll likely use more soap nuts than required if reusing them in the wash bag method, or if using liquid. Liquid ensures optimal use of the saponin in the berries.

In all cases, if you are adding salts, water softeners, sodium percarbonate (oxy-bleach basically), washing soda, vinegar, etc. to adjust your water’s pH level and/or for whitening and cleaning boosters, that’s totally fine – plus part of the fun! Experimentation is key to obtaining consistently excellent results.

btw: Soap nuts powder makes for an awesome green scouring powder. That is predominantly what I use powder for. Forget about the toxic Comet and rubber gloves! Powder works great!

There is no rocket science here. Most of this is plain, old-fashioned common sense. The only real hurdle is changing the way we think, and some old habits. Good results are what we are striving for. It may take a couple loads to dial in the best results for your particular scenario, but you will soon know exactly what to do. If you have a pre-wash and a main wash cycle, simply use them as your owner’s manual suggests.

It is noteworthy to point out that with soap nuts you really don’t need a second rinse cycle unless your laundry is very dirty. In most cases, that second rinse is to help flush out all the chemicals in the fabrics. Since we aren’t using chemicals with soap nuts it is no longer needed. It becomes a matter of choice, not necessity. So you do have an opportunity to save quite a bit of water. That’s a nice plus.

I hope this has helped you. It is actually hard to really do something very wrong when using soap nuts liquid or powder. If you are not satisfied with the results, take a look at what you did and make some adjustments. If you have very hard water then you will typically need to use more than average amounts. Once again, let the final results be your finished laundry. Once you have dialed in what is right for you, your laundry will be clean, fresh, soft and absorbent – unlike you have ever experienced before. If you are like the vast majority, you will never want to use anything except soap nuts detergents again.