Going all-natural with cleaning supplies, as well as personal care products and food, equates to a lot of great benefits for our health, the environment and animals. With less demand for chemical-based products, that means there is less cause for creating them, slowing down the manufacturing of lots of chemicals and all the byproducts that eventually make their way to our water sources, air, and land. It makes a lot of sense to use natural things that won’t harm us.
Another benefit that many folks miss out is that, when made at home, all-natural cleaners can be a huge relief to our wallets. Soaps nuts are an absolutely fantastic, all-natural, renewable means of making our own cleaning solutions, without all of the dirty stuff. You can use them for everything from laundry to dishes, and even personal hygiene! All you need is a handful of these natural wonders, and you can kiss all your other cleaning products goodbye!
What’s more is that they are super cheap, and with just a few other basic ingredients (and recipes), all of which are inexpensive as well, it’s very easy to compile a home-cleaning DIY collection that’ll perform every bit as well as the chemicals but at a fraction of the cost.
The Starter Kit
Just like with healthy food, healthy cleaning products begin with real ingredients rather than synthetic chemicals. Nature provides all the things we need to feed ourselves, and similarly, all the things we need to keep our surroundings clean. In addition to soap nuts, to get started with DIY cleaners (as well as personal care products), there are a few things worth buying in bulk and keeping around the house: borax, washing or baking soda, Castile soap, vinegar, and essential oil (citrus generally feels right, but options abound). All of this can be found in nature and costs very, very little for the amount of items they’ll produce.
Even so, it’s a good idea to understand the basics of each of these elements.
- Borax is a mineral found in some salt deposits and is an extremely alkaline substance that can cause serious skin burns when not diluted or trouble if ingested, but it is a powerful cleaner often used with clothing. (Note: It is not boric acid!)
- Baking soda, from which washing soda is made, comes from the ground in the form of nahcolite, and it is used in all sorts of natural cleaning and personal hygiene concoctions, including toothpaste and dishwashing soap.
- Castile soap is an entirely plant-based soap and for about a dollar a bar. It can be ordered online.
- Soap nuts grow right on trees and contain an element — saponin — that softens the surface of water so that it can clean things better. They are easy to grow organically, very inexpensively, and completely renewable.
Doing the Dishes
Manufactured dishwashing liquids, soaps and powders can be harmful for our personal health and the environment, and in fact, the use of questionable chemicals with carcinogenic characteristics (for us and animals!) and damaging properties to the environment (especially our dwindling water sources) is protocol these days. Instead, we can make simple, safe dishwashing soap — used for hand-washing or in a machine — with soap nuts and a few other ingredients. Try mixing 1 cup of each borax and washing powder with two tablespoons each of grated castile soap and ground soap nut shells. For light loads in the dishwasher, it’s perfectly functional to just use soap nut liquid detergent, made by boiling the crushed soap nuts for about half hour.
Cleaning the Clothes
Probably the most common use for soap nuts is with laundry. The saponin found in the berries (nuts) softens the water so that it can effectively penetrate clothing and get it clean. By placing a few berries in a cloth sack (the number varies from a couple with hot water to half a dozen with cold water) and washing clothes with a normal cycle, we can do away with harmful elements found in laundry detergents and fabric softeners with a single easy-to-use naturally occurring item. For those who prefer liquid laundry detergent, use a couple of ounces of soap nut liquid.
Washing the Windows
What good is a beautiful view of that backyard garden or the park across the way if the windows are smudged and dirty. It’s understandable: We want clean windows. However, it’s not worth, nor is it necessary, using a bunch of chemicals like ammonia and 2-Butoxyethanol to get there. Soap nut liquid (1 Tablespoon) with a little vinegar (2 Tablespoons) and some water (1/2 cup) will cut the grime away without the damaging effects commercial window cleaners additionally provide. It’s so simple and cheap that one can’t help ask why we would have ever done it another way.
Scrubbing the Surfaces
Lastly, we scrub everything, worried about harmful bacteria and whatever else that might be lingering on our kitchen counters, the bathtub bottom or even the toilet seat. Of course, we are worried. We want our families to be safe. But it doesn’t take much investigation to figure out that many of the products we use to combat bacteria are just doing damage in their own way and not just to our health but also to the environment. But, you could make a soap nut scrub to get the job done economically and ecologically. Either use the soap nut liquid as is or combine it with a little vinegar and water for a general surface cleaner.
For those not familiar with soap nuts, they are nothing new. They’ve been around and been used as a cleaner for centuries. They can be ordered online for super cheap, and they are very easy to handle. Happy cleaning!