In my search to find a method to recycle grey water from the washing machine, I chanced upon an exciting alternative to detergents: Soap Nut (Sapindus Mukorossi, locally called Ritha or soap kai). Of course, it is not something new – our grandparents and parents have used it frequently to wash silks and expensive garments. However, in today’s scenario, I think this little nut has a vital role to play.
Most significantly, washing with soap nut does not pollute the water like the detergents. It also conserves water while using the washing machine since there’s no soapy residue to rinse away. It works just like a detergent since it contains saponin to remove dirt from the clothes.
There are two ways to use the soapnuts for laundry. One is to crack the nuts, remove the seeds and place the halves in a small pouch or old sock tied with a rubberband. Put it in the washing machine with the clothes and water and run your normal cycle. (I use a semi-automatic washing machine)
For stubborn stains, one can always use washing soda or vinegar. And to bleach the whites, use hydrogen peroxide (available at most pharmacies).
The other method involves making a soap solution by boiling a handful of the deseeded soap nuts in a litre of water. Simmer for 15-20 minutes and then filter after allowing it to steep. This is an all-purpose solution that can be used for washing vessels, vehicles, as a hand wash and even as a shampoo!
Having read up a little bit on these nuts, I went ahead and bought 100g from Anand’s on Ibrahim Sahib Street, parallel to Commercial Street. A 200g packet costs Rs 25 here and it is said that 1 kg of soapnuts can be used for upto 150 loads of laundry. Ever since, I have only been using soapnuts to do my laundry. The clothes come out just as clean as they did earlier. I must confess I was initially skeptical as the ‘bubbles’ were missing and the clothes smelt neutral (not detergent clean!). If you are really particular about the smell, you could add a few drops of your preferred essential oil during the wash/rinse cycle. However, it has now been a few months and I feel there’s no looking back. I just cannot get myself to buying detergent again.
Shop No. 42, Ibrahim Sahib Street
Shivaji Nagar, Bangalore, Karnataka 560001
ph: 080 2558 8108
The beauty of this soap nut is that it is completely biodegradable. The shells can be reused upto 2-3 times and then put in the compost pit. The seeds can be used to grow another soap nut tree.
Coming back to my search for a way to recycle grey water. Alas! That hasn’t happened yet but I feel I am halfway there – since the water is not polluted like before and should therefore be easier to filter and recycle. Any help on that front would be more than welcome. ⊕