When I proudly showed this to my mom, she told me that they had always used kukudukayalu (soap nuts in telugu) for washing silks and finer clothes before the wide spread use of Dry cleaning. In fact, we used soap nut liquid for washing our hair too. The easy availability of the small sachets of shampoo and the affordability killed the usage of soap nut.
I chanced upon this article by Claude Alvares about the harmful side effects of detergent in day to day life. Quoting from the article – “In lakes, for example, phosphates lead to a process known as “eutropication” which eventually kills the lake and all life within it.”
That started a journey of understanding the chemicals, the harm they do. Like every one else, I was also under the impression that sud’s equals clean. The learning and understanding helped me to reduce the consumption and look for alternatives where possible. I had been lucky to know and have access to Kaigal Foundation’s products. I got their soap nut powder, whole soap nuts and the soap nut dish washing powder. I prefer to make my own soap nut liquid detergent using the following steps though their washing powder is just as effective.
Soak 1 cup of nuts in 5 cups of hot water for about 10 hours.
The nuts would be soft now. Squeeze them until you extract all the liquid. It will take about 5 minutes.
Filter the liquid and store it in your refrigerator. First time I did it, my husband mistook it for Coke.
I use about a cup of this liquid and soak my clothes in the washing machine (6kg capacity) itself for about 2 hours before washing. All the lemon and cirtrus fruits peels are saved added as is and provide the scent. This quantity serves me for 4-5 washes. I am sometimes more liberal with the washing liquid because I know it does not have any harmful side effects or any complex chemicals.
I have also started using it for washing my hair. Copious amounts of the liquid went into my eyes and reminded me about the wailing when we as kids had our head baths and blood shot eyes later. It is taking a while getting reused to this – natural shampoo.
Coming to the expense or the price of the product. Is it expensive than the regular detergents? I do not think so. 500g whole soap nuts about 100 rupees and give me liquid for about 30-35 washes in a 6kg washing machine. That is almost 2 months of washing for a family of three. Our son’s clothes are moderately dirty and sometimes require an additional soaking and hand scrubbing which is something I have to do even with the regular chemical detergents.
I have not yet switched over completely to the dish wash powder completely to comment on the effectiveness and economics.
It does take some planning and effort to switch from the ease of using the detergent powder. I did because I believe in doing my teeny tiny bit for the environment. I can proudly say that I am a “Certified Eco Nut”.