Review: Living Naturally Soap Nut Shells

Living Naturally SoapnutsThese soapnuts are brilliant! I was intrigued by the idea of soapnuts for laundry but also a little sceptical!
Soap Nut shells are the outer shells or husks of the soapberry. The shells are chemical-free and work by releasing natural saponin (soap) when mixed with water
Living Naturally only use organically grown sapindus mukurossi which they say yield the highest level of saponin, according to the Living Naturally website, there are no chemical or industrial processes involved, the berries are harvested by hand after they fall from the soapnut trees and the shells are simply dried in the sun .
(source: Living Naturally Ltd)

I tried Living Naturally Soapnut Shells for the first time on a cool, dark wash that (luckily!) just needed refreshing.
Unfortunately I didn’t read the leaflet first so I didn’t know to pre-soak the shells to activate the soap content which you need to do for a cool wash – presumably ‘cool’ is anything below 40 degrees.
(Obviously it has to be this way otherwise the soapnuts would just carry on releasing soap during the cool rinses too!)

Probably not much soap was released on that wash! But it still smelled fresh and clean. The dry shells have a slight smell of vinegar but – as promised – there was no trace of smell on any of the washing once it had dried

Next I tried a decent sized 40 degree ‘coloured’ wash with approx 6 or 7 shells and this load came up nice and clean, soft and smelling very fresh.

Living Naturally claim that the soapnut shells also soften the wash without the need for conditioner. So I decided to forgo fabric conditioner, just adding around 8 to 10 drops of essential oil to some water.
Experimenting with lavender, rose, geranium and ylang ylang, I found just 1 drop of geranium oil is enough in any blend as it can be quite overpowering.

I have also re-used the same shells on a small ‘hand wash’ wollens programme using essential oil instead of fabric conditioner, again with excellent results. Soapnut shells are now my preferred choice for washing all my natural woollens, especially my precious cashmere!

Since i tested these soapnuts they have been repackaged and there are now additional instructions in the tub for boiloing up the soapnuts to make a liquid detergent, this way one tub of soapnut shells wil go nearly twice as far!
One word of caution, if using the soapnuts in the bag inside your machine, always remember to tie up the little drawstring bag to keep the shells fully contained; I have forgotten a couple of times and a couple of the shells escaped into the drum. I had it pointed out to me that if those loose shells got in the filter or pump it could be messy and expensive to sort out!

Despite my initial reservations about using something that just fell off a tree, I do rather like the fact that soapnut shells are completely natural and unprocessed and that they are phosphate-free, so they do not pollute our lakes and waterways.
Phosphates are used in detergents to ‘soften’ water and stop dirt settling back into clothes and dishes in the wash. So much phosphate from washing machine and dishwashing detergents is ending up in some of our lakes that the Love Your Lakes campaign was set up by Nurture Lakeland in 2009, to try and reduce phosphate pollution in the Lake District

soapnutsnewLiving Naturally Soapnut Shells are available on the Green Emporium website, they are currrently £6.95 for a 225g tub which should be enough for approx 55 washes if you use the sopanuts in a bag in the machine. But you can stretch the contents to make go nearly twice as far by boiling up the soapnuts to make a liquid laundry detergent – the instructions are on the leaflet in the tub.

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