The world’s only 100% renewable detergent

Have you ever gone to put a load of laundry in your washing machine … and then realised you’re out of detergent?? It happens to the best of us!

Washing powders, laundry liquid and the ubiquitous laundry liquitabs can hurt our pockets in more ways than one.
You know, no-one talks about how to save the planet AND save money at the same time! Let me tell you a secret about how YOU can!
soap nuts These days, the smart money is on environmentally-conscious, money-saving products … ones that deliver reliable results! The humble item I’m about to share with you fits the bill on all three counts: it saves money, it’s sustainable, and folks like you and I are delighted with the results.

It’s a curious thing but people are often sceptical about anything new, particularly anything unusual-looking. When you first see a soapberry you wonder how on Earth this truly strange-looking item can possibly be used in laundry or for making gentle shampoo! “What is this thing?” I hear you ask. The Indian Soapberry or Soapnut – Sapindus Mukorossi, to give it its Latin name – comes from the same genus as the lychee. Its properties are inherent in its name: ‘sapo’ meaning ‘soap’ and ‘indicus’ meaning ‘of India’.

The trees are highly prized in rural India; the wood is used in construction and the fruit as a source of revenue. The organically-grown berries contain a high proportion of natural saponin or mild soap which is gentle on sensitive skin.
Ecologically this is a sustainable, entirely renewable resource; the fruit is harvested and sun-dried, the seeds removed and planted to ensure crops for future generations. Sapindus Mukorossi has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to nourish and hydrate skin and hair, and laboratory tests show it to have mildly antimicrobial properties.

Customers across the country are delighted with the results even if the vast majority of them were sceptical at first about using something so out-of-the-ordinary to wash their clothes. “Try them. You won’t regret it!” we hear again and again.

– Soapnuts are most effective in your washing machine on a 30, 40 or 60-degree wash and can also be used for handwashing.
–  Proven to be safe for sensitive skin – yet delivering startlingly good results reliably enough to convert the most hardened sceptic.
– The mild suds care for your fabrics and keep colours bright with no need for artificially-perfumed conditioner.
– Each handful of dried berries is reusable for up to four to six washes, after which they can be composted.
– They have become an extremely popular, effective and money-saving alternative to regular laundry detergents in some circles.
– They are great to take if your are travelling too. Even if you’ve spilled washing powder or squashed liquitabs all over your luggage in the past, there’s no danger of mess with soapnut shells! They’re lightweight and space-saving, too!

soapnut salve

The Indian Soapberry is also used in producing natural skin balms and healing salves, as well as in making solid shampoo and body wash bars. All of these are perfect for sensitive skin and for anyone trying to cut down on their plastic waste.

Yes, you CAN shine your environmentally-friendly halo, knowing that soapnuts actually work … and save you money! If you’re on a “journey to zero waste”, looking for ways to save money now that your family has expanded or you are simply trying to find something that does not irritate your skin then the gentle Indian Soapberry is well worth looking into!

And you can do that HERE! 

By Nicola Broadsmith,

Cleaner Laundry – Part 3 – Stains

Stains are big business in the laundry world, especially if you ever wear white, own a carpet or live within 5 miles of a child. Most washing detergents advertising is based around how good they are at removing stains, but there are also a plethora of stain removers on the market, suggesting that even the most chemical leaden commercial brands need an extra boost from time to time.

So it stands to reason that even the best of the eco alternatives will also come across a stain that requires a little more oomph. But do not fear it is perfectly possible to tackle those stains using earth/waterway/skin friendly methods.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • The first piece of sage advice is, no matter what method of stain removal you are using, treat the stain asap (if not even sooner than that!) The longer you wait the cosier that pesky stain gets, and the harder it is to evict.
  • Any stain treatment you are using should be pretested on an inconspicuous area of the fabric first
  • Do not rub at the stain before you treat it, this just works the stain further into the cloth fibres
  • Stains have a type, and therefore will be suited to different types/methods of stain removals. Is the stain oil based, protein based, fruit based?
  • Avoid heat, apply heat to the stain can set it further and make it almost impossible to remove.

As with our previous laundry blogs, we will start with some suggestions that are more conventional for a first step outside the comfort zone.

Ecostain

From Ecozone this is an ‘Out of the tube’ spot on treatment. It is free from toxic chemicals, it is biodegradable, certified vegan and cruelty free, doesn’t contain phosphates or nasty fragrances. Just apply to the stain, work in, leave for 10 mins and wash as usual.

For those of you willing to explore a little further then take a trip back in time with us as many of these are actually traditional solutions that would have been widely used a couple of generations back.

Laundry Bleach,

I know this has the word bleach in its name but it is not the same as the very toxic chlorine bleach that people are generally most familiar with. It is made from Soda crystals and hydrogen peroxide. It is usually found in a powder form and when mixed with water it produces… oxygen! The oxygen then gets busy being bubbles and lifting the stain out of the fabric as it passes through. Great for treating inks, dyes, fruits, drinks. Not generally recommended for use on delicate fabrics.

 

White vinegar

We mentioned this in the Fabric Conditioners section, but it is a laundry hero as it is also great for many stains too. Super for removing plant based stains so fruit juices, teas, coffee, wine, also great for mould and mildew stains but also useful for the more icky stains, blood, sick, sweat, urine…

 

Soda Crystals

Soda Crystals. A scoop of these added to your wash will boost the stain removal power of your detergent of choice. They are also great for tea and coffee stains, mud, cooking fat, blood. For spot on treatment make the soda crystals into a paste with equal parts water and spread over the stain. Leave for a while, up to 30 mins bad then wash as usual.

Bicarbonate of soda

 Especially good for deodorising and cleaning large stains on things like carpets or upholstery. Simply shake on dry to mop up liquids before vacuuming up or make into a paste, and rinse out.

 

 

 

Lemons

What about keeping your whites white and not fading to grey? This can be helped by adding some lemon juice to your wash about 120ml to a load of washing should be ok. And for this – and fading out any stains, drying in the sun (when available!) also helps.

Some other interesting tips we have come across include –

Candle wax – Pop some brown paper over the wax and iron the paper with a warm iron.

To remove lipstick from fabric, cut off the crusts from a slice of white bread, roll bread into a ball and then blot the lipstick stain, this should lift the lipstick stain from the fabric. (Havent tried this one personally…maybe my husband has?? 😉 )

If you have chewing gum on your favourite trousers, pop them in the freezer! After a few hours the gum should be brittle enough to scrape off quite easily with a knife, carefully of course!

Milk is great for ink stains, just soak the item in milk – it may take a while – but the stain should then wash out.

 

So there you have it! Your washing from start to finish, in an more eco friendly and in most cases a more pocket friendly, clothes friendly and health friendly way.

Whats not to love? I really hope that you will give some of these a fair go. Not everything is going to be a great fit for everyone (or else there wouldn’t be powder, liquids, tabs etc available from the commercial brands), so have a play with it, experiment and see what works for you. And whilst they might not help with making doing the laundry less of a chore, at least you can feel good about doing it, knowing you are helping your home environment as well as the environment at large.

If there is anything you think we have missed out of this series or a tip or product you would like to share with us, we would live to hear from you, just get in touch with us via the contact page. Thanks for reading!

Cleaner Laundry – Part 2 – Fabric Conditioners

Originally I was going to include fabric conditioners in with the detergents in part 1, but it was getting very long! And really fabric conditioners need a space to themselves because, well, you’ll see!

Considering how long people have been washing clothes, fabric conditioners as we know them today have not been around all that long. They rose to popularity with the tumble dryer, and the rise of synthetic fabrics use in clothing, both produce static and smell pretty bad when heated.

The solution? Along came fabric conditioners, their job is to ‘coat’ the clothes in, well, basically a soup of chemicals to make them feel soft, and prevent the build up of static. Great! Except for the tiny problem that these chemicals also smell pretty bad, the solution to this? The heady perfume fabric conditioners are known for is added, using… a few more chemicals.

I will admit that I have a fairly sensitive sense of smell but sometimes peoples fabric conditioner on their clothes is so strong that it will make my eyes water and make it a little harder for me to breathe just standing next to them. But the chemicals made to make this fragrance could actually be doing us some real harm.

They release VOC’s or Volatile organic compounds many of these are actually classified as toxic or hazardous air pollutants, they contribute massively to air pollution in the home (which is often actually many times higher than air pollution outside the home) and can cause or exacerbate respiratory disorders such as asthma (VOCs can be and are released from many sources inside the home not just fabric conditioner, but this is a major contributor). Some of them are also suspected hormone disruptors.

But the regulations state that product manufacturers do not have to declare what makes up the fragrance of their product because it would leave them open to being copied by competitors. This means that in some cases no-one outside the manufacturer actually knows what chemicals they are using to give the fragrance.

The softness provided to your clothes is largely provided by a group of chemicals whose name is shortened to quarts. The Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics, a leading international authority on asthma, calls these chemicals “asthmagens,” substances that can cause asthma to develop in otherwise healthy people. With Instances of asthma on the rise (especially in children) is this something we should or can afford to ignore?

By their very nature the chemicals are designed to stay on the clothes that you have on your skin, so some of them will be absorbed into your skin. For some people they can even cause contact dermatitis, eczema and body acne.

It’s quite amusing, and at the same time horrifying that the adverts for these products often focus on the natural, their imaging is of hillside, mountains, festivals (!) people taking deep deep breaths of their wonderful clean and fresh fragrances….

I hadn’t realised before we started our eco journey but Fabric softener is actually bad for quite a few materials;

Firstly because it makes them less absorbent, so at the very least you should stop using them on your towels! But also sports wear, which is designed to wick moisture away from your skin and allow your skin to breathe,(and is probably a large part of the reason you bought it in the first place!) is prevented from doing this by the film that is put on them by the fabric conditioner.

Also anything that contains spandex aka elastane – leggings, some jeans and ‘control shape wear’, swimming costumes anything that has ‘stretch’ are all likely to be weakened by the use of fabric conditioner and have a shorter lifespan.

Secondly because it makes them more flammable. Even if you buy fabrics that have been treated or made to be flame retardant (usually children’s clothes/costumes) then adding fabric conditioner to them will reduce their effectiveness by up to 7 times according to the Department of Chemistry at McGill University.

So in a lot of cases, fabric conditioner is actually completely unnecessary and a big fat waste of money!

So that’s the bad news! What of the good? What if you love your fabric conditioner? What if you are old friends going back years and you love smelling like spring mountain dew on the delicate petal of an alpine flower damn it!

Well the good news is: You can still have lovely soft clothes, you can even get them to smell pretty good (perhaps a more subtle fragrance, which is probably, upon reflection, what spring mountain dew on the delicate petal of an alpine flower was going for anyway….) 😉 without the chemicals!

The original fabric conditioners were made with olive oil but you do not even need to go that far.

If you are really not ready to kick the fabric conditioner habit then we have 2 great choices of fabric conditioners that are far more eco friendly and use natural fragrances.

Bio D

This comes as unscented or with a lavender fragrance (so your clothes can be a source of calm in your day!) As mentioned in Part 1, 100% of their range is hypoallergenic, they are also 100% natural, plant based products, they are committed to sustainable practices and are credited with the 14001 standard and are vegan.

If you do not wish to use fabric conditioners at all, then the easiest way to keep your clothes soft and nice smelling is to line dry them when possible. (I appreciate that in the UK this equates to roughly 5 days a year! But on those days go for it!)

At the very least keep synthetic fabrics out of the tumble dryer as they are the main culprits for static production.

But fear not for the other 360 days a year there are still options;

Ecoegg Dryer Egg.

They soften clothes and reduce drying time (by up to 28%) but also impart a subtle, natural fragrance to your clothes. The eggs should last…well for ages, you just need to change the scent sticks when they become less… scenty.

 

 

White Vinegar

You can also try adding some white vinegar to your washing machine during the rinse cycle. – The smell will not last, but it will make your clothes feel soft soft soft.

 

Essential Oils

You can use essential oil to give a lovely subtle fragrance, and its super easy to change the scent when ever you want! You can either add it to your fabric conditioner draw of your washing machine or make up a spray bottle of distilled white vinegar and essential oil and spray on your clothes before adding them to the dryer.  –
To 250ml of White Vinegar add 1.5 tsp of Eucalyptus essential oil (Lavender, lemongrass also work well or experiment with your own favourite scent!) and spray!

It is highly recommended that you swap out your detergent (see part 1) for one of the more natural alternatives if you are going to swap or stop altogether your fabric conditioner. Because the detergents and the fabric conditioners you have been using will be on your clothes still, and it may take a few washes for them to come out. This may lead to them feeling a bit stiffer and starchier than usual for a little while. It is also worth giving your washing machine a bit of a detox to get any residue out of it.
(THESE handy little tabs can help with that)

Phew, so there you have it, and now you know why fabric softeners needed their own post! In the 3rd and final part of this laundry series we will have a look at what we can do to tackle any particularly stubborn stains in an more eco way.

Cleaner Laundry Part 1

Many people believe that eco practices need to be big bold statements, a complete 180 on the things they currently do, which scares people off the idea.
This is a shame, I am a big believer in taking small steps, making small changes and it adding up to a big difference.

Many people also believe that using eco friendly products is automatically more expensive. This is not true. And one area that addresses both of these points beautifully is the humble laundry, the humdrum, everyday, not exactly thrill a minute (unless a red sock got in with the whites) practice of washing ones clothes.

But actually, in eco terms it is quite exciting because EVERYBODY (or their Mum!) does it. Perhaps not everyday, but every few, or every week for most I would wager, and it is a chore. We wear clothes, we would usually like to re-use them (a good eco practice right there!) and so we wash them, not for the fun of it but the necessity. And for most its quite habitual. We find a washing powder, liquid or tabs that we like, a fabric softener that has a pleasing scent and that’s what we use, because we like them, they do their job, so why change it?

Well, if we did all change our laundry products it would make a massive difference, to both ourselves and the environment at large. And, before you ask, yes eco friendly laundry products can be just as effective on dirt and cost effective too.
Lets look at some of the things in mainstream laundry products that in eco terms are less than ideal.

Phosphates

These are probably the one that most people would have heard of, they are there to help with removing dirt from clothes (also found in washing up liquids or dishwasher products) but when they get washed down the drain they can cause problems.

When they find their way into waterways they cause algal blooms, which is a big problem if you are living in or dependent upon that water as they can harm or even kill the organisms by depleting the oxygen in the water, blocking the light, and even

blocking the gills of fish. Whilst the quantity of phosphates or phosphonates has decreased in the last 30 years, there is still along way to go.

Just as bad, is how phosphates are obtained. They are often strip mined, which has lead to the environmental devastation of many areas it has been mined in, the small pacific island of Nauru which once a paradise has seen 80% of its surface strip mined, leaving it a barren waste land. But this is also a problem in Florida, Brazil, Africa and other countries.

Surfactants

These are pretty essential to washing. They break up the dirt and stains allowing them to be lifted off the clothes and washed away. LAS is the ingredient generally favoured by the industry (Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate), but the trouble with it is that it does not biodegrade without sufficient oxygen.

Bio or non-bio?

Many people automatically reach for the Non-bio because they believe it to be kinder and safer on skin and so it is especially popular for those with small children or sensitive skin. The difference is the presence of enzymes, which are present in order to help break down stains that are protein or fat based. But, whilst they are naturally occurring they can cause skin irritation.

Many people turn to eco friendly laundry products simply because they have a reaction to mainstream brands, with the most common being contact dermatitis. But there are some ingredients that even though more eco friendly and natural can still cause irritations, so it is good to know that there are an array of options out there, not only for your skin, but for how much of a ‘change’ you are comfortable making or how much money you would like to spend/save.

So here are our favourites;

Bio D 

 

These are really good products. We have found them to be just as good as mainstream products for general soiling and are a great choice if you are looking for something that is much more eco- friendly but not too far our of your laundry comfort zone!

 

  • 100% of their range is hypoallergenic,
  • they are also 100% natural, plant based products,
  •  are committed to sustainable practices
  • and are credited with the 14001 standard
  • not to mention also vegan.
  • The bottles are made from 100% recycled plastic, and are recyclable.
  • Available in 1L or 5L sizes!

EcoEgg Laundry Eggs

 

A complete replacement for laundry detergent, you just place it in the drum of your washing machine and let it work its magic. While a little quirkily different from regular detergents, they are independently laboratory proven to perform just as well as regular detergents.

  • They are supported by Allergy UK and the National Eczema Society they are perfect for even the most sensitive of skin.

They also score big points for being economical, with their 720 egg, being good for 720 loads of washing!! That is 3 YEARS worth of washing for the average family and works out at under 3p per wash!

They are also not tested on animals and have a very good environmental policy. And are vegan.

Soap Nuts

 

Organic SoapnutsOur most quirky offering is the wonderful soap nut, which literally grows on trees!

These amazing little shells are highly effective cleaners, you just pop half a dozen in an old sock or muslin bag with your clothes and let them do their thing!

  • They are great for all fabrics and all temperatures.
  • They are great for allergy sufferers or those with very sensitive skin.

Contrary to what their name suggests they are actually a berry not a nut, and so nut allergy suffers need not fear. They contain Saponin a natural detergent, when placed in water the soap nuts absorb the water and release the saponins which act as a natural surfactant and lift dirt grime and oil from clothing.

They are also very affordable, being inexpensive to buy and you can use the same 6 or so shells 6 or so times and then when they are all saponin-ed out you can compost them! Making them truly sustainable, non-toxic and waste free! An amazing eco option. Soap nuts can also be used for washing up, soap or shampoo!

 

So at whatever level you feel comfortable there is a way you can make your washing less impactful on the environment but better for your health too, if we all made a change to one of these alternatives (or any of the others out there) this would equate to not a big effort on our individual parts but a massive difference to our wider environment and perhaps even personal environment and purses!

In part 2 we are going to look at Fabric conditioners and why you perhaps do not need them at all!…