April 7, 2021

Natural Cleaners Revisited

I had excellent comments and discussion on my two recent natural cleaning blog posts, and I've been meaning to do a follow-up post to answer questions and pass on more information. The first was about the soap nuts (AKA soap berries) I mentioned in Outdoor Laundry Day.

These are berries from the soapberry tree, of which there are several species. The Western Soapberry (Sapindus drummondii) grows in southern and central US, so I'm thinking I need to plant one. 

Soap berries are very rich in saponins, the stuff that causes soap to foam. They've become popular for cleaning as an alternative to detergent. I got them for $5 a box at our local Ollie's, which was a good stock-up price. Here's their link at Amazon, although I'm not necessarily endorsing this particular brand. I do like that the only packaging with this brand is a cardboard box. Just try to get them seeded. It's the flesh of the fruit that contains the saponins, so if you buy by weight, the seeds mean you get less washing power for your money. 

Soak them 5 - 10 minutes to make soapy water.

Mine came with two little muslin bags to hold them. You could just toss them into the washer with your  laundry, but then you'd have to be picking out the bits of berries from your clothes. 4 to 6 berries is good for a washload of laundry. Soapberries are biodegradable and gradually dissolve away. As they do, I just add a few more to the bag. Besides laundry, they can be used for washing dishes, countertops, windows, the car, your hair, the dog, etc. For me, they are an excellent alternative to liquid and laundry soaps. I'm happy with the way they clean.

The other post was Spring Cleaning: In Praise of Baking Soda. I've always tried to be environmentally conscientious, but wanting to use our greywater for fruit trees and such, took it to another level. Initially, that meant looking for ecofriendly products to buy because I assumed that commercial products work better. Was I ever wrong about that, as those of you who read that post will likely remember. I got much better results with simple, common household products. Anyway, I wanted to pass on this book to you because I really liked it. 

Clean with Cleaners You Can Eat by Raven Ranson. It doesn't sound much safer than that, does it? I love the approach of this book; cleaners that are not only safer, but simpler. We humans tend to love complicated things, but Raven's methods start with the simplest methods and pretty much keep them that way. That makes so much more sense to me than complicated recipes and expensive ingredients.

After the introduction, the meat of the book begins with a chapter on ingredients. It's not just a list of what natural cleaners to use, but why they work, the best ways to use them, and when not to use them. Includes discussions on detergents, soaps, bleach, and unwanted microbes.

The chapter on tools tells you how to make your own. The next chapter, "Surfaces," is the recipe chapter. All the ingredients are simple, common kitchen items; truly ingredients you can eat!

The next several chapters address specific areas that we commonly clean. These contain a lot of great tips, not only on how to, but on the best cleaners and tools for each application.

"Oddbits" contains some helpful extras, including how to remove adhesive residues, reducing unwanted odors in the house, and several very effective oven cleaners (I know, because I tried one of them.)

While the book isn't big on pages, it's very big on information. An excellent addition to any household library. It's available at Permies Digital Market. 

So, I hope that answers your questions! Cleaning products have gotten more expensive, but not necessarily more effective. Keeping it simple seems to work the best. 


Kathy said...

And no chemicals!! I don't want to buy chemicals, support the chemical industry, or pollute the air/water/soil with chemicals. Using natural cleaners (with products already in my kitchen or bathroom) means I'm not washing anything toxic down the drain either. Or breathing toxins while working, especially in winter with the house closed up tight.

Thanks for the book recommendation! I'll be checking it out. This sounds like it has more of the "why" and "when" than my other books do.

Nina said...

I have used soapberries for, oh, probably five years now. Won't ever go back. Glad you're getting this info out there!!

Michelle said...

I really appreciate the information, tried and tested, that you are sharing. Thanks!

Leigh said...

There was an error with the link to Permies Digital Market. Sorry about that - fixed!

Kathy, I don't think people realize how many toxins we are actually exposed to, and I think the real problem is that we have no idea about their interactive affect in our environment and in our bodies. And that's too many factors to analyze scientifically.

Nina, I'm with you, I'm absolutely sold on soap berries.

Michelle, you're welcome! Always happy to pass on good information.

Retired Knitter said...

Very interesting post.

www.self-sufficientsam.blogspot.com said...

WOnderful resources, thank you!

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Yay books!

Simple is always much better. And yes, we have evaluated the sum total of all toxins we are exposed to in long term toxicology studies.

Lady Locust said...

I've yet to try soap berries - might have to give them a whirl. Also, thank you for the book recommendation!
Have a great day Leigh.

Leigh said...

RT, thank you!

Sam, good to hear from you!

TB, I can't imagine the results of those studies are very good. I know humans are resilient, and all, but I suspect they are the root of a lot of problems.

Lady Locust, I have no doubt you'll like them! Very long lasting, which is another plus.

daisy g said...

Oh my gosh! I never even considered that I might be able to grow one of these trees! I'm looking into that. Thanks for the great information!

Cockeyed Jo said...

I was thinking of planting one myself

Leigh said...

Daisy and Jo, if you find a supplier for Western Soapberry trees, please let me know!

wyomingheart said...

What a great little wealth of knowledge! Thanks for sharing that little jewel with us!

Florida Farm Girl said...

I learn so much from you, Leigh. Thanks for doing the research and sharing with us. Hope you and Dan are doing well.

Leigh said...

Wyomingheart, you're welcome!

Sue, thanks! Yes, we're doing well. It's been beautiful outdoor weather and we've been taking advantage of it.

Lady Locust said...

I just received my soapnuts this morning and got a "new" wringer washer - will be giving both a go this weekend. :-)

Leigh said...

Lady Locust, please treat us to a blog post about them both!