I started using soap nuts a few years ago when my mom bought me a huge bag of soap nuts for Christmas. It took me a while to really commit to using them on a daily basis, not because they didn’t work, but because I was lazy (this is a reoccurring theme in my life). It wasn’t until I started really learning about what they are and how soap nuts work that I realized what amazing little berries these are!
A few weeks ago I talked about how soap nuts are not actually nuts, but actually a berry that is grown on trees all over the world. And they are grown and harvested to be used by locals, but also be sold as an income source for families around the world. Although I find knowing exactly what they are and where they come from rather interesting, I was even more curious about how soap nuts work. Upon research I learned two main things, they having Saponins that foam and clean and they act as a surfactant. All I could think was, “what the hell does that even mean?”.
Don’t worry, bear with me, I figured it all out for you!
What are Saponins?
Saponins are naturally occurring in plants and some animals. They have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and immune boosting properties. And because they typically act as a surfactant (don’t worry, we will get there next), they can have a soapy nature. In addition to being found in soap berries, saponins can be found in many plants, including vegetables and beans. They have many health benefits like lowering cholesterol, reducing cancer risk, and boosting your immune system.
In terms of soap nuts (or soap berries), saponins allow them to be antimicrobial (fights bacteria and fungi) and cause them to have a bit of a soapy, foamy nature.
What are Surfactants?
Surfactants help break down the surface tension of water. This helps things that aren’t typically soluble in water mix with the water. Typical laundry detergents add a chemical surfactant to their detergents to help them get foamy and helps release the dirt and oils on your clothing. Think about if you put oil into a bowl of water, the oil and water separate. But a surfactant allows the oil and water to combine, removing the oil from whatever surface it on prior.
Soap nuts naturally release the dirt and oils from your clothing (or whatever surface they are on) by allowing the water to mix with dirt and oil.
A little note about using soap nuts: they do not foam as much as you are used to with commercial laundry detergent. You may not see bubbles, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t working.
If you have any questions about how soap nuts work, please comment below or contact me! I would love to hear from you.
Want a little more information on what soap nuts are exactly? Check out Part 1: Soap Nuts | What are they?
Peace and Love,
Ray Sahelian, M.D., http://www.raysahelian.com/saponin.html
Kiwi Web, Surfactants: Surface Active Agents, http://www.chemistry.co.nz/surfactants.htm
Wellness Mama, Soap Nuts for Natural Laundry Care, http://wellnessmama.com/7553/soap-nuts-laundry-care/