Soap Nuts

This article is about my latest discovery, the soap nuts.
Soap nuts are nut husks of the nut Sapindus mukorossi coated in saponin, a natural soap. They come from Asia, more specifically from India, Pakistan or Nepal and are used in these regions for a century already for washing and cleansing. Here you see how the husks look like. They go into the fabric sachet and together with the laundry.

Recently soap nuts became very popular in Germany and I encountered my first pack of “Waschnüsse” in the dm store. Since I needed washing liquid anyways (I just ran out of ECOVER washing liquid), I gave them a try. As I found out later, soap nuts are THE alternative to any existing washing powder/liquid: They are 100% natural, biodegradable and therefore great for laundry, household cleaning or even washing your body/hair without polluting water. On top of that they are very efficient, cheap and since they don’t contain any chemicals, wonderful for sensitive skin.

They can be generally purchased in Bio Läden (Organic super markets) and also online. I’m not sure how regular they are in dm stores, but as I mentioned my first pack I encountered there.

Following the hype about these nuts and all its wonderful ecological aspects, there is one aspect I don’t appreciate about these nuts: They have to be imported and it is not entirely clear to me what the labour conditions are. If the purchased nuts are part of a fair trade programme, it adds a bit of relief, because you can be sure that there is no child labour involved and the people in the production chain are earning reasonable wages.

But why DO we have to import a natural cleaning detergent in the first place? I’m wondering what the common Central European used to use for their laundry before Persil and Co. was invented? What was the European version of this wonderful soap nut? I hardly believe that Europeans walked around in filthy clothes back then…



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