Washing nuts are a natural and easy to use alternative to detergents. They leave a pleasant scent in your wash. Compared to an A-brand detergent, it does not perform as well on stains.
I recently discovered washing nuts as an alternative to detergents. At the beginning of last Summer, I started following the Danish blog Neohippie.dk by Calina Leonhardt. She has a number of suggestions on how to live more sustainable, and one is to use washing nuts. I was intrigued, and next noticed them on the shelves of the major Dutch supermarket chains AH. I bought mine from an online store, however. Where I got a full kilo at a lower price per weight ratio. Washing nuts are made from the husks of a tree called Sapindus Mukorossi, mostly growing in northern India and Nepal. They contain a natural substance called sapoin which works as a soap. They are all-natural and non-toxic.
I put them to the test up against an A-label washing detergent. I made a number of stains on eight pieces of fabric: four cotton fabrics, and four bamboo fabrics. The stains I applied were: cooking oil with curry, ketchup, butter, cooked paprika, and grass. I gave four pieces of fabric – two bamboo plus two cotton ones – to a colleague who has a different laundry machine than I have, and I kept the remaining four pieces of fabric for myself to test. I tested two pieces with the washing nuts and two with the A-label washing detergent. With both I washed on 95 degrees.
Not unexpectedly, the A-label detergent outperformed the washing nuts. And my colleague had the same result. The A-label detergent removed almost all the stains. Whereas almost all the stains remained on the fabrics done with he washing nuts. Except for the butter stain, I could still see them all. The ketchup stain was almost gone with the washing nuts, but I could still see it. So, I will not use washing nuts when I have clothes with stains. If clothes are dirty but without stains – like for instance gray socks that my kids have walked around with for a day – the washing nuts can handle them well. However, on white socks they would not perform as well. But, I can’t test this myself as I do not buy white socks, for the same reason that I try not to buy clothes that need ironing. (I am a full-time working mother of 3, and I do not consider sorting socks or ironing something I need to spend time on). Since the washing nuts do not remove stains they only get a score of 50 of 100 on washing ability.
You use them by putting a couple of them in a small fabric bag and throwing it in the machine along with your wash. You can use them three times before throwing them away. In the package of nuts you get two fabric bags with a little zipper. Since you can use them three times they are also economically a better alternative.
Whether or not they are actually more environmentally friendly than normal detergents can be discussed. During my master in environmental resource management, we did a number of life-cycle analyses comparing two products and the result was often surprising. You need to follow the product from cradle to grave. I can not at this point with certainty say that washing nuts are more environmentally friendly than a traditional detergent. The plus points of the washing nuts are that the trees producing these nuts also take up CO2 from the atmosphere. They require less packaging: mine came in a cotton bag with a thin plastic bag inside. This kilo will last me longer than a bottle or package of detergent. At the cradle stage there are no toxins going into the water whereas with traditional detergents this is often the case. One of the drawbacks with the washing nuts is that they work better on higher temperatures as they do need heat to dissolve into the water, and they are not as effective on 30 degrees. Because of this, they do not get a full score on sustainability. As they are not effective in removing stains, you would need to add a stain remover as well.
The wash gets a vague and pleasant natural scent. My daughter reacts to perfume so we don’t use detergents with perfume. And, I prefer the scent of the washing nuts to the chemical scent you get from other detergents without perfume. My daughter does not react to the clothes that I washed with the washing nuts.
Over all, I will keep using washing nuts as they have a nice scent and are allergy friendly and also a economical good choice. Still, if I have clothes with stains, I will use a different detergent or add a stain remover.
Read further: Reviews, Icecat, sustainability
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