Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ditching My Laundry Detergent for Berries?

Until my daughter began her crunchy journey, I had never heard of eco nuts as anything other than a possibly derogatory term to refer to people determined to take care of the environment.

Eco Nuts are an alternative to laundry detergent, she told me, and especially good for hard water. Well, according to her research, anyway.

My water is so hard and full of iron it's a wonder it's a liquid at all. So I decided as my detergent ran low to jump in and buy a box when I was making a recent Amazon order (they're available other places, but Amazon has my loyalty and my prime bucks for free shipping). Of course, I wound up buying an alternative brand of the same product from NaturOli Nuts, just based on weight and cost.

Whatever name they are found under, the soap berries/nuts are saponin-rich, wild-harvested Sapindus Mukorossi berries from the Himalayan mountains of India -- safer for the environment and a natural resource that renews each harvest. Last year, according to one statistic, the Eco Nuts brand replaced about a quarter million plastic bottles of detergent.

But there is more. They are fragrance free, hypoallergenic and contain a natural fabric softener as well, so there is no static in the dryer even without the addition of a dryer sheet.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, after reading the directions and a bunch of reviews, I was willing to risk less than $20 for a one pound box and give it a try.

The dried berries/nuts come in a cloth bag, which contains the whole pound. Directions for use are to place five of the berries in the smaller bag and toss them in the wash. That's it. You reuse the berries about five times, or as some reviewers said, until they were mushy. Take the old berries/nuts out and compost them and replace them with fresh ones.

Still sounds way too easy, but I'm about five loads in and pleased with the results, although I was a bit surprised that the "nuts" were so small and actually hollow. I have not used them for kennel laundry, since it has to be bleached for sanitation and chemicals should not be added to the nuts, and my husband usually does his own clothes, so it takes a while for me to do a lot of laundry. Still, I've washed one load of his clothes, sheets and towels and two loads of my own and can report that the results are as promised.

I've been especially pleased with a white t-shirt that had to be washed before I could wear it due to a strong chemical smell. Typically, that would mean dinginess and perhaps strange stains from the water, but it's been washed twice and is still white. If it lasts, I may even be able to start buying white clothes again!

After my husband's load came out clean -- although since he has uniforms for work, mine may actually be dirtier most days -- I think he's a convert, so our detergent usage is going to go down drastically.

Will the economics be a great savings? Hard to tell until I see how long a box lasts, but I know that it's more environmentally friendly on every front. There is no energy use, pollution or hazardous by-products from production (the harvested nuts are hand sorted after picking), no danger in the water from the washer run-off, and no landfill waste from packaging.

So far, I'd have to say, this has been the easiest crunchy step I've taken. I have to admit that I do miss my Downy fragrance, but I think some line-dried clothing may even beat that if warm weather ever comes to stay.

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