Disclaimer: I was sent That Red House Soapberries to try in exchange for my honest and genuine review. This post was not sponsored in any other way.
It’s time for Science Hour on Ferdydurking Blog!
Meet Soapberries, the dried shell of fruit of the Sapindus Mukorossi tree. These shells are a very dense source of ‘saponin’ aka nature’s soap. Saponin reduces the surface tension of water, allowing dirt to be easily washed away in the same fashion as your normal household washing liquids.
Odd looking fellows, aren’t they?
Apparently soapberries are a natural alternative to traditional laundry detergent and fabric softener. They are anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, hypo-allergenic, chemical free, grey water safe, organic, compostable, and 100% sustainable *wipes sweat from brow*
Full disclosure, I was very suspicious about anything with a list of benefits that long, and I was ready and waiting to be proven correct. Why would anyone use a standard laundry detergent when these bad boys are available? But I have seen soapberries pop up now and again on the plastic-free instagrams, so when That Red House slid into my DMs and asked if I would be interested in trying them out, I was game to give them a go.
Straight out of the post, I was pretty impressed with the packaging. Everything is very clearly explained on the bag, and I can definitely find a dozen ways to reuse it when the berries are gone (it’s a really lovely fabric). When I picked up the bag and felt it crinkle in my hand, I braced myself to have a discussion on plastic packaging around eco-products. But check this out-
A paper bag! And how pretty does it look?
That Red House, I’m sorry I ever doubted you. Of course you wouldn’t hide some plastic behind that nice eco-friendly bag.
According to the instructions, you put a handful of the dried berries into the included smaller bag, tie it off, and forget about it (no need to take it out before the rinse cycle).
The berries smell a little odd but it’s not offensive. They seem harmless, but I was still dubious. You want me to what with these? Without adding any real detergent? Are you sure this is going to work?
Colour me sideways guys, but they actually do work.
I’ve done a fair few loads of washing and the level of clean is exactly the same as I would have expected from washing powder. After some intense close-quarters sniffing of my clean laundry, I can also confirm that the odd smell doesn’t transfer. In fact, the strangest thing about washing with soapberries is that there isn’t really a smell at all – I didn’t realise how accustomed I was to scented laundry until the scent wasn’t there.
If you do like your clothing to smell like something more than just clean, you can apparently add a few drops of essential oils to the berries (which you can also grab through their website).
Lack of laundry fragrance aside, I wouldn’t be able to pick the difference between soapberries and a standard detergent in a blind test. Each handful of berries can be used for around five washes (I’ve just been leaving the lid on my washing machine up after the load to let them dry out), and once they’re used up you can throw them on the compost. According to the gang at That Red House, if you buy a 1kg bag of the berries, you’re paying approx 10c a wash (1/3 the price-per-wash of a commercial detergent), so on top of saving the world, you’re also slashing those laundry costs!
Apparently the berries can also be boiled down for other uses- a good friend of mine is allergic to a lot of shampoos, so I’m going to pass some on to her to experiment with.
In conclusion? I’m a convert– I honestly think I’ll be using these forever now. In fact, it blows my mind that they’re not more widely available. Too many jaded old cynics like me in the world?
Have you tried using soapberries before? Would you consider it? Leave a comment and let me know!