UPDATE: Sadly, LaundryTree has closed its doors. You can now buy plastic-free soap nuts from Life Without Plastic (and My Plastic-Free Life will earn a small commission), but don’t leave just yet! This is still a great story about how to get companies to change their packaging. It also contains practical information about soap nuts and how to use them.
The original post…
Put on your fuzzy slippers. Grab a mug of cocoa. Sit back, and let me tell you a little story about why it’s worth it for us to ask for what we want. There’s free stuff at the end, so hang in with me.
Have you ever done your laundry with soap nuts or been curious to find out how they work? Soap nuts grow on a tree called Sapindus mukorossi (Chinese Soapberry) and contain saponin, a natural surfactant which foams just like soap. I’ve wanted to try soap nuts since I first spotted them in a natural grocery store a couple of years ago but have always been deterred by the plastic in the packaging. Although they are imported, the idea of using a laundry soap that contains only one, minimally-processed natural ingredient (the soap nuts are harvested, de-seeded, and sun-dried) appealed to me.
So last month, when the bloggers at Tiny Choices announced a LaundryTree soap nuts giveaway, I was pretty excited. Excited, that is, until I clicked on the site and saw the soap nuts packaging. Looked like plastic bags to me.
Not one to give up so easily, I left a comment asking what the packaging was made from. I wanted to be sure. Jenn at Tiny Choices forwarded my comment to Lisa at LaundryTree, who responded to me right away and asked for helping de-plasticking her packaging.
Less than one month later, LaundryTree has already switched to recycled paper bags! Check out the sample I received in the mail:
The natural kraft paper bags contain 40% recycled content and are lined with a minimal amount of PLA (to keep the soap nuts fresh) which makes the bags fully compostable or recyclable.
I am so impressed with a business owner that listens to her customers and responds so quickly. Isn’t this the kind of business we’d all like to support?
Of course, the packaging would be irrelevant if the soap nuts themselves didn’t work. So before writing this post, I of course tried them out. And actually, I could just send you over to the Tiny Choices review of soap nuts because their review is very similar to what I’m about to write here. They even linked to the same Wikipedia page. But to spare you the extra clicks, I’ll go ahead and write my own glowing review.
Soap nuts only release their saponin in warm or hot water. I wash in cold to save energy. But never fear, there is an easy solution. Mix up a batch of SoapNuts Soak by bringing a pot of water to a boil, removing it from the heat, tossing in 6-8 soap nuts, and letting them sit covered over night. In the morning, strain into a couple of glass jars. The used soap nuts can go in the compost. Use 1/4 to 1/2 cup per laundry load.
By the way, I’ve noticed that another major distributor of soap nuts is now selling a liquid version in plastic bottles. Look how easy it is to make without the plastic. Easy as boiling water. Of course, if you’re like me and forget about pots on the stove, this procedure might not be as easy as it is for most. Still, I can deal. Because one batch of Soapnut Soak will do at least 8 loads of laundry.
Now, I’ll be honest. Soap nuts smell pretty darned funky. In fact, when I poured some out on the carpet this morning to take a picture, Soots and Arya went just a little nutty sniffing them. So, as you can imagine, I was skeptical about how my laundry would smell. LaundryTree promises that our clothes will not end up smelling like the soap nuts.
So, after adding the Soapnut Soak to my cold water load of light colors, and watching in amazement at the amount of foamy bubbles produced, I felt compelled to sniff every item as it came out of the washing machine. And you know what? They just smelled clean. Fresh. That’s the only way I can describe the scent. It was nothing like the smell of the soap nuts.
Some people prefer to add scent to their laundry, and to that end, LaundryTree sells a variety of essential oils. For me, the oils were completely unnecessary. I like my clean to smell like clean.