Episodes of clouds of foam and fire catching in Bangalore’s Bellandur Lake, scenes of the Yamuna overflowing with thick foam and filth have raised eyebrows across the globe. These happen due to toxic wastewater discharged by industrial and domestic units. While we cannot control the discharge from industrial units, our homes release synthetic soaps/detergent particles that contain phosphate components and runoff into water bodies causing substantial marine pollution.
One such miracle of Mother Nature is soapnuts or soapberries, which can ensure the best of skin, hair, laundry wash, and a thriving aquatic environment. Soapnut is called Reetha, Aritha, Rishtak in Hindi, and Kumbha beeja (round-shaped seeds), Ritha Phala or Itha in Odia and Phenila (frothy fruits) in Sanskrit. These cleansers are not new and have been used in the Indian traditions and promoted in Ayurveda. Soapnut has remarkable detergency properties and can be used as an environment-friendly alternative to synthetic detergent.
Process for making soapnut solution is as follows:
Add 10–15 soapnuts to 1 litre of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. To release more lather, squish it and deseed it, once cooled down. This solution can be whisked in a mixer-grinder to build up more foam. When the liquid has cooled, strain it and store it in an airtight container or jar — it will last for approximately two weeks at room temperature or up to a month in the fridge.
Adding essential oils like eucalyptus and tea tree will make it last slightly longer. The leftover shells of the reetha can also be put into an old sock and tossed into the washing machine for a laundry wash (not for white clothes). The used shells can then be composted after some 3–4 washes. The water used for washing can be used for watering your plants.
The strained concentrated soapnut solution can have multiple uses as a laundry detergent, dishwashing solution, shampoo, pet cleaner, general-purpose cleaner for kitchen and bathrooms, insect and pest repellents, car wash, and cleaning jewellery as well. The Ceiba Store has a host of cleaning products made from the goodness of soapnuts like hairwash powder, natural cleaners and shampoos too, in case you find it inconvenient or lack the time to DIY.
Thus, by using this miracle berry, we can be helpful not only in creating rural entrepreneurship but also to keep the environment free from pollution!