my post about The Green Wagon, you'll remember the allusion to the one overseas product they carry. Well, it's soap nuts.
Soap nuts are actually not nuts but dried fruit shells. The nuts can be ground into a powder using a coffee grinder or boiled. They are a natural and green alternative to many household chemicals - dishwasher liquid, garden insecticide, general cleaning, low-sudsing laundry detergent/fabric softener (even for delicates), degreaser and fruit/vegetable wash. It also has medicinal properties for such conditions as eczema, psoriasis, dandruff and lice.
The shells' saponins are released when placed in warm or hot water. The resulting liquid is antimicrobial, hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. Once the shells turn grayish/light tan, mushy and thin, they are spent and ready for your compost pile.
With my first bag, I boiled the nuts until the soap was completely released (a little over an hour.) Since the liquid is plant-based and has no preservatives, it will spoil. I keep mine in an old dish washing liquid bottle (anything air-tight will do) which stays in the refrigerator.
I put the cleaning power to the test on my toughest household task – cleaning the shower and tub. We have extremely hard well water so this chore always requires a lot of elbow grease. The soap nuts liquid handled the job better than commercial cleaners I have tried. I used a nylon scrub pad and was very surprised at how easily the soap cut through the hard water stains that I hadn't been able to remove before and it was a dream on the grout. Cool!