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Soap Nuts!

Soap Nuts! - The chemical-free natural detergent alternative

In the perpetual search for natural alternatives, the Indian soap nut tree is gaining increasing popularity as being a natural alternative to chemical detergents due to its naturally occurring saponins.

Saponins do occur in many plant species including the soap bark tree, Quillaja saponaria, found in South Americal and the soap nut tree, sapindus mukorosse is found in Northern India and Nepal and their detergent properties have long been known to the locals & are now finding their way into cosmetic/personal care products.

Saponins are glucosides that consist of two sides (or you could say a head and a tail).  One side is water 'hating' (hydrophobic/not water soluble), the other side is water 'loving' (hydrophilic / water soluble) and this combination leads to a stable foam and detergent-like qualities that are of interest to the cosmetics/personal care market.

Saponins are an alternative to SLS which, due to it's negative press and possible safety issues has raised some fears among consumers.  SLS and other chemical surfactants have shown in some studies to cause the skin to become dry and irritated, in particular those suffering from skin conditions such as eczema.  Another interesting point here is that these types of chemicals are not bio-degradable, which is particularly important to bear in mind when producing products to an ever-increasing environmentally-minded consumer.

This is in stark contrast to saponins, which occur naturally, are much more gentle on the skin and environmentally friendly.  Naturally occurring saponins provide the necessary foaming agents in products such as shampoo, liquid soap and shower gel.

Market research company Organic Monitor estimate that the global revenues of the naturals market are doubling every few years.  As makers of natural products, this is worth bearing in mind when creating your detergent-type products and it's worth keeping your eyes pealed for Indian soap nut extract and similar plant extracts that are high in naturally occurring saponins.

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