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How I use herbs - Soapwort

I bought a tiny little soapwort plant a couple of years ago and I have been waiting patiently for it to grow because I really wanted to try using it for laundry detergent.  I found out about soapwort after I started using soap nuts for laundry.  I like soap nuts, but they are imported from overseas and can't be grown here as they are considered a weed plant.

my soapwort plant before I harvested some leaves
Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) is commonly grown as a flowering plant (unfortunately I don't have a photo of mine in flower).  Its leaves and roots contain saponins, which is a chemical that lathers when mixed with water.  This makes soapwart an effective cleaner.  Soapwart can also be made into a decoction to treat external skin conditions (I haven't tried this), and although it can be taken internally for various ailments, it comes with many warnings, so I haven't tried that either.  As soapwort can be poisonous, you need to grow it where grazing animals cannot access it, so I have kept mine in a pot for now.  Soapwort is not frost sensitive, but does wilt in hot dry weather.  I find it revives if I put the pot in a tub of water for a couple of days.  It may do better in the ground though.

The main reason I grow soapwort is for the saponins, and I have been waiting for for it to be large enough to harvest.  You can harvest the roots and the leaves, but when I felt around in the pot I didn't think there was much root to harvest, so I just gave it a haircut instead.


Then I followed the instructions that I found here.  I put the leaves in a large pot and covered them in water.  I boiled the water for a couple of hours, leaving it to steep overnight.

before boiling
ready to strain
Then I strained the mixture through a cheese-cloth and into a large bottle.  I ended up with around 5L of soap water liquid.  I added about half a litre of vinegar to make it keep longer.


Now the only problem is working out how much soapwort liquid to use in the washing machine!  Its very simple for handwashing, you just add more when the bubbles disappear, but with the washing machine I have just been sloshing some liquid in the detergent drawer and hoping its enough.  Clothes are coming out clean, so it can't be too bad.  I think I will need to grow a lot more soapwort if we were to use this for all our washing, but I very satisfied to know that there is something I can grow and easily process as a soap substitute.

What do you think?  Do you grow soapwort?

Want to read my other herb posts?  

How I use herbs - Mint, Peppermint and Spearmint

How I use herbs - Aloe Vera

How I use herbs - Basil

How I use herbs - Ginger, galangal and turmeric

How I use herbs - Marigold, calendula and winter taragon

How I use herbs - Lemon balm

How I use herbs - Soapwort

How I use herbs - Comfrey

How I use herbs - Nasturtium

How I use herbs - Parsley

How I use herbs - Borage

How I use herbs - Herb Robert

How I use herbs - Purslane

How I use herbs - Chickweed

How I use herbs - Neem oil

How I use herbs - Rue, tansy and wormwood

How I use herbs - Brahmi

How I use herbs - Yarrow

How I use herbs - Arrowroot

How I use herbs - Lucerne (afalfa)

How I use herbs - Lavender

How I use herbs - Rosemary and Thyme

How I use herbs - Oregano or Marjoram

How I use herbs - Sweet Violet

How I use herbs - Gotu Kola

How I use herbs - Lemongrass

How I use herbs - Coriander (or cilantro)

How I use herbs - Dill


Comments

  1. Oh, I didn't know you can make sopa out of it! Is it poisonous to chooks and dogs as well? I have to try and get some and find out about it's growing conditions required. I'm still looking for something to make liquid soap out of, this sounds like it's it. Thanks for the info!
    Frances

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes the saponins cause poisoning in high doses, it can be taken internally, but you have to be very careful. I'm not sure if its very tasty for chickens or dogs though.

      Delete
  2. oh very interesting, I have often wondered about growing this herb.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'll have to add this to this list of things to try one day. I wonder if it grows this far south? Interesting post.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was reading about soapnuts the other day. this would be great to grow one day (when i have more room). do you use this for your washing dishes too?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very Cool. I look forward to hearing how it goes.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Had not hear of this! Adding soapwort to my list of herbs I want to grow. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hey Liz,

    Thanks for this post! I use soapnuts, but would much prefer to grow my own soapwort. Where did you get the bush from? I'm on the sunshine coast.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is awesome! So pinning this! Thank you for experimenting and answering so many of my questions so now I don't have to try it blind. Visiting from From the Farm Hop

    ReplyDelete

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Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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