Soapwort is a pretty plant with lightly fragrant pink flowers, about 50cm high, that is high in saponins. These are plant chemicals that produce suds in water when agitated. It really will make bubbles. It cleans dishes really well. You can also use it for hair and clothes washing. It’s an easy plant to grow, and will grow quite rampantly in a damp soil.
Roughly chop 100g of fresh soapwort leaves, stems and flowers into a blender with 1 litre of water. You can use the roots, but they must be cleaned well.
Boil the sudsy soup until it is reduced by half. Allow to cool.
Strain the plant material out, and pour into an old clean dishwashing squirty bottle. See the bubbles on top? It’s great stuff!
You can use the liquid just like this, or add about a teaspoon of essential oil if you like. Orange, lemon or lavender are all cheap and will enhance the cleaning power of the liquid as well as help to preserve it in the bottle.
I’ve made two batches of this, and the first one with fresh plant kept perfectly well in the bottle, staying a nice green colour. The second batch included roots and was left longer before straining the plant matter out. It lasted ok for a week or two but then began to ferment and smell bad. I think I just left it too long while I was making it. Too many projects going at once! 😉
You can also simply agitate a handful of fresh soapwort OR swirl half a cup of white vinegar OR a few spoonfuls of bicarbonate of soda into hot water. Or use half a lemon to scrub the dishes with, squeezing the juice into the sink water. These methods use no petrochemicals and they do work. The soapwort produces bubbles (less bubbles in hard water), but the other methods don’t – they still clean your dishes.
Reduce the need for harsh chemicals
Scrape all uneaten food into the chook, worm or compost bucket. Wipe oily pans with a paper towel, and put the paper in the compost. Use hot water in the sink. If there’s oily residue around your sink, wipe it off with half a lemon or bicarb on a rag before filling the sink for dishes. Ensure food is rinsed off before washing, so the sinkful of hot water lasts longer. Or teach the family to lick their plates clean!