Eco friendly alternative to chemical detergents
Guests are free to do what they like at Anne Sykes' home, which she rents to visiting students and professionals at Wedding in northwest Berlin. The only "rule" that the septuagenarian would insist in her warm, affable manner is, "Do not use detergent soap, powder or liquid to wash clothes in the machine." An Indian guest almost freaked out when she heard this, but more because of the "Indische Waschnuss" (Indian washing nuts) that Anne gave her. The brownish-black balls, or soap nuts, were nothing but reetha from the amla-reetha-shikakai trio used for haircare in India!
"The washing nuts are safe, eco-friendly and do not give out any kind of smell," says Anne, explaining why she chose the nuts about six years ago. "They are good for the fabric and you are safe from skin allergies caused by harmful chemicals. The nuts are also easily available and affordable."
Anne is not alone in the quest for a greener earth. In Germany, where the go-green drive is a mass phenomenon, there are hundreds increasingly taking to reetha as an eco-friendly alternative to chemical detergents.
Cord Radke, a 39-year-old media professional from Munich, was delighted to chance upon the nuts at a supermarket a few months ago. "They are bio-degradable and good for the environment and skin," he said.
Martina Johns, a former journalist from Hamburg, had her first brush with the nuts from a magazine nearly eight years ago. "I immediately bought them because they were environment-friendly," she says adding, "even though the product was expensive at 1 euro per nut at that time."
However, with its soaring popularity, prices of reetha have dropped and it is more readily available. Anne says her laundry costs fell by half since she gave up chemical detergents. "Instead of two beakers of washing powder, only about five washing nuts are needed. The nuts can be used a second time as well," she says. Reetha, or Sapindus mukorossi, is a popular ingredient of hair-packs and shampoos in India. Although some grandmother's tales are woven around its washing properties, it is yet to be commercially exploited. In Ayurveda, reetha is said to find use in the treatment of eczema, psoriasis and removing freckles. It is also said to have insecticidal properties.
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