Organic household cleaners

Most commercially produced home care and cleaning products contain carcinogens, which cause allergic reactions, asthma and other respiratory problems. Vallari Shah, a Bengaluru-based proponent of environment-friendly lifestyles, shares formulae to prepare two safe home cleaning products.

Soap Nut Cleaner
Soap nut (reetha) is a popularly used base ingredient for organic cleaning liquids in India. It is derived from the soap nut tree (sapindus mukorossi) and contains saponin, which is a natural surfactant.

10 soap nuts
1 litre water

Preparation guide
Lightly crush the dried soap nuts using a mortar and pestle, separating seed from fruit. Crush the fruit some more and boil in 100 ml water for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Let the soap mixture cool down and strain. Add the remaining water and store in a bottle. 

The soap nut solution needs to be refrigerated, if used beyond a week. Add citrus bio enzyme to store without refrigeration.

Washing machine. Take a small cotton bag and fill it with 8-10 dried soap nuts. Tie the bag tightly and toss it in the washing machine together with your clothes. As the clothes tumble around, the soap nuts get crushed and activated. The soap-nut bag will wash 8-10 loads of laundry.

Kitchen pots/pans. Mix four parts of soap nut solution with two parts citrus bio-enzyme to clean kitchen pots and pans.

Kitchen counters. Mix soap nut solution and citrus bio-enzyme equally. Add a drop of essential oil. This solution can be used to effectively clean kitchen slabs.

Hair and skin. Soap nut solution mixed with shikakai/amla works as an excellent shampoo while plain soap nut solution can be used as body soap.

Bio-enzyme Cleaner
Dr. Rosukon Poompanvong, founder of the Organic Agricultural Association of Thailand, discovered bio-enzyme cleaners, which are produced by fermentation of fruits, vegetables, sugar and water. 

100 gms jaggery (or one part)
300 gms chopped fruit peels (three parts)
1 litre water (ten parts)

Preparation guide
In a plastic two-litre bottle add 100 gms of powdered jaggery, 300 gms of chopped fruit peels (any fruit peels can be used but citrus peels are more effective) and 1 litre of water. Store in a cool, dry place. Every 3-4 days shake the bottle, open the lid to allow gases to escape and close it. In two months, the bio-enzyme will be ready. Strain and fill in a bottle for use.

Please note a wide-neck plastic bottle should be used to give room for the gases produced. Don’t use a glass bottle as it may break with the pressure build-up of gases.

Advisory. Add a pinch of yeast to the mix and the bio enzyme will be ready in two weeks. You will see white fungus/mould growing on the top layer — this is oxidation at work. In the beginning, the fruit peels will float on top and then gradually sink to the bottom. The colour of the solution changes to orange as the peels decompose. Shelf life is three months. Refrigeration is not required.

Table cleaner. Add a drop of essential oil (citronella) to 100 ml of bio-enzyme cleaner (1:3 ratio of bio-enzyme to water) and use it to clean the dining table.

Mopping floors. Mix undiluted bio-enzyme with a drop of citronella in a 100 ml bottle. Add a tablespoon to a 15-litre water bucket and use for mopping floors.

Greasy surfaces. Undiluted bio-enzyme can be used to clean greasy pots/pans and kitchen surfaces.

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