A different kind of clean

It’s a safe bet most of us prefer the things in our lives when they’re clean — clean dishes to eat off of, along with clean clothes to wear and a clean body to put in them.

What can be problematic for some is when the soaps and detergents we use to get things clean do more harm than good. Chemical ingredients do not need to be harsh to irritate or dry out skin, and in recent years a movement has grown to find more natural ways to get things clean.

Enter Peggy McClelland, or The Soap Nut Lady as she’s more widely known. McClelland is passionate about healing bodies and the Earth, and she can often be found at all three Hy-Vee grocery stores in the Madison area spreading the word about the all-natural cleaning agent with a funny name.

McClelland says she grew up with a special appreciation for nature.

Her father was involved in a health ranch when she was younger, where everyone grew their own food and it was chemical free. “I know my attitude toward helping our bodies in whatever way possible came from there,” notes McClelland. “I have always felt a need to help people as well as our Earth since I was small.”

With soap nuts, McClelland found a healing touch when she needed it most.

She was living in Florida when her daughter and husband died unexpectedly within days of each other. That tragedy led her to Wisconsin, where friends thought she’s find an ideal location to reconnect with nature and heal.

One day, she saw what she thought were soap suds floating down the Peshtigo River, but were more likely phosphates and other pollutants. Realizing the extent to which common household cleaning products contained unnatural chemicals she decided to find a natural alternative.  That’s when McClelland discovered soap nuts.

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What’s in a name?

Soap nuts aren’t really nuts at all. Rather, they are the de-seeded fruit of a tree, Sapindus mukorossi, which grows in Nepal, in the foothills of the Himalayas. These fruits contain saponins that, when released in water, create an effective soap cleaning solution that has been used by people for millennia for laundry, cleaning, and medicinally to treat skin conditions.

Soap nuts can be used whole or in halves as a natural replacement for laundry and dishwasher detergent. According to McClelland, rather than pouring a capful of liquid laundry detergent into your wash, all you need to do is place several soap nuts into a small muslin bag and toss it in with your clothes.

Because soap nuts are all natural, clothes come out clean but without any artificial scents. Each bag of soap nuts can be reused in the wash between five and eight times, depending on water hardness, and provide significant cost savings over traditional detergents.

According to McClelland, a 2.2-lb. bag of soap nuts, which costs $30 from her website, does approximately 330 loads of wash; with no detergent or fabric softener needed, that breaks down to approximately, nine cents per load.

All-natural alternative

A quick glance at the comments section on McClelland’s website, www.soapnutlady.com, offers compelling anecdotal evidence of the benefits of using soap nuts, including clearing up acne and eliminating other skin conditions.

“You can use our bar soap to wash your hair and body, and it is also wonderful to shave with,” notes McClelland. “It keeps your razor sharper longer as it has seven essential oils and is basically a bar of glycerin. Just add organic coconut oil for your lotion.

“There are also no chemical residues left in your home or on your dishes, glasses, clothing, floors, etc.,” continues McClelland. “Soap Nuts are a natural insect repellent, great for grey water, and they have many unusual uses from garden to home to vehicles and beyond. And because they grow on trees they’re organic!”

McClelland is so passionate about soap nuts she can usually be found giving away free samples at area stores. “[I just want to] help free our Earth and her people from the harmful petrochemicals that are present in our everyday lives,” she explains.

Soap Nut Lady products can be found on shelves at area Hy-Vee grocery stores, as well as The Yahara Food Co-Op in Stoughton and The Grainery in Baraboo. In addition to the soap nuts bags, McClelland also sells laundry and dishwasher pods made from soap nut concentrate, along with bar soaps. Soap Nuts Lady products and more information can also be found at www.soapnutlady.com.

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