When Padma Sankar, or as she is better known in the digital world – ‘Padhu Sankar’, lost her grandmother due to cancer, and subsequently her father in 2008 to the same disease, she was devastated.
The 50-year-old from Tamil Nadu after working her way through her grief began delving into why cancer as a disease is so prevalent and how present-day life choices are to blame for it.
“After my research that involved internet searches, speaking to friends and my own reflection, I realised that environmental pollution and long-term exposure to chemicals in our everyday products are to blame,” she says to The Better India.
When this realisation dawned on her, Padhu decided to make the switch from using regular toilet cleaners, detergents, and dishwashing liquids to natural alternatives for the same.
“Along with the natural switch, I decided to change everything that was in my control,” she says, adding that she started living a more sustainable life.
She started resuing papers to save on those being wasted, repurposed old towels for dusting, used peels of vegetables to prepare dishes and watered the garden plants with greywater.
Brewing recipes in a virtual kitchen
Once Padhu began making these life changes, she thought why not share it with others who are probably looking for safer alternatives too? Thus, in the same year, she started her website ‘Padhuskitchen’ wherein she spoke of cooking, recipes, a healthy lifestyle, tips for an eco-friendly life, etc.
While she knew people would love this content, she hadn’t expected her little tips and tricks to become so popular.
“My videos got a lot of love and my audience would often suggest I start a YouTube channel. So, when I finally did, it took off well and today I have 1,25,000 subscribers,” she says.
But among the many subjects that Padhu speaks about on her channel, there is one that is a cult favourite – Soapnuts and their many uses.
One of the most versatile and popular plants of Ayurveda, the shells of the soapberry nuts are known for their cleansing action, ability to clean without stripping the skin, and even providing relief to people with itching or dry skin.
Thus, when Padhu explained how these could be effectively used as a natural detergent, her followers were amazed and wanted to try them out.
She lists out a few uses of the soapnuts:
Dishwashing liquid from soapnuts
Step 1: Soak 15-20 soapnuts in six cups of hot water overnight.
Step 2: The next day, take these in a large pan and bring them to a boil.
Step 3: Once the mix starts boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Step 4: Take them off the stove and cool completely.
Step 5: Once cooled, remove the seeds from the soapnuts and squeeze them with your fingers to extract the soap.
Step 6: Strain the liquid and pour it into a bottle.
Step 7: Use it within 5-6 days or refrigerate.
The liquid, says Padhu, is your multi-purpose cleaner. “It can be used to clean anything from tiles, cutlery, glass, jewellery, as a car wash, for mopping the floor, pet shampoo, cleaning vessels, clothes, etc.”
She adds that the soapnuts can be reused and reboiled three to four times or until they disintegrate.
“Once they have served their purpose, do not throw the soapnuts,” she advises. “Compost them.”
Laundry detergent from soapnuts
As Padhu says, using soapnuts in the home is not something new to her. “I have seen my grandma using it for washing her silk sarees and for cleaning her gold jewellery. It was something that has been around for centuries but we never took interest in it.”
She adds that not only are they versatile and free from toxic chemicals but using them also helps save water, as very less water is required to remove the soapsuds.
Here’s how you can prepare your very own laundry detergent using soapnuts.
Step 1: Place 8-10 soapnuts in an old unused sock.
Step 2: Knot the socks at the top so that the berries do not come out when washing.
Step 3: Boil a cup of water. Once it starts boiling, remove from heat and soak the socks with soapnuts in them.
Step 4: Let it sit for 15 minutes. Leave it to cool.
Step 5: Add the soapnut socks along with the water into the washing machine and wash as usual.
Step 6: You can add two drops of your favourite essential oil, but this is not necessary.
Step 7: Alternatively you can soak the socks with soapnuts overnight and skip boiling.
Step 8: Once the washing is over, remove the socks with soap nuts and dry them.
Padhu adds that as soapnuts are natural, the liquid cannot be stored for long.
“If combined with citrus bio enzymes, it will last longer,” she says, adding that 1 kg of the nuts lasts her for three months.
Edited by Yoshita Rao
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