Saturday, 5 August 2017

Ecological laundry solutions pt. 2: Ivy as a natural and cheap laundry detergent

In February 2016 I already blogged about ecological laundry solutions. Today, I want to revisit that post. I talked about soap nuts or soap berries (reethay) as a great alternative to store-bought laundry detergents. Unfortunately, just this week I read how the popularity of soap nuts (which grow mainly in Asia) in the West has had a profound effect on Asian communities that were still using the soap nuts themselves. As prices have gone up because of the rising demand in the West, locals themselves can no longer afford them and have started resorting to chemical laundry detergents instead as they are often cheaper -- so what we're trying to avoid using here has now for economical reasons become the preferred option in countries where we source our soap nuts from. (Plus it has to be imported here, which adds to our ecological footprint.)

As that profoundly goes against what I want to achieve with a more natural, balanced, sustainable and nurturing way of living, I had to look for an alternative. A home-grown alternative.

And I have found one. Right on my patio. 

Ivy. Good-old common or English ivy. Growing in abundance, difficult to tame even.

(And yes, that's a Sikh Khanda, overgrown by the ivy -- we have two of them decorating our patio).

Absolutely free of cost.

And just as effective as soap nuts! Just like soap nuts, ivy contains a high amount of saponin, a natural soap-like substance with great cleaning power.

Ivy is poisonous in nature, but it is perfectly safe for cleaning uses as it's not ingested. Just make sure you use English or common ivy, and not poison ivy. 

There are 2 ways of using the ivy to do your laundry:

1. Shred a handful of leaves and put them either in a sock (which you tie up at the end), or in a cloth bag or wash bag (I simply re-use the cloth bags I also used for my soap nuts). I add some vinegar in the detergent compartment too, to decalcify my washing machine, and it also adds a boost of cleaning power.

2. Take about 60 grams (2 ounces) of common or English ivy leaves. Shred them and put them in a big pot with 0.6 litres (3 cups) of water, and add half a tablespoon of washing soda to improve the cleaning effect and kill any germs. Bring to a boil and let this mixture simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. After 5 minutes remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Let the mixture sit until it foams when stirred vigorously. Then strain the mixture through a cheese cloth or sieve, and pour into a mason jar or other glass container. 
This mixture should be used fresh, within a few days; you can store it in the fridge or a dark cupboard to make it last longer. You'll need to add about one cup (200ml) of the liquid to the detergent compartment of your washing machine. promotes this same liquid also as a natural dish washing detergent (very much like you can also use soap nuts as a dish washing detergent) but because of its poisonous nature I prefer not to use it on anything I eat from or cook in...

Feel free to come and get some ivy leaves or vines from my patio if you don't have access to any - but the plant grows so abundantly everywhere that you'll probably won't have to look for too long...

This is plant number four from the 'weeds' on my patio that is now being put to great use! (the abundantly growing dandelions, mint and sticky weed are all used for cooking and herbal teas...) No actual gardening being done, yet so much abundance from Mother Nature...