Feedback: How to Clean Without Aerosols

MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers respond to the article "How to Clean Without Aerosols", and offer tips and information on non-aerosol cleaners.


| September/October 1975



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Soap substitutes are produced by several trees and plants. The best known — and probably the most widely used commercially — is Ouillaja saponaria or soapbark, a middle-sized rosaceous tree bearing undivided evergreen leaves and small white flowers, native to the Andes.


ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

WALTER T. ROCKEL: 

In response to MOTHER's query about soap tree bark ("How to Clean Without Aerosols", MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 32, pg. 44); Soap substitutes are produced by several trees and plants. The best known — and probably the most widely used commercially — is Ouillaja saponaria or soapbark, a middle-sized rosaceous tree bearing undivided evergreen leaves and small white flowers, native to the Andes. The inner bark, which has cleansing and lathering properties, is often included in hair tonics and is particularly valued as a shampoo. It's also used in fire-extinguishing solutions and as an emulsifying agent for medicines and tars.

The soapberry (Sapindus saponaria), a tropical and subtropical tree, produces a lather or soap from its acrid fruits. If the berries are pounded and thrown into a body of water, any fish therein become so intoxicated that they can be caught with the hands.

Another soap producer — Sapinda mukorossi — has been used since ancient times in east Asia and the Himalayas as a detergent for shawls and silks, and by jewelers to clean silver.

The soapwort or bouncing Bet ( Suponaria officinalis, a member of the pink family) produces lather from all its parts and is the best-known soap plant in the United States. The California soap plant or soaproot (Chloragalumpomeridianum) is collected in the western part of the country for its lily-like saponaceous bulb. Other American specialties include Acacia concinna — the pods of which are used like the fruits of the soapberry — and some species of yucca and agave . . . also the red buckeye (Aesculus pavia), the California pigweed (Chenopodium californicum), the senega "snakeroot" (Polygala senega), and others.

Soap plants contain no alkali and are considered mild and beneficial cleansers (with the exception of the soapberry, which is thought to harm some textiles). The lather-producing agent in such plants is saponin, which was first observed in the common soapwort. Although many saponaceous species exist, only a few — especially horse chestnuts, senega root, and the bark of the soapbark tree — yield the substance in appreciable quantities.





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