Soapberries: A multi-purpose cleanser that grows on trees

Above: Image © -101PHOTO-,

As you get older, you'll have more and more things to pay. One day, you'll have to pay for rent, groceries, cell phone bills, and more. But did you know that you can save money on laundry detergent?

Nature has a solution for your laundry needs: soapberries! Soapberries are deciduous, nitrogen-fixing shrubs that are usually between 1 and 2 metres high. They grow in tropical and subtropical regions across the world. They also grow in Canada!

What are some possible advantages of using an all-natural product instead of a chemical one? What are some possible disadvantages?

The berries of the soapberry contain a compound called saponin, which starts foaming in water. When the berries are crushed, you can use them as a soap!

How saponin can clean things

Saponin cleans things in a similar way the soap you find in your home does. One part of the molecule can dissolve in oil. The other part of the molecule can dissolve in water.

Dirt usually contains oil. So when you apply saponin to a dirty object, the saponin will dissolve in the dirt. Then, when you rinse it off with water, the saponin will pull off the dirt.

But wait - there’s more

Soapberries have also been used to treat the flu, indigestion, and even acne! They’re edible, too. Some First Nations communities have used them in cakes, syrup or even made ice cream out of them.

Can you think of any other plants that people use for medical treatment?

As you can see, soapberries are a unique form of berries. Next time you’re ready to do laundry, challenge yourself to go out and get yourself a pack of all-natural soapberry detergent instead!

If soapberry detergent became really popular, how would other kinds of laundry detergent manufacturers respond?

Learn More!

Plant Guide, Buffaloberry - Shepherdia canadensis (L.) Nutt
United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Encyclopaedia Britannica

Soopolallie (Shepherdia canadensis)
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, British Columbia Provincial Government

Andre Nonaka

Originally from Peru, I am currently a student at Cardinal Leger High School. I love science and technology so much that I started volunteering with CurioCity. I believe the power of science, mathematics and technology can transform our lives. I also enjoy playing soccer and meeting new people.

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