The fruit that is a loofah

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Apparently fruits are a lot more than sweet fleshy treats. We have written extensively about our friendly fruit that’s a detergent.

Today while haunting a country drug store* I came across a sponge like product that looked like a loofah. Naturally I assumed that it was made of nylon or some of its cousins, but Preethi pointed out that it was a dried fruit. That’s just amazing. The dried fruit happens to be a thurai or ridge gourd.

luffa aegyptiaca Luffa_sponge

The process of making a loofah from a fruit is so elegant, that I felt it deserves a post.

The fruit is skinned, some seeds removed & the leftover xylem is sun dried to get a spongy, natural loofah. The end product is very fancy, complex looking and would be extremely difficult to manufacture and not nearly safe or effective.

Notes

1. Of course people have known about this fruit that’s a loofah since the dawn of time. The etymology of the word loofah lies in the Arabic name for the fruit, luffa aegyptiaca.

2. The country drug store is in the heart of the city, sells a weird assortment of herbs, powders and loofahs and does not deal in hallucinogens.

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Sapindus Trifoliatus: or how the fruit became a detergent – Part 2

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The Ministry of Environment & Forest classifies industries as Red, Orange and Green, depending on how polluting they can be to the environment. Red industries are defined as heavily polluting industries, whose clearances are renewed every year.

Synthetic detergents and soaps fall into the Red classification.

Detergent manufacturing is usually a resource intensive, potentially heavy polluting activity.

How Krya manufactures the fruit that’s a detergent

We ‘manufacture’ our detergent by getting the friendly neighbourhood village ladies to pluck the ripe Sapindus trifoliatus from the tree at Harvest time.

The magic lies in deciding when a fruit is ripe enough to become a detergent – The experienced eyes of Mr.Anki Reddy, our resident soapnut & all things organic expert, help us decide that.

After removing the seed (the seed is stored carefully for re-planting), our friendly crew take the fruit or the pericarps to a giant stone platform which has been specially built on the farm.

The farm is in a dry, fiercely hot part of Andhra Pradesh, perfect to dry a water loving fruit like the Sapindus trifoliatus. The fruits dry slowly under the sun for 3 days in the sun until they become brittle.

We then collect them from the stone platform, clean them and take them into our ‘factory’ where they are powdered in a large mill (similar to the flour mill that makes the atta ,though much much cleaner).

We put a lot of thought into how fine the fruit gets powdered in a mill.

Powder them too fine, & they absorb too much moisture; Powder them too large, & you would need to use a lot more of them to wash.

We powder them just right – so that they don’t absorb too much moisture, and give you a perfect wash every time.

Once our Sapindus Trifoliatus has been powdered, we mix natural, organic Calcium Carbonate to the powder. Calcium Carbonate, also called Limestone, helps keep our dried fruit powder dry, so that it remains a powder, and easy to use.

And that completes our manufacturing.

We don’t use heavy machines that are energy intensive. The process also does not release harmful vapours.

We don’t use water in our ‘manufacturing, so no river or fishes or tadpoles are harmed during the making of our detergent.

We use just 2 ingredients and 97% of the ingredients are available in the farm right next to the factory. Normal manufacturing would require several ingredients, which would need to transported to the factory using fossil fuels.

It is a fruit, so all those 100+ litres of water that your washing machine used to wash clothes can be sent to your garden. The remaining detergent can be composted in the earth.

Your garden thanks you and so does the municipality whose load you’ve just lightened by reducing the load on the city’s sewage system.

That’s what we call being sustainable – from the farm, to your home, and back to mother earth.

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Sapindus Trifoliatus: or how the fruit became a detergent

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We unveiled our first sustainable gooThe fruit that's a detergentdie yesterday, the fruit that’s a detergent.

The fruit has a name. Trifoliatus. Sapindus trifoliatus.

A year ago I had no idea of the existence of such an awesome fruit. Through an incredible concatenation of events, Preethi & I found ourselves with a bag of Sapindus shells. We were thoroughly intrigued by the possibilities. What started off as an innocent laundry experiment a year ago has snowballed into our first business venture.

However I digress.

The Sapindus

The Sapindus is a group of around 10 species of trees whose fruits can be used as surfactants. The name Sapindus is derived from the Latin words Saponis, meaning soap and Indicus, meaning from India. They are commonly known as soapnuts or soapberries. Soapnuts, though isn’t technically right – as they are fruits and not nuts. For the botany snob hidden in you, we can go a step further and call them “pericarps”

India is home to several species of Sapindus. The two most well known of these are the South Indian Sapindus trifoliatus & the Himalayan Sapindus Mukorossi. All species of Sapindus are useful detergents in their own way.

The secret ingredient

The secret ingredient in the fruit is the Saponin which makes it a useful surfactant (or detergent).

Ergo, the fruit that’s a detergent.

How Surfactants clean

Plain water does not usually remove oily particles or tough dirt stains from clothes. The addition of surfactants helps to clean clothes in a two step process.

1. Reduce surface tension

    The surfactant molecules have a water-loving head that attaches to water molecules and a water-hating tail that attaches to the dirt molecules. This creates a force that detaches the dirt from the clothes & suspends the dirt in the water. The agitation of the washing machine or scrubbing by hand further helps detach the dirt from the clothes. As a result of the dirt getting detached the water now starts looking murky.

    2. Emulsification

    Now that the dirt has been removed, it is critical that they don’t re-deposit on the clothes. This is the done by the second action of the surfactant i.e emulsification. Emulsification is the process by which the dirt and the water form a mixture. This keeps the dirt suspended in the water till it is washed down the drain

    But the Sapindus is so much more

    The fruit that’s a detergent is a great surfactant which explains why it cleans so well. However it is so much more than just a surfactant.

    1. It is a certified organic product fruit. So it is absolutely bio-degradable and once used for washing leaves no trace of its existence.
    2. It is powdered to make a great detergent, so it consumes very little energy to manufacture.
    3. It is hypoallergenic, so it is gentle on hands, leaves no chemical residue on clothes, that can be harmful to skin.

    Food for thought

    In the first month of our experiments with the Sapindus we completely eliminated regular chemical detergents. However I am constantly amazed by how well the innocuous, light brown fruit cleans.

    But think about it, regular chemical detergents have been around for the last hundred years or so. However humans and dirty clothes have been around for thousands of years. More often than not it has been the fruit that’s a detergent that saved  the day.

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    Krya’s first sustainable goodie

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    Today is the first day, of a super exciting year. A brilliant day to talk about the first sustainable goodie from Krya.

    So we’ve made a detergent.By powdering a fruit.

    It washes really really well. In our washing machine. And in a bucket when we feel like it.

    We’ve washed everything known to us with the fruit that’s a detergent.  It Works.

    We save tons of water per cycle – because it is a non-fussy fruit, you need to rinse just once.

    And we direct all the wash water into the garden and not down the drain – it is safe because, hey, we are washing with a fruit.  And our plants grow really well.

    So we’ve established it is a goodie.

    Now for the part that makes it a sustainable goodie:

    1. It is a fruit.
    2. It is a certified organic fruit.
    3. It is a certified organic fruit from a polyculture farm.
    4. It is a certified organic fruit from a polyculture farm following fair-trade.
    5. It is a certified organic fruit from a polyculture farm following fair-trade that is powdered to make a pure, natural, organic detergent.

    We’ve been using this fruit, which is a detergent, exclusively for 1 year to this date.

    Happy new year! And Happy washing to you too!

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