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.


    Krya’s first sustainable goodie

    Reading Time: 1 minute

    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!


    Year in Review – What we ‘shipped’ in 2010

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    This is a riff inspired by Seth Godin’s post today, on what we ‘shipped’ in 2010.

    1. Incorporated 2 new companies to start shipping products in 2011.
    2. Created and designed the Krya brand
    3. Built the first prototype of a D.I.Y Film Appreciation product
    4. Decided that it needs more work
    5. Turned vegan after 2 attempts
    6. Started writing consistently through the Krya blog, and our film journal.
    7. Started many gedankenexperiments including an ongoing, complete break from newspapers and news channels
    8. Moved heaven & earth to find and eat organic produce – we now eat only organic vegetables and grains, but are still looking for organic fruits & organic restaurants.
    9. Continue to push the boundary on new artistic experiences especially in expanding our cinema oeuvre . (Of course, this meant a lot of hard work in sourcing this movies and other books on film.) Some examples include :
      1. The Legend of the Suram Fortress – Sergei Parajanov
      2. The Housemaid – Kim Ki Young
      3. The American Soldier – Rainer Werner Fassbinder
      4. The Rules of the Game – Jean Renoir
      5. Coffee & Cigarettes – Jim Jarmusch
    10. Started a garage start-up in the true spirit of the word – there is a garage in front of our office
    11. Successfully resisted buying a car and bought 2 cycles instead – our carbon footprint continues to be enviably low
    12. Consciously worked on our positivity and mental fortitude this year. (All you need to be a successful entrepreneur is wake up and think positive). Many thanks to Esther, Jerry & Abraham for all their support.

    Happy New Year!  We wish you lots of joy, health and abundance in this coming year.

    Preethi & Srinivas