Laundry with Soapwort/Sweet William/Saponaria officinalis
Washing with Wild Sweet William (soapwort)
after experimenting, looking for answers, finding some... I have prepared this text and photos to share my experience with you 😊
Do you do the washing with ivy leaves? I do regularly. However, ivy is not suitable for washing very delicate fabrics such as silk, wool and other delicate materials.
However, there is a special herb, which has been used historically and is still being used by specialists dealing with old tapestries. Wild Sweet William (also known as Soapwort or Soapweed - Saponaria officinalis) can be used as a gentle soap not only for laundry, but also as a body wash or shampoo.
I was very curious to try it out. I have it in my garden. It is a nice plant with pale pink flowers and a very pleasant perfume.
I have read that the roots are rich in saponins, a glucoside with foaming characteristics and one is supposed to use it with the leaves, but it is a perennial plant and I did not feel like digging out the roots. Therefore, I decided to use the whole plant but not the roots. I chopped the stems, leaves and flowers and boiled them for about 30 minutes and then strained the mixture. The lathery liquid is supposed to dissolve fat and grease. I then blended the rest of the plant and it produced a lot of foam. The liquid was brownish and I had to persuade myself to use it for the white washing... I used 1 cup of strained liquid per wash.
It worked!!! The washing was much softer than the one washed with ivy leaves.
My problem was that I now had about 6 litres of liquid! How could I preserve it as I did not want to waste it? This was my next experiment. I froze some of it in portions big enough for one wash and the rest I boiled again and sealed in pre heated jars. I have stored them in the cellar where it is cool and dry.
To avoid this worry in the future I will harvest just enough of the herb, dry it and boil it for one or two washes.
If you want to try out the root, it needs to be washed very well, cut into pieces and either boiled fresh, or dried for future use.
There is much more about plants with saponins in thegrownetwork library. I did read the available information before I started my experiment 😊