Chinese Youths Go Green by Making Their Own Soap

China’s DIY Crowd Is Using This Common Plant to Make Soap

Soapnuts (or soapberries) are a new favorite plant among eco-friendly individuals and DIY lovers in China

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terra wang
1:17 PM HKT, Tue November 15, 2022 1 mins read

In addition to persimmon and osmanthus, another autumn plant has gotten young Chinese people’s attention: soapnut.

Also known as soapberry, the plant is native to warm parts of the world. In China, it is widely spread along the Yangtze River and the country’s southern regions. The tree usually produces orange-colored fruits in the autumn, which fall to the ground when they ripen.

As young people in China are getting more aware of environmental issues, they are beginning to look for natural products, which is where soapnuts come in: their fruit pulp can be used to make organic soap.

Soapnuts without kernels and liquid soap made from the pulp

Soapnuts without kernels and liquid soap made from the pulp

A Green Lifestyle

Soapnuts can be used as an all-purpose cleaner for everything from laundry to dishes, toilets, and human bodies. As they’re chemical and allergy-free, soapnuts are also safe for babies or pets.

Chinese environmentalists and DIY enthusiasts have been sharing ways of using soapberries on Chinese social media. At the time of writing, the hashtag ‘Urbanites go collecting soapnuts after work’ (#城里人下班就去捡无患子#) has garnered more than 2.4 million views on China’s Instagram-like platform Xiaohongshu.

“The liquid soap made from soapnuts is amazing! It washed my hands so clean and even left a fresh fruity smell on my fingers. What a magical plant!” wrote a netizen.

Soapnuts easily found and collected in parks

Soapnuts are easily found and collected in city parks

Thanks to the prevalence of the plant, this eco-friendly cleaner is easy to make and accessible to everyone — for free.

“I was taking a stroll in the park beside my office building during my lunch break, and I came across a mass of soapnuts. So I rushed back to my car, fetched a bag, and spent my whole break collecting these natural treasures. I felt so happy,” gushed a Xiaohongshu user.

“I’ve never noticed this humble fruit [soapnuts] just hanging in front of my door until my grandma educated me about its functions. I picked one, rubbed it with my hands under the tap, and was amazed. It’s a gift from nature!” another shared.

Easy DIY Projects

In addition to their eco-friendly features, young people also favor soapberries as an accessible component of DIY projects.

First of all, as mentioned above, it is relatively straightforward to make soap from soapnuts. The fruit naturally dries and turns dark brown once it is picked or falls off the tree. All you need to do is to deseed it and boil the pulp for about 15 minutes. Check out the tutorial below:

And don’t throw away the removed seeds just yet — they can be used for traditional Chinese medicine or simply decorative purposes.

Due to their well-rounded shapes, soapnut seeds are believed to bring luck in Chinese culture. Therefore, bracelets made of these nuts have also become popular among young fashionistas.

Bracelets made with soapnuts’ kernels

Bracelets made of soapnut kernels

Although China has a robust digital retail system and ordering soap online is just a click away, some progressives are going green and enjoying DIY projects with natural objects.

All images via Xiaohongshu

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