Now that soapwort is growing again, it is a good time to pick the juicy leaves and make a soapwort potion. This soapy liquid can be used in the home as a cleaner, to wash fragile hand washable garments such as fine wool or silk and also as an ingredient of a bug spray. It is much kinder for other wildlife than domestic kitchen washing up liquid.
Soapwort (Saporiaria Officinalis) contains saponins, which create a ‘soapiness’ and has been used to clean for centuries. Still used today to clean delicate objects such as old tapestries and the Turin Shroud, this perennial herb is easy to grow from seed in the spring. I sow into trays, then prick out into modules before planting out the strong young plants in later spring. Alternatively, grow new plants by dividing the clumps in the autumn.
Be aware that soapwort is extremely invasive so think carefully about location before planting in the garden or grow in pots.
During the growing season, harvest the leaves and stems and in the autumn dig up some of the roots. The flowers are edible, a pretty addition to salads, but do not eat any other part of the plant, it is toxic.
To make a cleaning solution, chop two handfuls of fresh leaves and stems (or one handful of dried)
and add 3 cups of water.
Add rose petals, lavender or other herbs for fragrance and cleaning properties if you like. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Cool, strain and use or store in a sealed container in a cool place for up to a week. Here we are straining the liquid into a squeezy bottle.
The root also makes a powerful cleanser: add 2 handfuls of fresh chopped root (or 1 of dried, it is best to chop before drying for easier use later) to 3 cups of water and soak overnight. Add herbs for fragrance if desired then boil for 30 minutes before straining. Again, this will keep for a week.