One of the challenges of making soapberry powder is that it requires a lot of drying. We have to dry the whole berries before we can remove the seed, dry them before we can turn it into powder, and after turning it into powder, it needs to be dried a third time before it is packaged.
We dry the powder on trays and every time we take the powder off the tray, there is a certain amount of residue that remains. If you use soapberry powder, you know that a little bit goes a long way and the small amount of powder left on a tray times the number of trays we are using adds up to a lot of loads of laundry potential. When we washed the trays at the end of the day, there was a lot of good soap “going down the drain.” So, what could we do with that perfectly good soapberry liquid? Instead of just letting it go to waste, we started collecting the soapberry rich water and donating it to the prisoners at the regional prison.
There is a sign on the wall when you enter the jail which states the capacity of the facility-100. Under that number is another number, the quantity of people actually incarcerated. The last number we saw there was 458. The first time we showed up with some soapberry liquid, we gave a little demonstration to the captain in charge, some guards and a number of prisoners. We explained how it could save on the use of water, could be used for more than just doing laundry, etc. At the end of the explanation, I asked if there were any questions. The captain looked at me and said, “the only question we have is if you are going to come back.” Lots of people come once with offers of help. Not very many come back a second time.
So for the last couple of months we have taken them the liquid soap that results from processing soapberry powder. My freezer usually has several bottles of soap waiting to have enough to have one for each cell block and an extra one for the guards to use. Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks to have enough and other times we have enough in a few days. They use it for washing clothes, but also for washing the floor and cleaning bathrooms. One of the biggest benefits they have found is getting rid of the smell of urine in the bathrooms.
I would imagine that is a big deal in a facility meant for 100 that houses 458.