Handy Plant: Making Yucca Soap

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Careful! Don’t get cut by your soap source!

Ever want to have a quick way to clean up in the field? Luckily the yucca is a widespread plant across much of the Southwestern US. Here’s how to make cleansing suds from yucca spines.

Yucca roots and spines both contain the compound saponin, which has detergent properties. It will not only suds up and help to clean your skin and hair, but anything else you decide could be a just a little bit fresher!

Roots vs Spines?
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The roots contain more saponin, and thus more sudsing potential, but harvesting your soap that way means death for the plant you take it from. I prefer to harvest some of the green spines- it may be more work for me, but means less damage to the plant.

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Soaping up in the field:

1. Cut spine(s) from the plant, being careful to move slowly and avoid their razor sharp edges! OUCH!

2. Pound and scrape the spines between 2 smooth surfaced rocks to break open the surface of the spine and separate the fibers.

3. Once the fibers are adequately separated and no sharp edges or points remain, the yucca is ready to suds up.

4. Add water and rub it between your hands. The first suds will be green as the spines give up their chlorophyll, then gradually turn clear/white as you continue rubbing and adding water.

There you go: all clean!

Soaping up at home:

1. Gather up your spines as before

2. Use a knife or sharp rock to scrape off green waxy skin of the spine and save it to the side.

3. Put your scrapings into a sealable container with water and shake vigorously for a few minutes to combine the saponins with the water.

4. Pour the mix through a filter or mesh to separate out the scrapings.

5. Store in the container of your choice- tip: hand soap pumps can work great!

6. Enjoy your natural suds for anything from shampoo to dishwashing detergent.

SAFETY NOTE: always test the first time of any topical plant use with a small patch of non-vital skin to make sure your’e not one of those with the rare but serious reaction!

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