Washing clothes always pollutes the environment up to a certain point, as it is difficult to avoid the consumption of energy and water. In addition, most conventional detergents contain substances that are not biodegradable, thus polluting the environment and having a questionable effect on our own organism. Substances such as surfactants, enzymes, or fragrances are often triggering for allergies. That is why I have decided to try another way of washing my clothes. I am avoiding those harmful chemicals, as well as I am protecting the environment by being sustainable and regional. In this article, I am going to show you how to make your own DIY chestnut laundry detergent. That might sound a bit crazy, but it works and it is for free!
The starting point of this adventure is the recollection of the chestnuts. Collecting chestnuts in autumn is a typical familiar activity in many countries where the chestnut trees grow (like in Germany). While recollecting them, we will need to distinguish between sweet and horse chestnuts:
Sweet chestnut vs horse chestnut
- Sweet Chestnut: They are covered by a spiky shell that resembles a hedgehog, and when uncovered, they have a pointy ending. This kind of chestnut is edible and perfect for roasting.
- Horse Chestnut (conkers): This kind is fully round and they have a smoother shell, with short spicked bumps. This kind of chestnut is not edible, but perfect for making our laundry detergent.
What makes the horse chestnut good for washing?
Horse chestnuts belong to the soap tree family and contain many saponine. This is a soap-like substance that dissolves when it comes into contact with water. And it is precisely this fact that you take advantage of when you want to make detergent yourself from chestnuts. Another good property of the chestnut is that it is odorless, which is why the clothes do not smell of anything after washing.
We can make chestnut detergent in a variety of ways:
1. DIY Chestnut laundry detergent (fresh)
This detergent is made without the need of drying the chestnuts, and I consider it the best way to give it a try and decide if this kind of washing style is for you.
What do you need?
- 7-8 horse chestnuts
- 300 ml water
1. Wash the chestnuts and discard those that have cuts or holes.
2. Cut the chestnuts into four/six parts. For white laundry: remove the peel from the chestnut.
3. Mix them with 300 ml of warm water in a reusable glass Jar.
4. Let it sit overnight or around 8 hours. If you are in a hurry: Put the chopped chestnuts and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer gently over low heat for about 15 minutes, then let cool.
5. Introduce it through a sieve in the wash compartment of your washing machine.
This chestnut detergent will clean normally dirty laundry without any problems and at any temperature. Since it does not contain any fragrances, the laundry ideally does not smell of anything after washing. If you like fragrance, you can make yourself a natural laundry fragrance or you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. This will give your laundry a touch of great smell.
|Important: Chestnut stock does not have a long shelf life, it is not recommended to pre-produce large quantities of it.|
If you enjoy doing this type of laundry, you can stock up on a small supply of chestnuts and process them into long-life chestnut powder.
2. DIY Chestnut Powder – Detergent granules (Long-life)
1. Collect as many horse chestnuts as you want.
2. Wash and clean them, discard the ones that are broken or have holes, and let them dry.
3. Cut them into four parts. For white laundry: peel off.
4. Add them into a mixer/blender (preferably with the ice crusher function) and crush the chestnuts until they become granulate. Be aware: It can be incredibly noisy!
5. Dry the granulate. Drying options:
– Use the leftover heat from baking, or cooking in the oven.
– Let them close to a heater or fireplace.
– Put them in the oven with a temperature of 45ºC – 50ºC for 2h/3h.
6. Store in a reusable glass jar.
I recommend adding some rice grains to prevent the granulate from getting mold.
How to use the Chestnut Granulate?
1. Take around 3 tablespoons from the granulate.
2. Mix it with 300ml of warm water in a reusable glass jar.
3. After 30 minutes, your detergent is ready.
As with the fresh chestnut laundry detergent, you can add a few drops of essential oil if you wish, and you can reuse the same granulate 3 times! (I honestly just use it twice).
|Important: As soon as the granulate has become detergent with water, it does not last long. Therefore, do not make too large quantities of liquid chestnut detergent! The dry granulate will last until next autumn and even longer if stored in a dry place.|
Did it convince you? If yes, you will need about 6 kilograms of chestnuts if you want to wash your laundry with chestnuts all year round!
Other Eco-friendly Washing solutions
In addition to chestnut detergents, there are of course other ways to clean your laundry without conventional washing powder or liquid detergent. Here are three of them:
If you find it too time-consuming to make detergent yourself with chestnuts, then soapnuts from India or Nepal are a good alternative. They are ready to use immediately without having to dissolve the saponins beforehand. Simply place a wash bag with 5-6 soapnut shells in the wash drum. The shells soften quickly at hot washing temperatures. However, you can use it a second time for cold wash cycles or washes up to 40 degrees. The soapnuts are skin-friendly and also suitable for allergy sufferers.
Like chestnuts, ivy leaves contain saponins, which develop soap-like properties when they come into contact with water. To be able to make your own detergent from ivy, you simply have to put 15 to 20 fresh leaves in a sock, knot it and then put it in the washing machine for washing. Or you use a laundry net. The advantage: ivy grows all year round. You can plant it yourself in the garden or cut it in the park or forest, completely free of charge and only when needed. That saves resources.
|Important: ivy can cause allergic reactions, so test it on a piece of clothing beforehand. Since only the fresh leaves are suitable as homemade detergent, you cannot stock up.|
The third alternative to making detergent yourself and buying conventional detergent is the washing ball. The outer shell is made of plastic so that the washing drum is protected. Inside, however, there is EM ceramics (Effective Microorganisms). This special ceramic releases negative ions into the water and changes its structure and pH value. This makes stains easier to remove, without any chemicals or saponins. Works even at low washing temperatures. However, the washing ball needs space. So you can only fill the washing machine to 70 to 80 percent.
Finish touch: DIY fabric softener
- 1L of white vinegar, or 1 : 4 vinegar essence : water.
- 20 drops of essential oil (10 tea tree oil and 10 lavender)
- Mix it and store in a reused bottle.
Watch my Instagram Reel with this recipe and find a 10% discount for the Sauberkasten products on the description!
Extra Tips for an Eco-friendly Washing
To finish this article I want to give a series of other alternatives for an ecological washing routine:
- Wash clothes with cold water and choose short programs: a 90% of the consumed energy from a washing machine is while warming up the water.
- Fill the washing machine to the maximum.
- Use eco-friendly laundry detergent and softener: like the ones on this article or any other on the market (take care that they are eco-friendly and with less chemicals).
- Dry your clothes with in the air and avoid the use of dryers: too much warm harms our clothes and reduces their lifetime.
Are you going to try it? I read you in the comments.