I was looking for alternatives to normal store-bought laundry detergent, when I found out that the so-called eco-friendly laundry detergents were still full of unpronounceable ingredients that are in fact not too eco-friendly.
I also found those soapnuts (nuts from the sapindus saponaria tree), a herbal laundry detergent. However, even though those were seemingly sold in a nice cotton bag, there was another plastic bag hiding inside...
Chestnuts instead of Soapnuts
Soapnuts have been used to wash laundry or to make body wash in India for generations. However, soapnuts have become more and more popular in Europe. The growing demand has led to the extensive export of soapnuts, which in turn has led to soapnuts becoming too expensive for many natives to afford. Instead, they use chemical detergents that contribute to the water pollution, which is already an issue of concern in India. To top it off, those nuts need to be shipped across the globe, leaving quite the carbon footprint.
So those were definitely not the sustainable solution I was hoping for. I kept looking on the internet and I stumbled upon the fact that chestnuts actually have similar properties as soapnuts. The timing could not have been more perfect - the leaves were just turning red and you could find chestnuts lying on the sidewalks everywhere.
Why does it work?
Soapnuts and chestnuts both contain saponins, a soap-like chemical compound (sapo is Latin for soap).
How does it work?
Wrap 5 - 6 horse chestnuts (not to be confused with the edible kind!) into a piece of cloth. Grab a hammer and vent your anger :D.
Or go professional on them and use a decent blender ;).
If you have none of the above at hand just go nuts on them (pun intended :D) using your ordinary kitchen knife.
Put the however shredded chestnuts into a jar and add a cup of hot water. Let sit overnight.
The following day the water should have turned milk-like. Just use it like you would any liquid detergent. It does its job - my laundry is clean and completely odorless. If you prefer a certain scent you can use lavender oil or any other essential oil of your liking. You can keep this laundry detergent in the fridge for up to a week.
The leftover chestnuts can be composted.
If you live in an area with hard water you should add a splash of white vinegar. I've already collected enough chestnuts for an entire year. Even dried they still work fine.
You need 2 - 2 ½ ounces each load. So if you wash 1 - 2 times a week you need to collect 11 pounds of chestnuts to have enough to last you until next fall 🙂
The smaller you shred the chestnuts, the quicker the saponins will dissolve into the water. So if you shred the chestnuts in a blender and use boiling water you only have to wait 10 minutes. Don't forget to filter your mixture 😉.
I do not peel the chestnuts, but if you want to wash a load of whites, you might want to consider it. I do not think the peel will stain whites, but I honestly do not know.
You can shred and dry (or dry and then shred) the chestnuts:
The shredded and dried chestnuts can be kept in a jar and anytime you want to wash a load just take 2 - 2 ½ ounces and add hot water to make your liquid laundry, or...
... you can also put your shredded chestnut into an organza bag or use a pantyhose and put the bag in with your laundry instead.
We live in Germany, and we can collect chestnuts everywhere - they are literally lying on the streets! Where do you live? Does chestnut detergent work for you? Or do you maybe have another great tip 😊?