Chestnuts are not only good for autumn decoration, but are also ideal for making an environmentally friendly detergent. However, only the chestnuts of the horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) are suitable for this purpose. The fruits of the sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) can be eaten without any problems, but they are completely unsuitable as a detergent because they do not contain any saponins.
Making detergent from chestnuts: The most important facts in brief
- To make a decoction, crush the chestnuts and pour 300 milliliters (10 fl oz) of warm water over them in a screw-top jar. After about eight hours, you can filter the liquid and wash your clothes with the decoction.
- To make powder, finely grind the chestnuts. The powder is left to dry on a cotton cloth over a grid for several days. Before each wash, pour it with hot water and let it infuse for half an hour.
To make detergent yourself, you can simply pick up the chestnuts of the buckeye during an autumn walk in the forest and then process them. This is sustainable and free of charge, quite unlike the fruits of the soapnut tree, which have to be specially imported from India or Asia.
Why are chestnuts suitable as a washing agent?
The nutritive tissue of chestnuts contains saponins. These are detergent-active plant substances, such as those found in concentrated form in ivy and birch leaves. They have a similar chemical structure to the surfactants contained in commercially available detergents and make the laundry odorlessly clean. The special ingredients even shape the name of the botanical family to which the horse chestnut belongs, it is the soapberry family (Sapindaceae). You can wash with the chestnut decoction or make chestnut flour as a washing powder in stock.
What are the advantages of chestnut detergent?
Washing powder made from chestnuts is particularly gentle on colors. It hardly strains the fabric fibers of your clothes and is even suitable for wool. It also protects the environment, and your wallet. It is biodegradable and therefore particularly sustainable. You need five to eight chestnuts for one load of laundry. Extrapolated over a year, that’s about five kilograms (11 lbs) of chestnuts, which you can simply pick up each year during a nice walk in the fall. Decoction or powder made from chestnuts is a promising alternative to conventional detergents, especially for people suffering from allergies. It has been proven that there is less skin irritation, rashes and irritation. People with respiratory diseases or those who react very strongly to fragrances have also had good experiences with it.
How to make detergent decoction from chestnuts: Step by step
In any case, if you want to make detergent from chestnuts, you must first crush the fruit. Either place the fruits in a dish towel and pound them with a hammer or use a nutcracker or blender. You can also quarter the chestnuts with a sharp knife, larger fruits should be cut into even smaller pieces. For whites, it is recommended to remove the brown peel with a knife; for coloreds, this is not absolutely necessary.
Then put the chestnut pieces in a screw-top jar with a capacity of about 300 milliliters (10 fl oz). Pour warm water over the pieces up to the rim. This will cause the saponins to dissolve from the chestnuts and create a milky, cloudy liquid in the jar. Allow the mixture to steep for about eight hours. Then filter the liquid through a kitchen towel or sieve. Either soak the laundry in the extract for a few hours, knead it repeatedly and rinse it with clean water, or carefully pour the detergent directly into the detergent compartment of the washing machine and start the program as usual.
The decoction does not keep for too long, so you should not pre-produce too large quantities. It will keep in the refrigerator for a maximum of one week.
For the fresh laundry scent, you can mix a few drops of essential oil, for example lavender oil or lemon oil, into the chestnut decoction as desired. In the case of light-colored or very dirty laundry, you can also add soda powder to the mixture so that the clothes do not turn gray and also look really clean.
How to make washing powder from chestnuts
You can also make your own powder from chestnuts as a detergent in stock. If you wash once or twice a week, five kilos (11 lbs) of chestnuts will last for about a year. Chop the chestnuts with a knife, larger chestnuts should be cut into eighths or quarters, smaller chestnuts into halves. Then grind the pieces in a suitable blender to fine flour and spread it on a thin cotton cloth. The cloth should be placed on a gauze frame or a metal grid so that the flour is also well ventilated from below. Let the flour dry like this for several days. The granules must be completely dry so that mold does not form.
Then, before each wash, pour the chestnut flour with hot water; three tablespoons to 300 milliliters (10 fl oz) of water, and leave the mixture to infuse for half an hour. Use it as you would ordinary detergent. Alternatively, you can put the flour in a fine-mesh laundry bag and place it directly in the drum with the laundry.