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horse chestnut soap  RSS feed

 
steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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In reading the recent issue of "living woods" there is an article about how to make horse chestnut soap.  Basically, wet some leaves and squeeze them.  Done.

So, my question is:  how effective of a soap is this?  Could you make lots more by running the leaves through a blender?  Will it keep?

 
pollinator
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Location: Oakland, CA
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A lot of your question is about saponins in general, for which there are quite a few sources. 

Saponins don't keep as well as lye soap.  They poison fish: their molecular structure is similar to many hormones.

If by "effective" you mean how strongly it tends to emulsify oils, from what I've heard petrochemical detergents > soap > saponins.

Oddly enough, one of the saponins from this particular tree is also a blue fluorescent dye.  So even if the detergent action can't get that yellow tinge out of your clothes, the residue will convert some of the UV in sunlight to blue light, making them look white.  Brand-name laundry detergent does a similar trick with synthetic dye.

Wikipedia on how to use them (it also has a photo of a jar of saponins under a blacklight):

In the past, Horse-chestnut seeds were used in France and Switzerland for whitening hemp, flax, silk and wool. They contain a soapy juice, fit for washing of linens and stuffs, for milling of caps and stockings, etc., and for fulling of cloth. For this, 20 horse-chestnut seeds were sufficient for six liters of water. They were peeled, then rasped or dried, and ground in a malt or other mill. The water must be soft, either rain or river water; hard well water will not work. The nuts are then steeped in cold water, which soon becomes frothy, as with soap, and then turns milky white. The liquid must be stirred well at first, and then, after standing to settle, strained or poured off clear. Linen washed in this liquid, and afterwards rinsed in clear running water, takes on an agreeable light sky-blue colour. It takes spots out of both linen and wool, and never damages or injures the cloth.

 
pollinator
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i know there are a few plants that when mixed with water are used as soap in the wilds..

i was cutting down seedheads in the garden yesterday and came in with my skin all irritated..wish i had some SOAP that would have calmed that sensation (also got poppy seeds in my hair and eyes..do you suppose if it was left in my eye it would have sprouted?? took me a long time to get them all out)..them dang things go eveywhere..there are just so many in those little "saltshaker" seedpods..

one plant that comes to mind is soapwort..in translation ...soap plant
 
paul wheaton
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So .... saponins do a pretty weak job of cutting grease and they don't keep very well?

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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paul wheaton wrote:
So .... saponins do a pretty weak job of cutting grease and they don't keep very well?



Yes.

However, for washing skin, hair, and some fabrics, the weakness is actually a good thing.  Better hand soaps and shampoos have their grease-cutting ability intentionally kneecapped by various additives: Dove soap famously advertises "1/4 moisturisers!" meaning they've given it some grease to cut before you buy it, so it doesn't pull so much out of your hands.  And synthetic detergents are way too good at their job to be healthy for hair or wool.
 
paul wheaton
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I know lots of folks are keen on making soap.  I've never made soap.  Mostly because I don't want to fool with the lye.  So I've always kinda wondered how one might go about getting soap without lye and have always struck out until now.

So, it would seem that you can make a really weak soap with horse chestnut leaves (or some other plants) which would probably spoil pretty quickly. 

I wonder if you could boil it down to something that is more concentrated and lasts longer.

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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paul wheaton wrote:
I wonder if you could boil it down to something that is more concentrated and lasts longer.



Most of the uses of soap don't require very high concentrations.

If you wash the saponins off your home-grown buckwheat or quinoa hulls, the rinse water will keep in your washing machine until you do your next load of laundry.  A patch of soapwort growing in a windowbox near the kitchen sink will keep quite a while, and while it won't be a concentrated blob on your dish sponge, you can soapify all your dishwater while you heat it on the stove, perhaps using the soapwort stems themselves to scrub with.

Part of the "weakness" isn't due to low concentration, though, so much as the relative strength of interactions for each individual molecule.  Sort of like the way sulfuric acid is "strong" and lactic acid is "weak", or hydrazine is a stronger reducing agent than vitamin C.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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paul wheaton wrote:
So .... saponins do a pretty weak job of cutting grease and they don't keep very well?



I just found more info on this question. Apparently I wasn't entirely correct: dry, they keep just about indefinitely, and some people prefer their cleaning power, at least in the context of laundry.

Homegrown Evolution asks its readership about soap nuts.
 
paul wheaton
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Maybe we need a whole new thread on "soap nuts".  It sounds way better than playing with lye.
 
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      Talking of playing around with lye i just put a bit of ash in my mop water and wash the floor with it. I have also washed th stove with similarly wmixed water an dfwood ash, I used bare hands, It took off anythign stuck to the stove off well and my hands seemed fine. if you stick a bit of ash on a shovel into your water to mop a floor with, you rmop water  cant be bad for the garden, after all you use ash to fertilise plants so you can just throw the water on the garden once the floor is clean .
  The water looks dirty full of ash but it cleans well. I new a woman who was really good at house work  and her mop water always looked very dirty, i now wonder if she did not also use ash. agri rose macaskie.
 
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^interesting, thanks for the info

i just picked a bunch of horse chestnut seeds with soem kids thinking they may have been chestnuts but after looking it up, realised the nuts themselves are somewhat worthless lol
 
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paul wheaton wrote:I wonder if you could boil it down to something that is more concentrated and lasts longer.



A lot of the soponins are naturally available in many products..so why would they need to last longer? http://www.zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=39&t=76536

I usually always can find a yucca plant and often find bouncing bet (soapwort) along roadsides where farmers haven't killed it off yet.

While soponins are good for humans, they can be dangerous to livestock. http://www.library.uiuc.edu/vex/toxic/bucinbt/bucinbt.htm

The extraction of the actual soponins need alcohol to extract the agents.

Since I make lye soap, I only use the bouncing bet as a curiosity. I am experimenting with learning to make lye soap from wood ashes and not buying lye. I dont really worry about the lye. Lye is a naturally occurring substance. We have just chemically made it stronger and more stable with modern chemistry, but lye soap can still be made with ashes, water and grease.

Morana
 
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