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Make your own laundry soap using horse chestnuts  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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Another fabulous post from the zero waste chef that I'd like to draw your attention to, particularly as it's seasonally appropriate for people in the Northern hemisphere In true permaculture style, using an abundant resource for one of its many uses!

Chestnut laundry soap

EDIT: This recipe uses horse chestnuts.

Basically:
1. collect chestnuts
2. crack 'em with a hammer
3. Grind 'em in a blender
4. Dehydrate/dry some for later use, stored in a jar
5. Take a portion you want to use now, steep in water for 30 mins or so
6. Strain
7. Store liquid detergent in the fridge for up to a week






Note:

Alternately, I read that one could put the grated chestnuts or quartered chestnuts in a mesh bag and place directly into the washing-machine, but I haven’t tried that method. Also, some folks peel the skin off the chestnuts for fear the dark skin will stain light-colored clothing. I have not found this to be the case, and my white clothes have not become stained or discolored by the soap.

A word of caution, this soap is gentle and great for delicates and for everyday washing. However, it is not a power stain-fighter. If clothing has a grease stain or another tough stain, pre-treat before washing. Chestnut soap is not equipped to tackle stains that need some extra attention.




Note to moderator - this can also go in the toxin-ectomy forum but I don't know how to double post?)
 
pollinator
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Are we talking sweet chestnuts Or Horse chestnuts ?
 
Shaz Jameson
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Horse chestnuts - sorry, should have made it clear! Will edit.
 
pollinator
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This sounds very interesting... I'll have to scout out a chestnut tree and discreetly harvest ;)  Thanks!
 
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We have a horse chestnut tree, literally, right outside our front door step. The branches touch the house. Last year I collected about 40lbs. of the nuts, only to find they weren't edible. Thank you so much for posting this.
 
pollinator
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So you really did this, Shaz. I got this a few times on Facebook, but no-one really tried it. They could not tell me if it really cleans the laundry.
You say it works, so I can go to find a horse-chestnut-tree (the horse-chestnuts close by are already plundered by kids)
 
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I will have to try this too.  What a great discovery, Shaz. 

We have tons of horse chestnut trees around here. I grew a few last year  - they germinated really easily just in a sack of damp, sandy soil/leaf mulch.  I left them outside all winter under a bench and in the spring most of them had come up. Over the years I have really come to appreciated trees like horse chestnuts that drop lot of leaves as they are so useful in the garden for mulching/ground cover, growing tree seedlings etc. Just mulched my elephant garlic with fallen leaves this week as frosty nights are  already here.          

I recently got talking to a lady who was picking up horse chesnuts and she said she used them in her drawers and cupboards/closets as a natural moth repellent. I am going to try this too.

 
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I have only fairly recently taken up some organic growing , one of the plants /trees i had on my list to study was the horse chestnut, lucky for me i have one and to my shame i must admit when we first moved onto the property some years ago i had thought about chopping it down ---as i was reliably  told by locals that it was poison and no good for anything. Being lazy on the day when its fate was decided, my chainsaw spluttered out and i had no intentions of axing it down , so it stayed and stayed, going green for me meant finding a use for all and every plant around my 2 acres. So finding out these can be used for washing clothes , moth/insect repellant in clothes is a bonus and the more i read the more uses i discover, which brings on the possibly bad or drawback s as well. Horse chestnut tree secretes a chemical which is alleopathic and is in the roots , bark and leaves, dont know which plants it effects the most or the least , my own tree does have a willow growing right next to it, grass ,weeds and bramble at its base --but somewhat stunted---no ivy around it and some whitethorn and beech not to far from it .Has any one noticed this supprecent effect on other plants ?
 
gardener
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Thank you, Shaz. Just when I thought my brain couldn't generate any more ideas, Shazam. I've got some work to do.

Here's a link to someone making soaphttp://wastelandrebel.com/en/make-laundry-detergent-out-of-chestnuts/

This stuff looks a lot like milk and should definitely be stored in a container that is well marked. Luckily, they taste terrible.

I just did some reading and they are in the soapberry family. I wonder if other members of the soapberry family, can be used as soap. I'm definitely going to try this with my work clothing. I don't care about a few chunks getting loose in the washing machine.
......
My test will involve running some through a blender, and then letting the material stand long enough for the particles to settle out. I'm on one of the shadiest streets in Victoria, in the Cook Street Village. Chestnuts everywhere. I will also dry a few, and run them through the blender to produce flour. It will be marked with skull and crossbones, to prevent it being used to thicken gravy. It would be interesting to see if it cleans well, after being stored in a dry state. I suppose hulled nuts could be dried whole, and milled when the time comes. It will be interesting to see if finely milled material rinses clean or leaves a residue. I've just elected myself as head tester. I have plenty of expendable work clothing. Results will come in when the nuts fall.
.......
Further reading lead to the knowledge that chestnuts are the preferred tree in beer gardens. Prior to refrigeration, German beer makers would make their caverns in the ground and then the chestnuts would provide dense shade. Their  shallow roots didn't affect the root cellar like structures. Festivals were held under the trees on hot summer days.

Well there's a good use for chestnuts. Many people on this forum have a root cellar that could use some shade.

........ edit
Fish
This got me thinking about how toxic the nuts are. Specifically, I wondered if I could dump the laundry water into a fish pond. No. It is toxic to fish. It's no more toxic than a hundred other things used for cleaning, but should not be added directly to any body of water. The good news is that it's absolutely biodegradable.

Preservatives.
I wonder if there is some natural preservative, that could make the soap last longer, without refrigeration. I'm thinking some sort of nice smelling herb, like mint. It would have to be something that you don't mind smelling like, after the clothes are done. Perhaps salt would have some effect. Those washing with hard water, often add salt anyway.

Dried flakes
Could the resultant milky liquid, be dried, and still retain it's cleaning properties?

Frozen concentrated laundry detergent
I'll bet it could be frozen. Imagine dehydrating, to the point where it's at thick goo. It could then be frozen in ice cube trays, and transferred to bags, once frozen. This should prevent it accidentally being used as milk. Hundreds of washes could be stored in one freezer basket.
 
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Ok, "Head Tester," any results to report on?
 
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If Horse Chestnut soap is anything like soap nuts/berries, my word to the wise is to store your dehydrated back stock in glass. I came home from vacation one winter to a rat in the house, the only thing it was after... several pounds of soap nuts! It never came back once it had eaten them all. I can't imagine the poor buddy felt very good after that binge. :)

Thanks for the inspiration, I look forward to trying these!
 
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The active ingredient that you are extracting from horse chestnut seeds is saponin (check the wikipedia page on saponin for more information).
 
Dale Hodgins
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Corrie Snell wrote:Ok, "Head Tester," any results to report on?



I got distracted on a job, and this year the city sent a giant vacuum truck that cleaned up every nut on Cook Street, except for the one who begs outside of the Starbucks. I walked up and down both sides of the street, and failed to find any nuts, so I guess I've got to put this one off till next year.

I've come up with a very passive way to do laundry, that involves pumping water from the pond into a black garbage can, which is covered so that it Heats in the Sun. Water and clothing are put there in the morning, and allowed to roast all day. Since the nuts take time to release the soap, this might be the perfect place to use them. 8 or 10 hours in warm water, should do it. The area has a high water table. Water removed from the pond and dumped on the ground 10 or 15 feet away, will slowly make its way back. I assume that the process would be slow enough so that anything dangerous to fish would break down in the soil, on the return trip.
 
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David Livingston wrote:Are we talking sweet chestnuts Or Horse chestnuts ?


Horse chestnuts is at the top of the recipe. Horse chestnuts are not very edible, but sweet chestnuts are so expensive here that no one would consider that a saving, unfortunately.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I think horse chestnuts are inedible enough, to call them poisonous. Even the name chestnut is not correct. They are known as buckeye in some areas.  Their use as soap, does not compete with any food use. Edible chestnuts have no value as soap.
 
pollinator
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Neat...thank you guys!  Looking forward to trying this.  I've never tried it, but I've read that native Americans leached the saponins from horse chestnuts, then cooked and ate them.  I wonder how much saponin would be left from the ground up nuts placed in bags and used in the wash after a wash cycle?  I suppose you could finish leaching them in jars of water in the fridge like you do for acorn processing.  If you shake it and it doesn't foam after a days soaking I would think that enough is gone, but would be good to be cautious.  Putting this on my someday to try list.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I think horse chestnuts are inedible enough, to call them poisonous. Even the name chestnut is not correct. They are known as buckeye in some areas.  Their use as soap, does not compete with any food use. Edible chestnuts have no value as soap.


Thanks, Dale. I did not know that. The Latin names Aesculus hippocastanum for horse chestnut and Castanea sativa for sweet chestnuts indicate that they are not at all related anyway. Buckeye could grow here, I hear. [I had wondered about doing a graft, like you can sometimes from Carpathian walnut onto a black walnut stock to get something that would survive a cold Wisconsin winter, but in spite of outside similarities, they are so totally different that a graft would never work. Still looking, though ;-)
 
pollinator
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I am really glad I looked into this thread. It looks very useful. I have often wondered about growing quinoa and rinsing the saponins off of the seed coat in a process that would reserve the liquid, but as an herbal pest deterrent. I figured that if it worked to deter birds from eating quinoa seeds, it might work to keep other pest animals or insects from eating other crops.

My first reaction, though I knew you were talking about Aesculus hippocastanum, was to think "Soap from horse apples?"

I don't know why, but the momentary confusion nearly busted my gut.

-CK
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Chris Kott wrote:I am really glad I looked into this thread. It looks very useful. I have often wondered about growing quinoa and rinsing the saponins off of the seed coat in a process that would reserve the liquid, but as an herbal pest deterrent. I figured that if it worked to deter birds from eating quinoa seeds, it might work to keep other pest animals or insects from eating other crops.
My first reaction, though I knew you were talking about Aesculus hippocastanum, was to think "Soap from horse apples?"
I don't know why, but the momentary confusion nearly busted my gut.
-CK


That would be nice, wouldn't it. Thanks for making my day. If you can grow quinoa in Ontario and reserve the saponins for soap, I hope you will share. That would be a good thing.
 
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Thanks for the instruction.  Another species in the bottomland forests of the Texas Gulf Coast is called Red Buckeye - Aesculus pavia.  They seed out in November.  I'll giving them a try.
 
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hi! love this topic!  i watched a video of someone making this, and they used the horse chestnuts whole....has anyone tried this?  also, has anyone tried using chestnuts?  i know it would be silly to use chestnuts since they are are edible, but if horse chestnuts are not available..... ?
 
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There is also Saponaria officinalis which root is a good soap alternative for delicate fabric. The only drawback is that its quite aggressive in growth, so dont mix with your greens!
 
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