Autumn isn’t only great for taking long walks while enjoying the beautiful colours of the trees or the many autumnal pumpkin food recipes. It is also great for various DIY projects. I’m not talking about decorating your home with pumpkins, chestnut figures or other things like that, but DIY things that you can actually use throughout the year: your own homemade all-natural detergent made from things found in your garden or your local park!
This sounds super boring, very housewifey, and not fun at all, I get it! However, it’s a nice activity that includes a walk in the nature, it is a great idea for a homemade Christmas gift, and it’s good for the environment. Plus, think of the money that you might be saving throughout the year (as you won’t be spending money on buying detergent). Win-win situation.
Many things in nature contain Saponins – a soap-like chemical compound. Because like soap, the plants containing this chemical form a lather when combined with water. Saponins can be found in various veggie plants like soy beans, peas, spinach, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, or in various herbs. In horse chestnuts and ivy there is a higher saponin concentration, and thus they are more favourable for detergents. In the following I will show you how to make your own detergent out of chestnuts and ivy leaves.
How to make & use: chestnut detergent
Supply for 1 year for 1-2x laundry per week
- Collect around 4-5kg (11lbs) of horse chestnuts and wash off the dirt
- Cut them into quarters and shred them in a blender to a fine mix
- Let the shredded chestnuts dry
- on a piece of cloth or on a baking sheet
- air dry in the sun or in the oven at the lowest heat possible (70°C for 2-3 hours)
- Put the dry shredded chestnuts in several jars
- Et voila! That’s it!
Make sure that your food processor or blender is strong enough! In case it isn’t, just take your time and give your blender a well-deserved break from time to time. If you don’t have a decent blender or food processor, you can also try it with a hammer or just cut the chestnuts into very small pieces with your kitchen knife. This might take a while though.
How to use the detergent:
- Put 2 tablespoons of (dry) shredded chestnuts in a jar and add 250-300ml hot water
- Let it soak for around 15-20 minutes (10 if it’s boiling water), the water will turn milk-like
- Filter the chestnuts-water mix by using a strainer and put it in the machine where you’d put any other liquid detergent
- To get a certain scent you can add a few drops of any essential oil of your liking
- For a white load or for hard water you can add 1 tsp. of washing soda
- Turn on the machine!
If you want to try it with fresh chestnuts, you can just take 5-8 chestnuts, cut them into quarters, soak them in 250ml hot water for about 8 hours, filter it, and use it.
Good to know
The smaller you shred the chestnuts, the quicker the saponins will dissolve into the water. So if you don’t have a blender and only cut the nuts with a knife it might take longer than 15 minutes.
Some people say that you should peel the chestnuts if you want to use it for a white load. However, this is such a tedious process and many people who have been using this homemade natural detergent for years say that it makes no difference at all. So you can skip the peeling! For a white load you can just add a bit of washing soda.
Leftover chestnuts can be composted or re-used for a second or even third time if you plan on washing another load.
NEVER PUT THE SOAKED SHREDDED CHESTNUTS IN YOUR MACHINE, this will ruin your machine! Only use the milk-like water!
How to make & use: ivy detergent
Option 1 – the one with the sock:
- Take a handful of fresh ivy leaves (with the stem) and tear them apart in the middle
- Put them in a sock (or a mesh laundry bag), tie it off, and throw it into the machine with your laundry
- Start the machine!
Option 2 – the one with the blender:
- Take a handful of fresh ivy leaves (with the stem) and blend them in a food processor with 500ml water (not Smoothie-like blending – use the pulse function instead)
- Put the water-ivy mix in a pot and let it come to a boil, remove it from the stove and let it cool completely.
- Strain the mixture through a sieve and pour the green liquid into the detergent compartment of your machine.
- Turn on the machine!
Good to know
Add a bit of vinegar – this will make the hard water softer, remove the grayness of your whites, enhance the colours, and get rid off the lime scale in the machine
Add a bit of washing soda – this improves the cleaning effect and also softens the water. Don’t use it for wool or delicates though, this can destroy the fabric.
Don’t use the young, light-green ivy leaves. Use older ones that have a rich, darker colour. This will maximise the cleaning effect!
Ivy is poisonous, but only if you eat a lot of it! So don’t worry too much about it, just don’t drink the water, don’t eat the leaves, and wash your hands afterwards.
My experience with it
The whole process of collecting, shredding and drying them might sound like a tedious job. My boyfriend and I combined it with a walk in the park, and an evening in front of a tv show that we liked. Fortunately, we were able to borrow my sister’s strong food processor/blender so it took us only one hour (drying not included) to produce our one-year-supply.
I’ve been using horse chestnuts for over a year now and I can say that they indeed do their cleaning job! Personally, I find chestnuts a bit more user-friendly than ivy as I can just store the nuts in a jar and they don’t need to be soaked for such a long time in comparison to the shredded ivy leaves. However, there’s an ivy plant growing on one side of the house we live in, so we can also get the handful without much effort, so we might be using more of it in the future.
What I like best on the all-natural detergents is that I can use something that I made myself, that is for free, and that is beneficial for the environment. And it’s a nice autumnal activity in September or October (depending on the chestnut season of course).