Sustainable Living

Chestnuts (Conkers) Washing Detergent | Zero Waste Recipes

This season you are able to make your own washing detergent and the best thing; it’s zero waste, toxic and chemical free and wont cost you a penny. It’s the most environmentally friendly and most affordable option out there and it only involves a relaxing walk through the woods and some mindful working in the kitchen.

Step 1: Into the forest we go…
From end of September to the beginning of November you can go into any forest or park where chestnuts trees grow and gather some chestnuts there. Make sure to bring a bag with you. The ones that just fell down are the best to use, since they are the easiest to cut. We are gathering horse tree chestnuts which are also known as “conkers”. They are not edible and should not be confused with sweet chestnuts. Make sure that the chestnuts look fresh and not old. It’s also better to go on a dry day if you are lucky enough to find such a day during autumn.

Step 2: Clean and cut the chestnuts (aka conkers)
Rinse the chestnuts in water to remove dirt before you use them. Cut them in half and then in fourth. For a white wash I suggest peeling them. I usually make two bowls., in the one bowl I put all the pieces that are easy to peel and one with those that are harder to peel.

Step 3 (for first time use):
If you just want to try this for the first time then this third step is to slice up about 5 of the chestnuts (peel them for white clothes) and soak them in about 300 ml hot water for about 1-2 hours. If you use cold water then let it sit over night before use. Due to the high saponin content of horse tree chestnuts/conkers you will see a foamy/ soapy layer on top when you shake it. As you can see, it even looks like soap! Pour the solution through a kitchen sieve in the detergent dispenser.

Step 3 (for more uses):
After cutting them into fourths, grain them in a kitchen machine or a mixer with ice crush function. Mix until the pieces are not bigger than a few millimetres. Dry them either in the sun or in your oven for about 2-3 hours at 30 to 40 degrees Celsius. Or just use the rest warmth of the oven after you used it.

Step 4 (for more uses):
When fully dried you can store them for a long time. It should even last you until next years harvest. To use it just add a bit of the grained/dried chestnuts with hot (not boiled) water and let it sit for a couple minutes before pouring the solution into the detergent dispenser (through a kitchen sieve again).

Check out the video to see how it’s done: