Sustainable Washing 2

For everyone who has not read part I yet:

Degree of effort: low – Level of impact: medium


  • Collect some chestnuts and wash your clothes with them (see below)
  • More effort: Make chestnut powder for the rest of the year
  • Challenge: Try different ways of sustainable washing – Which one is your favorite?


Short recap: Most normal washing powders/liquids contain harmful substances for the environment as well as for our bodies. Even many of the biological alternatives are not considered to be completely fine. That’s why many people start looking for other options like making detergents themselves out of natural/non-harming materials.

My experience:

I have always liked chestnuts/conkers and so I was happy to collect some of them with an ‘official purpose’. Chestnuts (as well as ivy) contain saponins (Saponine), which have similar characteristics as soap. Therefore, one can use chestnuts (or ivy) for washing clothes.

It is my favorite solution for sustainable washing so far – and it is for free! You only have to collect some freshly fallen chestnuts (hurry, season is soon over, at least in Germany) and head home. If they are dry and clean, you can already start to chop 5-8 of them in quarters. Then you put them in a glass or other container with 300 milliliters of water and wait for around eight hours. Then you pour the liquid through a sieve in the part of your washing machine, where you usually put the washing powder/liquid. And that’s it…

(Instructions mainly taken from; but there are many other instructions, also in English, like:

For white clothes, you should peel the chestnuts before adding water. As they dry out or go mouldy quickly, you can make a chestnut powder to serve as a reserve for the rest of the year.

On the photos you can see: chopped chestnuts with added water before and after eight hours (two photos on the left) and the version for white clothes (most of the peel off – photo on the right); below you can see my powder making efforts (easiest to crush them with a good kitchen aid; then you can dry them in the oven, for example).

I also prepared some washing powder because I did not have a proper tool for making more chestnut powder, but this was a bigger effort:

It took a while to get the curd soap (Kernseife) grated, but the rest was fine. I prepared one version for white (right) and one version for colourful clothes (middle).

Do you have any other ideas for sutainable washing? I like chestnuts best, but as I could not prepare a huge amount of powder for the whole year, I will stick to making the other powder or liquid once in a while – till next Autumn 😉

3 thoughts on “Sustainable Washing 2

  1. Pingback: Sparks of hope? – Catha goes sustainable

  2. Mary Cleare

    I have recently started using english ivy leaves like I used soapnuts: putting 5 big leaves, (roughly chopped) in a sock, tying a knot to keep them trapped and throwing it in with the wash. It works fantastically well, definitely better than soapnuts. It’s cleaned oil and blood perfectly. For me it’s perfect as ivy is evergreen growing just outside my kitchen door (UK). I’m finding this method both quick and easy. It’s now my regular laundry method. I have a few pics on insta @cleareasmud


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