Tried It, Liked It
First a recap. Last autumn, as a novelty, an experiment, a camp craft, I tried using horse chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum) to wash my laundry. It was fun and easy. I didn’t expect to actually love it, but I ended up getting hooked. It seems I had discovered a natural way to do my washing that really worked. It left the laundry clean, scentless, and unexpectedly brighter. You can find the story here.
The Simplest Method
- Gather fresh horse chestnuts and rinse them off. No need to peel. Spread out to dry.
- For one load, smash five horse chestnuts. Do this on a piece of sturdy cloth so the pieces are easy to gather up.
- Put the pieces in a glass jar and add a cup of just boiled water.
- Stir with a chopstick then steep overnight to extract the saponins.
- Strain the liquid into the washer while adding the water before you load in the laundry.
I washed about twenty loads this way. Then I ran out of horse chestnuts.
A Year’s Supply of Free Laundry Soap
Clearly, I needed a bigger vision, a better plan. Granules — enough to last me all year. Horse chestnut bits dehydrate well and take up much less space than fresh. The biggest chore, smashing, gets done all at one go, so prepping for each load of laundry is simplified.
Here is my expanded process.
- I collected twelve pounds of horse chestnuts. This took about twenty minutes. The amount was the equivalent of a mostly filled grocery bag.
- Jim smashed the horse chestnuts on a cloth. (He didn’t want me fooling around with his four-pound mallet. He’s thoughtful that way.)
- Using a powerful blender, I ground/pulsed the horse chestnuts into large granules. Don’t overdo it. If you make the pieces too small, they will fall through the dehydrator screen. And too much grinding might wreck your blender’s motor.
- I prepared the dehydrator trays by cutting parchment paper to fit under the mesh. This caught all the small pieces so I didn’t lose any. Six pounds of horse chestnuts granules nicely filled five trays so I processed my supply in two sessions. At a temperature of 110°, the granules were crispy after twenty-four hours.
- And the last step, a thorough washing of the blender and dehydrator screens. Horse chestnuts are not edible.
Twelve pounds of fresh granules became six pounds dried, which fit nicely into my four cannisters.
Meanwhile, I spent half an afternoon designing a label. Fun. If you would like to use this label, please be my guest. It fits the six-up Avery 5164 label sheet. There. Now the laundry cupboard looks classy, right?
To use the granules, measure 2.5 tablespoons into a glass jar and cover with one cup of very hot water. Stir. Let sit for several hours or overnight. Strain and add the liquid to the wash water as you fill the tub before adding the laundry.
Tried this on the bedsheets and was amazed at how bright and clean they turned out.