DIY Laundry Detergent From Chestnuts (Cheap, Plastic-free & Eco-friendly)

DIY Laundry Detergent From Chestnuts (Cheap, Plastic-free & Eco-friendly)
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Wait what? DIY laundry detergent from chestnuts – you mean like the ones falling from trees? Yes, horse chestnuts, conkers or whatever else you want to call them! During autumn we have tons of trees that rain down chestnuts. Most of them will just dissolve back into the ground. All the while we could be washing with them. So let me show you how you can make laundry detergent from chestnuts because it’s not only super eco-friendly, it’s also very cheap and plastic-free.


How do chestnuts clean clothes?

Chestnuts are a natural type of soap because they contain sopanins which are natural surfactants (aka emulsifiers). Surfactants have the ability to mix grease and water, lifting dirt off the clothes that will then be rinsed away. Without it the dirt would simply not mix with the water and stick to the fabric.

What’s wrong with conventional laundry detergent?

DIY laundry detergent chestnuts

If you check the ingredients on the back of your laundry detergent you’ll find they all have surfactants in them. Eco-friendly detergents will have more non-ionic surfactants whereas conventional ones will contain more anionic surfactants. Non-ionic surfactants are obtained from products like plants, whereas anionic surfactants are obtained from mineral oils which is not a renewable raw material and therefore among other reasons not sustainable. Surfactants also differ in their biodegradability. Anionic surfactants are less biodegradable than non-iconic ones. This is specifically important because as they get into our waterways they end up in lakes and rivers where their ability to reduce the surface tension has a big effect on the water and therefore affect entire habits of animals and plants.

Won’t the laundry be dirty from washing with this DIY laundry detergent?

As said above the saponins capture the dirt that is then rinsed out in your washing mashine. So the opposite is the case. The chestnuts are filtered through a strainer so they don’t actually mix with the wash. The fluid is milky white looking so it’s not brown like some might imagine.

Will the laundry smell like chestnuts?

No, the laundry will have a neutral smell. The dirt is gone, the clothes are clean. If you want to add a certain smell, you can use a couple of drops of essential oils or add a dash of your previous laundry detergent.

Is it safe to use chestnuts as a DIY laundry detergent?

Speaking for the environment it is much safer to use natural products rather than synthetic chemicals. As chestnuts are a product of nature it cleans your laundry in a gentle manner. The only thing you don’t want to do is eat them since the consumption of horse chestnuts is toxic to most animals and humans.

Can I wash white clothing with chestnuts?

I don’t recommend it. It is said to turn white laundry grey over time. You could use another laundry detergent for your whites or go with the chestnuts and add some baking soda. Washing with chestnuts or not I generally do this when I wash white laundry because it naturally whitens your clothes.

What if there aren’t any chestnut trees where I live?

DIY laundry detergent chestnuts

If you don’t live in an area with chestnut trees you can also use poison ivy. Don’t let the name fool you. As it is definitely poisonous to eat, the same does not go for washing with it. Similar to the chestnuts they contain saponins which work as a natural soap on your clothes. Just rip the leaves in half and put them into a stocking. Tie a knot and throw the stoking in with your laundry.


Can I store the laundry detergent?

You can store the natural detergent in two ways. One way is to let the blended or cut up chestnuts dry off completely before you store them in an airtight jar. You have to make sure to dry them thoroughly otherwise they will get mouldy. Another way to store the detergent is to make a batch and freeze it. That way you simply take it out of the freezer a couple of hours before you plan to do laundry.

Don’t the animals need the chestnuts?

Unlike humans some wild animals can eat and digest chestnuts. Many chestnut trees are planted and will grow on the side of the road or next to concrete pathways in parks. The nuts will simply lay on the concrete so taking them is not a problem. Wild animals will usually avoid these areas anyhow as there are too many humans around and they will simply find trees better tucked away into the forest. So as long as you’re taking chestnuts from busy areas or near concrete I personally think it doesn’t do much harm.

Tips & Tricks + an important note about this DIY Laundry Detergent

Number one on the list: This article is about washing with cheatnuts – do not eat horse chestnuts! They are not the same as the ones you get at Christmas markets or in the store. They are highly poisonous to our digestive system.

So now that we have that out of the way here are some tips:
Use baking soda if the water is hard where you live. It’s also great to whiten clothing. Just add a teaspoon or more to your wash. Vinegar can also soften the water, will kill off germs beside many other benefits, letting you wash in a more eco-friendly manner by using lower temperatures. Another thing to note is that you do not want to wash your whites with chestnuts as they can become grey over a few washes. Of course you can still do it and use baking soda or mix the chestnuts with your normal detergent, but that’s your choice 🙂

DIY laundry detergent chestnuts

How to make a DIY laundry detergent from chestnuts

Around 8 Chestnuts = One Wash

● Collect chestnuts near streets or concrete (to make a bigger batch, which I recommend, collect a bunch)
● Peel them there (they pretty much fall out of the shell automatically), toss the shell onto the soil
● Rinse them off
● Chop them by half or quarters (you can also blend them in a good blender or food processor)
● Put them into a big jar and add about 300 ml of water
● Let it sit for about 8 hours or boil them for 15 minutes
● The water should be milky white and look a bit foamy when you shake it
● Take a strainer and pour the liquid over it into the detergent compartment of your washing machine
● If you made a bigger batch freeze the rest of the liquid in a glass jar and take it out whenever you plan to wash

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Want to learn more about making less waste? Read this article to learn about 5 ultimate tips on how to shop with less waste and plastic at your ordinary supermarket.

Watch the video – DIY laundry detergent

Some food for thought in our eco community 💭💛

I’d like to point out that as this may be a great way to save money for anyone out there, it is a privilige to have the time to make products yourself. Do not feel bad if you have other commitments that are necessary to make a living. And please never shame people for trying their hardest with what they are given. Always remember to be kind and understanding as you would wish others to be with you.

If you have any other questions leave them in the comment section 😊

Happy Days!

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