how to use horse chestnuts to wash your clothes | natural laundry detergent

the green walnuts - waschmittel kastanien
If you would have told me a few years ago that laundry detergent was just laying on the street, I would probably have thought you were crazy. By now, I am happy to walk around and collect it myself. Horse chestnuts aka conkers are a wonderful detergent!

Conker season is high season to make your year-long supply of FREE laundry detergent!

My friends and I celebrated with a ‘horse chestnut party’ and worked hard to prepare the detergent for the coming year. The biggest challenge: how do you shred these chestnuts efficiently?

We tried quite a few methods, destroyed one blender and learned a few lessons. I prepared this post so you may learn from our mistakes 😀



the green walnuts - horse chestnuts



The best time to collect horse chestnuts is on nice fall days. Pick them up when they are dry and are not covered in a lot of soil or leaves.

How many horse chestnuts do you have to collect? Well, depends on how often you wash your clothes 😉 I use 50-80 g for each wash load – now you can calculate how much you would need for the whole year. Shia aka Wasteland Rebel prepares 5 kg for herself and her husband. I definitely collected less than that, so I will tell you in a couple of months how far I got.

Before you start to prepare the detergent, wash and dry the chestnuts to get rid of any dirt.




the green walnuts - cut chestnuts



The saponins can only get dissolved when you break the shell oft he horse chestnuts.

The dark shell supposedly causes white laundry to turn grey. I only used the detergent on my colored fabrics, so I cannot give you a first hand account. If you only have coloureds, you can skip peeling the horse chestnuts.

You can peel the horse chestnuts for your white wash loads. It will take longer, no question, but it is totally doable.

I read that you can cut the horse chestnuts in half to let them dry for a day. This should make the peeling easier. We thought it did not do any good because the horse chestnuts got too dry and were harder to shred further. Take a sharp knife and you will not have any troubles ti remove the shell of the fresh, soft horse chestnuts.


the green walnuts - waschmittel kastanien sizes


I’ll give you a short overview oft he methods we tested to make granulate. If you do not like the size of the little shreds, let them dry for a while and crush them to get something more of a powder with a mortar or a grinder.


the green walnuts - waschmittel kastanien zerkleinern



The first step was to cut the horse chestnuts in half. The knife is sufficient if you do not have any other gadgets at home. Just cut the horse chestnuts as small as you want. Talk, watch TV shows, listen to music and before you know it you prepared the whole year-long supply.



Just so you know: shredding horse chestnuts can be incredibly noisy. And I really mean INCREDIBLY LOUD!!! Especially, if you did not peel the horse chestnuts, it sound like a hammer drill is going through your brain.

Our DIY solution: use thick blankets as silencer. Not kidding. Our neighbour is basically deaf, but I did not want to take any chances with this kind of noise.

Very important: only use better quality blenders to shred the horse chestnuts. Cheaper devices can work at the beginning, but run down over time. It is possible that you wear away the plastic thread. Purely hypothetical, of course. Nothing to worry, little sister! Thank you for your blender :-*


hand blender.

My hand blender was definitely no solution. It clogs too fast and was simply to small and slow for the amount of horse chestnuts we had to crush.


(meat) hammer.

The method to use if you have to deal with aggression. You will feel your arms the next day and you have to concentrate to actually hit the horse chestnuts. Let out all your anger and forget all your sorrows ^^

I don’t think it is the most effective way to crush the horse chestnuts, but it works really well to get rid of frustrations.

At least, the conkers will be small enough so you can let them dry for a while and the crumble them with your fingers into even smaller pieces.



In my view, the horse chestnuts are too soft for a nutcracker. The shell does not crack open and the horse chestnuts get only squeezed.

Furthermore, it is more time consuming and my nutcracker can only hold two horse chestnuts at the same time.



One of my friends was nice enough to bring vises. They are perfect to shoot down all kind of objects in the kitchen with the horse chestnuts, but not so much to crack them open.

Maybe the vises were too small and it works with bigger ones, but once more: squeezing only 😛

Did anyone use these? I read it a few times online…

onion cutter.

Sometimes we get kitchen appliances which I would have never bought myself. And then they turn out to be really useful. Same for the onion cutter. New area of use: cutting horse chestnuts.

We peeled them first and threw the halves into the cutter. If the pieces are too big, they block the blades. Halves or quarters work just fine.



the green walnuts - horse chestnuts granulate



The horse chestnuts have to be completely dry before you store them. If that is not the case, they will mildew in the container and your work will be for nothing.

After you cut the horse chestnuts, you can let them dry on the kitchen counter (the longer, the better) or in the oven at low temperature (with more energy use). Don’t roast them!

As soon as they are completely dry, you can store them airtight or somewhere with no humidity.



the green walnuts - horse chestnuts laundry detergent



So far, I used horse chestnuts from last year to wash my clothes. It works, but not as well. The older they are, the harder they are to cut.

You can use the processed horse chestnuts in two ways:


(1) You can put the pieces in an old stocking, make a knot and throw it in the washing machine with your laundry. This way, you can use the chestnuts directly.


(2) Or you can make a soap solution. Therefore, you have to cover the horse chestnuts with water. It takes longer for bigger pieces. If you have halves, leave them in the cold water overnight. If you have granulate, take warm or hot water and let the horse chestnuts soak for 5 to 30 minutes.

I use 2-3 tablespoons (50-70 g) granulate per washing load and one big cup of water (about 300-500 ml).

After the saponins dissolved in the water, strain the pieces with a small sieve and just use the brine. (You could use the strained horse chestnuts for one or two more loads.)

Pour the liquid into the compartment you normally use for your washing detergent.

My laundry, including my sports wear, get perfectly clean. Bad stains might need to be pretreated.

The clothes do not really smell of anything, just “crisp”. If you want your laundry to smell like something, add a few drops of essential oil (I use lavender).

For the best smell (and for the environment), let your clothes air-dry 🙂


the green walnuts - waschmittel kastanien vs maroni
Just for your information: on the left side horse chestnuts, on the right side edible chestnuts.



Do you wash with horse chestnuts? Do you like it? What are your struggles?


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