There have been so many conkers around this year. Making laundry soap from conkers is easy as they contain saponin, a natural soap like substance. It is especially good for those that have sensitive skin as the commercial powders can cause a rash or itching.
I usually only collect conkers to keep spiders away, but this Autumn, with the rise in the cost of living, I thought that I would try to make some laundry soap. Apparently if you get a large carrier bag full you should have enough soap for the rest of the year. I got mine from a selection of trees near my daughter’s house and made sure I left some for wildlife.
The way you make your soap is to smash up your conkers with a hammer, or cut them up small, and then dry them so that they will store over the year. I dried mine in the sun and the oven combined, but you could just use the oven on a low heat (150C for an hour and a half), or a dehydrator. Some people remove all the brown skins, but I didn’t. I just removed any large pieces of brown once the conkers were smashed. I have heard, though, that the skins can stain white clothing and so I am only using mine on the colours.
I then took 3 to 4 oz of the dried conker and put them in a 500 ml jar and added boiling hot water. I soaked them for at least 30 minutes and then strained them through muslin into another jar. The liquid was cloudy and when I shook it up lots of bubbles appeared. It kind of had a woodland smell that was pleasant, but I added a few drops of essential oils as well. You can use the same conkers 2 or 3 times, but they need to be soaked longer (the third time over-night preferably). The first soaking is best for heavily soiled clothes.
When it comes to using the liquid, you add just half a cup of liquid to your wash when doing a full load of clothes. The rest of the jar needs to be kept in the fridge and used within a week.
Alternatively, you could just cut the conkers in quarters, put them in a muslin bag and add to your wash. I will give a word of warning that if you live in a hard water area the conker soap can cause some scum in your washing.
My verdict is that the conker soap works. It smelt ok, but maybe not as fresh as my normal washing. The washing seemed clean, though I did not try anything with stains in it. I think it is as good as soap nuts generally, and it is so much better for the environment as it is better than the chemicals in ordinary washing powder. The carbon footprint is also so much better than the commercial eco laundry soaps. Honestly, I don’t think I will use it on the stained chef whites that Mr S brings home, which I put in the wash once a fortnight, but I will use it on our weekly, colour wash. This will save me money, make me feel that I am doing more to help the environment, and make me feel less dependent on the supermarket.