Saturday, 31 May 2014

Leafy bushcraft soap

 The humble horse chestnut  and silver birch will be well known to those who appreciate the outdoors (and probably those that don't too). The leaves make a decent soap as they contain small amounts of saponin.

To use them is easy, I'm using chestnut in this series of pictures. First of all, gather a couple of leaves or so to give you a manageable amount of scrunched up leaf in your hands. It's hard to say with chestnut as the leaves can vary so much, the silver birch leaves are harvested by carefully pulling them off the branch in a downward motion.


 Once you've worked them into a more managable pulp, really give it a squeeze and should see a modest amount of bubbles issue forth to clean your hands/ give you faith that there's saponin contained in the leaves. The two pictures above are, from left to right, chestnut and birch. Chestnut is used in commercial cleaning products like shampoo and indeed the conkers are usable as soap too (not that I've made any with them mind). This method of cleaning hands is actually quite effective but the drawback is that you need to remove lots of pulped up leaf pieces from your hands after they are clean, and I wonder how much of the cleaning action is the rough quality of the leaves themselves. Give it a go and decide for yourself. The one thing to note is that your hands feel clean and aren't subject to a big dose of 'cleaning agent' like you may be with commercial products.

The one drawback in my area re horse chestnut is that the leaves suffer a premature end due to leaf miners.  

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