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Launder with Ivy instead of washing powder/liquid — The Grow Network Community
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Launder with Ivy instead of washing powder/liquid

jolanta.wittibjolanta.wittib Posts: 361 ✭✭✭✭
edited October 2020 in DIY Tutorials

Launder with ivy instead of washing powder/liquid? Yes, it works and it’s amazingly easy!

I am really worried about polluted nature and I believe that if we, each of us do a little step towards more environmental friendly household, we will manage to save us and the planet. Sounds too pompous? I believe reaching broad goals in in small steps.

I consider myself to be quite a ‘nature aware’ person, especially with what we eat, how I run my garden, using herbs instead of medicines.... but washing, cleaning, laundry? It is here that I want to introduce a lot of changes...

Let’s take one step at a time, and when that step is such an easy one, change is easy too.

I started with washing bed linen, sheets and towels with ivy leaves. Statistically, each of us use about 8kg of washing powder or liquid per year. Just imagine the benefit for nature if many of us introduce this change!!! My herbal friends have already mentioned before that they wash with ivy. Ivy???

It grows everywhere! It’s green all year round! 


Well, one just picks a handful of old dark green ivy leaves, puts them into a sock, ties it up and throws it into a washing machine!!! It’s as easy as that! The washing smells fresh. The colours do not change! I first of all tried with a coloured wash, but, after three washes I was confident to try a mixed wash or whites. Perfect! Use only old, dark green leaves!

There are different recipes: Soak a handful of ivy leaves in 200 ml of boiling water for 30 - 60 minutes, strain the liquid, add, if you wish, a teaspoon of baking soda -  some sources write that soda helps to dilute fats (I do not add anything) - and pour it into a washing machine. I put the strained leaves into a sock and throw them in as well. 

If the water is very hard, you may like to add a teaspoon of vinegar. Your washing will be softer and also, if you want, you could add a drop of natural ethereal oil: lavender/rose/...

My way is to chop a handful of ivy leaves, put them into a jar, soak with boiling water, leave for a few hours, strain the liquid and pour it into the washing machine.

So how does ivy work as a washing agent??? With saponins. Ivy is a herb. It is antiseptic, antibacterial... historically it was used for skin diseases, in modern medicine it is in medication for respiratory track infections. I wouldn’t use ivy as a herb internally because it is slightly toxic, but sleeping in linen washed with antibacterial, anti inflammatory, anti fungal qualities? I find that clever!

When I think of an ivy plant in nature... it is always healthy, green in winter and summer. It manages to fight all the “enemies” in whatever form. May be my linen, washed in ivy, will also protect me against all kinds of respiratory or skin infections...

I hope you have this adventurous mind as well and will have a go at making those changes that count!

But... find out whether you are not allergic to ivy!

Enjoy experimenting!




  • toreytorey Posts: 2,546 admin

    @jolanta.wittib This sounds amazing. Question, though. Do the leaves have to be fresh or can they be used dried? Ivy doesn't grow in my area; certainly not year round. It is considered an invasive weed in the Southern Coastal BC where the climate allows for year round growth of ivy. Sometimes we hear of teams doing hand pulling to try to eliminate it from parks. So I could get relatives to harvest for me if it can be used dried.

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 3,632 admin

    @torey If I was you, I would start a business selling it as a green washing alternative if that worked. I would certainly be interested in trying some to see how it works on our clothing & in our water. I love marketing (even though I've never taken official courses) and could have a few ideas of how to sell it in my area.

    @jolanta.wittib So interesting! Is there a scientific name that we can have to make sure that we are in fact all thinking of the same plant?

  • jolanta.wittibjolanta.wittib Posts: 361 ✭✭✭✭

    I have tried only with the fresh ones. Not with the dried ones. I have to read more about saponins whether they are active in dried plants. I’ll do it.

  • RustBeltCowgirlRustBeltCowgirl North Coast OhioPosts: 614 ✭✭✭✭

    Hedera Helix is good old fashioned English Ivy. If you want to tried it dried, it is available on Etsy.

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 3,632 admin

    @jolanta.wittib I am looking forward to your results.

  • toreytorey Posts: 2,546 admin

    Me. too.

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 3,632 admin
    edited July 2020

    Well, that sounds promising.

    My husband was thinking that a drawstring flour sack towel bag should work well. We use those types of towels to to strain our milk.

    @jolanta.wittib Do/can you use only the leaves or the whole plant?

    In light of @jolanta.wittib's positive experiment, @torey ...we need to talk. ;)

  • maimovermaimover Posts: 307 ✭✭✭

    This is so interesting. I do use mygreenfills to order laundry detergent but free/healthy detergent would be even better. Do you use it for anything other than your sheets or towels? How is the scent or is there one? There is plenty of ivy around me so here’s hoping for a new, improved, free alternative 😊

  • moreyshadypinesmoreyshadypines Posts: 72 ✭✭✭

    That sounds like a fabulous find. I live in the Southeast, ivy is readily available most of the year. I plan on giving it a "whirl" (literally and figuratively ) this weekend. Thank you @jolanta.wittib for sharing.

  • jolanta.wittibjolanta.wittib Posts: 361 ✭✭✭✭

    @maimover @moreyshadypines I use ivy for all my washing. The scent is very neutral, natural, fresh. For something very greasy I would add a spoon of baking soda. But I have done that only once.

  • toreytorey Posts: 2,546 admin

    @jolanta.wittib and @LaurieLovesLearning This sounds very promising! I will see if I can find someone to harvest for me.

  • NicoleburbaNicoleburba Posts: 57 ✭✭✭

    @jolanta.wittib It is amazing what you are doing! We have plenty of it in the backyard. It is green all year round in Delaware where I live. I will definitely start using it for laundry. I had no idea before that ivy is good for something.

  • maimovermaimover Posts: 307 ✭✭✭

    @jolanta.wittib I am definitely gonna try this. My great nephew has been staying with me for almost 3 years now. He and his girlfriend just got their own place and had a baby. Having one less thing to pay for will be great especially losing his financial contribution. Yay! Thanks for sharing this great tip...

  • HearthForYouHearthForYou Southern CaliforniaPosts: 52 ✭✭✭

    This is exciting! I'm going to scout for some ivy in my neighborhood and give this a try.

    It got me thinking that planting ivy on an exterior wall could serve two functions:

    laundry cleaner

    Passive cooling/warming on a house

  • blevinandwombablevinandwomba Central PaPosts: 671 ✭✭✭✭
    edited July 2020

    I actually have a small patch of ivy on one end of my yard- how it got there, I don't know. I'm really tempted to try this! Would this work for handwash items? Maybe I would need to do the liquid version, as the ivy wouldn't get as tossed around as in the machine.

    Also, have you ever tried soap nuts?

  • jolanta.wittibjolanta.wittib Posts: 361 ✭✭✭✭

    @blevinandwomba I have never tried ivy with items. When you do, tell me, how it works. I would use the liquid version. In the meantime I wash with ivy non stop. It is tourism time and we have a lot of guests in our holiday flat. They all sleep in bed wash washed with ivy and are amazed.

    i have not tried soap nuts. I would be grateful if you told more about. But I am going to try with horse chestnuts (hippocastanium)

  • jolanta.wittibjolanta.wittib Posts: 361 ✭✭✭✭

    @HearthForYou that is a very good idea. It is easy to plant, needs almost no care, just keep in form by cutting which is very easy. Ivy likes shade and it is my super washing plant 😊

  • aurora.rebeccaaurora.rebecca Posts: 62 ✭✭✭

    @jolanta.wittib I am blown away by this news as we have plenty of ivy on the property. I had read that it could be used as an insect repellent in the garden and now reading that it has saponins it makes sense. I’ve also recently come across soapwort growing in our village garden. Curious and eager to use both! You can also use horse chestnut?! How?

    There’s several of those in the area... this is so exciting!

    A friend gave me some soap nuts, you can also pour boiling water over them and if you throw it in a blender you’ll achieve foamy suds which doubles as a nice shampoo! I mixed the soapnut liquid to a diluted glycerin soap and it’s been my detergent throughout confinement. Even my husband is pleased with the results.

    Though I’d rather source soap-y plants locally than have it shipped from the other side of the world.

    Cheers for sharing!

  • jolanta.wittibjolanta.wittib Posts: 361 ✭✭✭✭


    I also believe in using the plants growing next door. I do not believe in nature pollution by transportation.

    Try ivy out! It really works. My guests like the fresh smell of the bed linen. Me too!!!

    I have not tried horse chestnuts jet, but the recipe I is: 3 tablespoons of powdered chestnuts, 300 ml of boiling water. Let chestnuts soak in boiling water for 30 minutes, strain and pour the liquid into the washing machine. One can use the same powder twice.

    Powder preparation: chop fresh chestnuts (do not peel the brown shell), dry, store in a tightly closed jar.

    I will definitely try that out in autumn when I can collect my chestnuts 😊

  • seeker.nancy - Central Texasseeker.nancy - Central Texas Posts: 792 ✭✭✭✭

    I am totally going to have to start taking better care of my ivy lol. The sun here is brutal and shade is almost non-existent because the previous owner did not want to have to mow around trees 🙄. I have a few pots that have not been taken care of properly but it is very easy to propagate. Just looked mine up, it is golden pothos, Epipremnum aureum. Growing up it was always called "ivy". Would this likely work @jolanta.wittib?

  • jolanta.wittibjolanta.wittib Posts: 361 ✭✭✭✭

    @seeker.nancy - Central Texas In my opinion, you cannot use Epipremnum aureum for washing. The plant should contain saponins - this is why ivy (Hedera) can be used for laundry. I had a quick research on Epipremnum aureum and it seems that it does not contain saponins. Besides, it is slightly poisonous and can irritate the skin and that is what one does not want. I would not risk experimenting.

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 3,632 admin

    So then, I have determined that neither grow here, which brings me to a fascinating question.

    If the plant to be used contains sabonis, what level of this does the plant have to contain to be effective? Will any other plant that contains sabonis leave any staining? What other saponin containing plants might be suitable for washing? Along with this, would these other plants be edible or poisonous?

  • Merin PorterMerin Porter Editorial Director Southwest Colorado (Zone 6a)Posts: 735 admin

    What an interesting idea, @jolanta.wittib! Thanks for sharing!

    @LaurieLovesLearning, Marjory did a book on homemade shampoos, and it lists a whole bunch of plants that contain saponins. After you log in to the TGN website, you'll find it in your Dashboard under "My Library." (I tried to copy the chart contents to paste them here, but they won't paste correctly....) The chart with the plant list starts on page 19.

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 3,632 admin

    Thanks, @Merin Porter, I will have to check it out!

  • VickiPVickiP Posts: 566 ✭✭✭✭

    This is such an interesting thread! I have a large patch of ivy, I absolutely need to do this.

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