Have you come across washing soda (WS) as an ingredient in eco-friendly cleaning tinctures, but aren’t quite sure what the recipe’s calling for? You’ve come to the right place. Learn all about this effective ingredient and add an important weapon to your non-toxic cleaning arsenal.
So What Is It, and Is Washing Soda the Same as Baking Soda?
It’s also known as soda ash and is technically sodium carbonate. This differs from baking soda, which is sodium bicarbonate. Without calling Bill Nye into this discussion, this means that while the chemical compounds of these two products are similar, baking soda contains hydrogen, where washing soda does not. We will make the latter by simply heating baking soda to release that hydrogen.
What Is Washing Soda Used For?
First thing’s first: WS is non-toxic but it is also caustic because of its high alkalinity. Use gloves when cleaning with washing soda, and always test this cleaner in an inconspicuous place before you clean.
Here are a few of the many uses of WS:
- Washing soda can be used as a laundry stain lifter. Make a paste from two parts WS and one part water and rub into a stain. Let it sit for about 30 minutes and proceed washing normally. We don’t recommend homemade laundry detergent (although it sure is popular on the internet), but we’ll add 1/4 – 1/2 cup of WS into an especially rank or stained load of laundry as a detergent booster.
- That same ratio – two parts washing soda and one part water – will also give new life to those skanky non-stick pans. Just like with laundry, leave the paste on stained pans for about 30 minutes and scrub clean with a damp sponge. Don’t use this on aluminum pans.
- If you have hard water, you’ll find washing soda acts as a water softener. When fats from soap interact with minerals in hard water, they’ll leave that chalky residue we call soap scum. To counteract this, you’ll need to use cleaners that are detergent-based, rather than soap-based.
- To clean hard water stains or soap scum with washing soda, mix 1/2 cup of WS into a gallon of warm water. Scrub and rinse. It takes a tiny bit of elbow grease, but it does the trick on this stubborn problem. This concoction is especially great in bathrooms, as it’ll tackle everything – toilets, sinks, tile, even grout! One word of caution: don’t use on fiberglass.
- Speaking of the 1/2 cup soda in one gallon of warm water mixture, this will work well in the kitchen as a heavy duty degreaser. Soak stove burners and range filters to see that cooked on grease dissolve.
Where to Find It
There was a time where washing soda was a little difficult to come by. Thankfully, it’s becoming easier to find at your local grocery and big box stores near the laundry detergent.
If you’re lucky to have a zero waste store near you, check to see if they carry it there. You may be able to purchase it by weight so you can get exactly what you’ll use.
Additionally, because it will raise the pH level of the water in pools and hot tubs, it’s even available at backyard and pool stores.
Of course, if online ordering is easiest for you, we get it. Amazon carries various brands. We recommend buying in bulk whenever possible, and this product comes in one gallon canisters (and larger!) from both Pure Organic Ingredients and Earthborn Elements. Finally, Arm and Hammer is the old faithful when it comes to powdered cleaning boosters.
Be sure to check out more tips on eco-friendly cleaning!
How to Make Washing Soda
If you can’t get your hands on washing soda it is very easy to make. All it takes is an oven and some baking soda.
Here’s what you’ll need:
That’s it! Baking soda, baking dish, an oven. And gloves (not pictured – oops!). Once the baking soda starts to turn to washing soda, it will irritate your skin. You’ll want gloves when you’re handling this and using it to clean.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit
- Scatter baking soda onto cookie sheet or casserole dish.
- Bake for about an hour, agitating every 20 minutes or so.
- Transformation is complete when you have yellowed, dull, and a less clumpy powder.
Here’s what you’re looking for:
Basically, the longer baking soda is exposed to a high temperature, you’ll see fewer clumps, a duller powder, and a consistency that’s a bit…dustier. For reference, the above batch was made using one cup baking soda on a 9 inch by 13 inch pan. If you use more, just keep putting the powdered soda back into the oven for 15 minute increments until you see that dull, flat substance emerge.
Congratulations! You’ve made washing soda.
Other frequently asked questions:
Is OxiClean Washing Soda?
Best known for the exuberant advertising, OxiClean is another powdered cleaning booster that you’ll often find in laundry aisles near the washing soda. So are they the same thing? No. OxiClean is essentially washing soda and hydrogen peroxide. If you’re trying to pare down the amount of products and plastics you buy, this purchase can easily be skipped for a worthy DIY substitute.
Is Borax Washing Soda?
Also no, yet the two are chemically quite similar. They’re both alkaline although WS is more so, resulting in all the “Wear gloves!” admonishments. And unlike OxiClean, both Borax and Washing Soda are naturally derived.
If you’re looking for one, there is a huge wormhole to be found online regarding the safety of Borax. Without trying to summarize it all here, I’ll say that I personally would use Borax in my home, although I don’t regularly have it on hand, as the washing soda is what’s usually on my shelf. Of course it is – did you see how easy it is to make?
So have you tried this easy, eco-friendly DIY? What do you use washing soda for? Share those tips below!