It looks and feels for all the world like laundry detergent. White. Coarse. Powdery. Its real name is sodium carbonate, but this stuff also goes by soda ash, Na2CO3, and good old Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda—not to be confused with baking soda!
A mineral mined from the vegetation in dry lake bottoms in the Middle East, the ashes of burned plants, kelp from Scotland, and seaweed from Spain, this all-natural miracle-in-a-box is used to make glass, bricks, paper, rayon, and toothpaste. It cleans silver and softens water.
Washing soda and I go way back. For years, I have added washing soda to the washer for cleaner, whiter, brighter laundry. It’s one of the key ingredients in our homemade laundry detergent.
More recently, I am discovering that washing soda is much more than a laundry detergent booster. With a powerful pH of 11, washing soda acts as a solvent all around the house, garage. Sodium carbonate removes dirt, grime, greasy build-up, and a range of stains. Best of all, depending on the source, sodium carbonate is cheap.
First, remove the burners. Sprinkle dry washing soda dry on a damp sponge and scrub that stovetop, broiler pan, and oven making sure to avoid the heating element.
In the meantime, soak the burners in a solution of 1/2 cup washing soda dissolved in a cup of warm water for at least an hour. This will soften and break down the greasy gunk and grime. Finally, scrub as needed, rinse well and dry.
Cookware, pots, pans
To remove greasy, burned-on stains from cookware, fill the pot with hot water. Add a spoonful washing soda and a splash of dishwashing liquid. Bring to the boil over high heat then simmer for 15 minutes. Caution: DO NOT use on aluminum cookware.
Coffee pots, cups, carafes
Coffee and tea often leave ugly brown stains in kettles, pots, and cups. Fill the stained item with hot water and add some washing soda. Allow to sit for at least an hour or even overnight. Stains will easily rinse away in the morning.
Clean and freshen garbage cans, tablecloths, shower curtains, patio furniture and anything plastic with 1/2 cup washing soda dissolved in 1-gallon warm water. Wash and rinse.
To unclog a slow-moving drain, give this a try: Pour 1 cup of washing soda into the clogged drain followed by 2 or 3 cups of boiling water (if it’s a porcelain sink, do not allow the boiling water to hit the porcelain, as this could cause it to crack). Allow the washing soda to work for 30 minutes and then flush the drain well with plain water. Repeat as needed.
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Measure out a cup and flush it down the toilet to clean and freshen, and to help prevent blockages.
Clean ceramic tile and grout with a regular solution (1/2 cup washing soda to 1-gallon warm water). You may need to scrub the grout with a stiff brush. You won’t believe the clean and sparkling results.
A mild solution of washing soda will help remove dead flies, bugs, and grime from windshields. Avoid splashing onto the car’s painted surface. DO NOT use on aluminum alloy wheels.
Get rid of whitefly and mites by spraying plants and trees with a mild solution of 1/2 cup washing soda to two gallons of water.
Stains on concrete, garage floor
Pour a generous amount of dry washing soda on spills and stains. Sprinkle lightly with water to create a thick paste and allow to sit overnight. The following day, scrub with a stiff brush (re-wetting as needed). Hose down then wipe the surface clean.
To remove tarnish from silver, line a non-reactive pan or bowl (glass, plastic) with aluminum foil. Fill with a solution of 1/2 cup washing soda to one-gallon hot water. Next, add the tarnished silver pieces and allow to soak for 15 minutes. The tarnish will simply disappear. Then, rinse well then buff the silver pieces until they sparkle.
Washing soda will also remove tarnish from silver plate, jewelry, gold, copper, bronze, stainless steel, and most brass following manufacturer’s guidelines.
How to make DIY washing soda
If you cannot find washing soda (sodium carbonate) or you simply in a pinch, you can make it yourself from baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in the oven.
High heat releases the carbon dioxide and water molecules in baking soda, leaving behind dry sodium carbonate or … washing soda!
- Place 2 cups of baking soda in a shallow baking dish or on a shallow pan. Smooth it out to an even layer.
- Bake pan in a 400F oven for one hour.
- Stir the baking soda and smooth back out to an even layer.
- Bake for an additional hour.
- Allow the baking soda (now washing soda) to cool completely. It will look more yellow and be much more coarse in texture than it was when it was baking soda.
- Store in an airtight container.
- Label the container and store out of reach of children and pets.
Because washing soda (soda ash) is typically much cheaper than baking soda ($.07 an ounce vs. $.19 an ounce), this is not a process you’ll want to repeat with any regularity. But it’s nice to know that in a pinch you really can make your own washing soda from baking soda.
Look for Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda in the laundry aisle of some supermarkets, discount stores, and online. Generally, it comes in a 55-ounce box. Because it has become increasingly difficult to find, I now buy it online as soda ash.
CAUTION: While washing soda doesn’t give off harmful fumes, you do need to wear gloves because it can cause skin irritation. DO NOT use sodium carbonate (aka washing soda, soda ash) on aluminum, fiberglass, leather, silk, wool, no-wax floors or treated wood surfaces. ALWAYS test in an inconspicuous place first.
First published: 3-03-17; republished with new information 8-11-20