washing soda sitting on a wood table

11 Ways to Use Super Washing Soda to Make Your Life Easier

The white coarse powder looks and feels for all the world like laundry detergent. Its official name is sodium carbonate. But as a commercial product, this stuff also goes by two other names: 1) soda ash and 2) washing soda (not to be confused with baking soda). You may be familiar with when you see this bright yellow box in the laundry aisle—Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda.

It may look and feel like laundry detergent—white, coarse, powdery—but it is not detergent at all. Its official name is sodium carbonate  and its chemical formula is Na2CO3 As a commercial product, this stuff goes by two names: 1) soda ash is its trade name and 2) Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (not to be confused with baking soda) is its most recognized brand name.

What is soda ash?

Soda ash is a natural, essential, but invisible ingredient in many products that we all use every day. A mineral refined from the natural vegetation in dry lake bottoms in the Middle East, it is the ashes of burned plants—kelp from Scotland, seaweed from Spain. This all-natural miracle-in-a-box is used to make glass, bricks, paper, rayon, cosmetic products, and toothpaste. It cleans silver and softens water.

Commercially useful deposits of soda ash only occur geologically in three regions of the world: Enormous deposits in Wyoming, USA, large deposits in Turkey and much smaller and chemically less pure deposits in China. Today, natural soda is only produced in Wyoming, USA and Turkey.

Washing soda and I go way back. For years, I have added Super Washing Soda to the washer for cleaner, whiter, brighter laundry. It’s one of the key ingredients in our homemade laundry detergents.

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 Soda ash removes dirt, grime, greasy build-up, and a range of stains. Best of all, depending on the source, soda ash is cheap.

Stovetop, oven

First, remove the burners. Sprinkle dry washing soda 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 1/2 cup washing soda solution 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

Fill the pot with hot water to remove greasy, burned-on stains from cookware. Add a spoonful of washing soda and a splash of dishwashing liquid. Bring to the boil over high heat then simmer for 15 minutes. Caution: DO NOT use washing soda (soda ash) on aluminum cookware or any other thing made of aluminum.

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 quickly rinse away in the morning.


Clean and freshen garbage cans, tablecloths, shower curtains, patio furniture, and anything plastic with 1/2 cup of washing soda dissolved in a gallon of warm water. Wash and rinse.

Clogged drains

To unclog a slow-moving drain, give this a try: Pour a cup of soda ash 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.


Measure out a cup and flush it down the toilet to clean and freshen, and to help prevent blockages.

Tile grout

Clean ceramic tile and grout with a regular solution (1/2 cup washing soda to a gallon of 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 and DO NOT use on aluminum alloy wheels.

Pest control

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.

Tarnished silver

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 silverplate, jewelry (except for anything with oft stone like opal, pearl), gold, copper, bronze, stainless steel, and most brass, following manufacturer’s guidelines.

Laundry stains

Soda ash works well to remove alcohol and grease stains from clothing.


Soda ash easily removes mineral buildup and calcification in everything from coffee pots and espresso makers to boilers and hot water heaters.

Swimming pools

As a mild alkali, soda ash is routinely used to increase the alkalinity in swimming pools, helping to ensure the proper pH balance of the water.

DIY Washing soda

If you cannot find washing soda (sodium carbonate) or you are 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 … soda ash, aka washing soda!

  1. Place 2 cups of baking soda in a shallow baking dish or on a shallow pan. Smooth it out to an even layer.
  2. Bake pan in a 400F oven for one hour.
  3. Stir the baking soda and smooth back out to an even layer.
  4. Bake for an additional hour.
  5. 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.
  6. Store in an airtight container.
  7. Label the container and store it out of reach of children and pets.

Because washing soda (soda ash) is typically much cheaper than baking soda (compare per oz), this is not a process you’ll want to repeat regularly. 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 itself and also as soda ash, whichever is cheaper

Remember that Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda and soda ash are both 100% sodium carbonate—precisely the same.

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While Washing Soda doesn’t give off harmful fumes, you do need to wear gloves because it can cause skin irritation. If you happen to get soda ash on your skin, rinse it off immediately because it can cause 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 first in an inconspicuous place first.

Updated 6-3-23

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  1. Ed says:

    Put it in your mop water. You won’t believe how much more dirt it gets up than your regular cleaner. I’ve mopped hardwoods, tile and vinyl with it. I think I added a quarter cup per gallon of water. I’ve read elsewhere that it can be bought much cheaper in the pool supply section, labelled as soda ash. I haven’t personally checked that out.

  2. Gina Stevens says:

    Mary,you’ll never know the joy your daily column brings to me.
    I’d love an article about when to use Washing Soda versus 30 Mule Team Borax. I’d print that and tape it inside my laundry cabinet. I love the DIY detergents and spot removers and tips that you publish. Thanks for being my virtual BFF. xxoo air hugs.

  3. Marcia says:

    for years i have kept a bag (largest size i find) of arm & hammer baking soda next to my washing machine. from there i keep a supply in the kitchen (for baking and some cleaning – mixed with white vinegar) and in the bathroom (for brushing my teeth). never knew about washing soda – once i get some i will replace the bag of baking soda next to the washing machine and keep the baking soda for the other places! i love when i learn things from you, mary hunt! thanks for the tips, and the cautions about how to use the washing soda. i am bookmarking this page, it is full of useful info. thank you.

  4. Lynn Smith says:

    Before you clean silver this way, be careful.
    ALL of the tarnish will go away, including every bit of black that highlights the detail in your pattern.
    You may want to just try a single piece.

  5. Gina Stevens says:

    I just love it when you do these columns! I recently cleaned all my antique brass and wondered if there was an easier way. Next time, I’ll try Washing Soda.

  6. Stephanie Lebron says:

    Helped our daughter move to an older upstairs apartment near downtown Hannibal. I used washing soda in water to clean greasy/grungy walls and stove (learned the hard way after 1st day of cleaning one MUST use gloves) which truly cut through probably years of buildup.

  7. Cheryl Sims says:

    I wonder if dissolving a cup or two of this in a bathtub with about 4-5 inches depth of hot water and letting it sit for several hours would loosen up or dissolve gunky soap scum that I cannot seem to get off the tub. It’s an old 1960 cast iron tub, not fiberglass. Any thoughts on the subject?

    • AP TCW says:

      After soaking, I would probaby (with gloves) sprinkle some straight into the tub with very little water just enough to get it to stick together to make a dry paste, and rub it in circles all over the surface of the tub. Regular Borax also works very well for getting soap scum off a tub in the same manner. Before doing this, I might even try some Kaboom trigger spray, as that is the BEST shower soap scum cleaner I’ve ever used and use nothing else for the past 10 years (Scrubbing Bubbles didn’t even make a DENT in my soap scum, night and day!). After that softens it, it would be easier to rub in the Borax and/or Washing soda, rubbing in circles, until the film comes off. You might need to repeat it in certain stubborn areas. Maybe even carefully using a razor blade utility scraper carefully would help you dig into the old layer of scum to get a lot of it off during this process while it’s warm and soft. Borax is fantastic for getting soap scum that’s old off the bottom of tub, even if’s it’s textured, using the rubbing in circles method. You can soak to soften, not necessarily overnight, by it’s going to be that very dry sandy paste that’s going to make the dent.

    • Jan New says:

      Have you tried 1 cup of white vinegar mixed with 1 cup of Blue Dawn? Spray it on and let it work it’s magic. If you heat the vinegar first, it works even faster.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Cheryl, that would probably work well but not nearly as well or as quickly as our Soap and Scum recipe, which is quite magical! I suggest you try THIS first … !

  8. Ernestine Summer Bonicelli says:

    Does washing soda dissolve in cold water? I have done my laundry in cold water since the “energy crisis” in the 70’s. I don’t want to change because I was told warm or hot water sets stains and because it is cheaper.

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