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.

Plastic

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.

Toilets

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.

Windshield

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.

Calcification

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.

Resources

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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Caution!

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. Polly says:

    Hi Mary, I started adding both borax and washing soda to my wash when hubby was ill. My yellow box is hard as a rock, and since my laundry is also in the workshop, I bang the box with a hammer to break it up with limited results. Is there a way to keep it from turning hard? I noticed when I went to transfer to the dryer, I had forgot to put in the detergent! I dried it anyway, and it was the softest load ever! No scent, just clean! The only soap was fels naphtha that I pretreated a few spots.
    Polly

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Washing soda reacts to humidity, and yes it can turn hard. Fortnunately that doesn’t impeded its effectiveness. There are a couple of things you can do to keep it powdering. Keep all those little silica gel packs that come in over-the-counter meds and vitamins, and in other packaging. Drop them into the Washing soda box. They really do help by absorbing moisture. I pour a box into a 2 quart mason jar, then use my Food Saver vacuum sealer to express all the air and seal it using the Food Saver mason jar lid attachment. If you don’t have a Food Saver, the silica gel packs will work nicely. Start collecting them.

      Reply
      • Polly says:

        I do have a jar full of silica packs! And a food saver. I’ve decided the best way to use the hardened product I still have is to rub the pieces together over the washer.
        Thanks for all your great ideas.
        Polly

    • Mary Hunt says:

      High humidity affects washing soda in that way. My best tip is to start collecting all those little silica gel packets that come in everything from clothing to vitamins. Drop them into the washing soda box. It will really do wonders to keep the washing soda powdery. Something else I do because I have a Food Saver—I keep washing so in a big 2-quart mason jar. Then I use the Food Saver Jar Sealer accessory to vacuum out all the air and tightly seal the jar. That works, too. Then I use it to refill my regular glass jar container I keep in the laundry room.

      Reply
  2. Pat W says:

    Can anything be done when washing soda solidifies? In my laundry room, I only get through 1/2 box before it gets hard. I have even tried running over it with my car!

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Oh dear! (I am kinda’ laughing!). I’ll repeat what I said to Polly: Washing soda reacts to humidity, and yes it can turn hard. Fortnunately that doesn’t impeded its effectiveness. There are a couple of things you can do to keep it powdering. Keep all those little silica gel packs that come in over-the-counter meds and vitamins, and in other packaging. Drop them into the Washing soda box. They really do help by absorbing moisture. I pour a box into a 2 quart mason jar, then use my Food Saver vacuum sealer to express all the air and seal it using the Food Saver mason jar lid attachment. If you don’t have a Food Saver, the silica gel packs will work nicely. Start collecting them.

      Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      I’ll repeat what I told Polly (above) … High humidity affects washing soda in that way. My best tip is to start collecting all those little silica gel packets that come in everything from clothing to vitamins. Drop them into the washing soda box. It will really do wonders to keep the washing soda powdery. Something else I do because I have a Food Saver—I keep washing soda in a big 2-quart mason jar. Then I use the Food Saver Jar Sealer accessory to vacuum out all the air and tightly seal the jar. That works, too. Then I use it to refill my regular glass jar container I keep in the laundry room.

      Reply
  3. Cally Ross says:

    I’ve used a pants hangar to hold my Home Chef recipe cards, for easier reading while cooking, since you first introduced Home Chef. I just keep a pants hanger in the kitchen cabinet. no more sticky, stained recipes!

    Reply
  4. Jen says:

    Hello, I have seen the statement that washing soda is cheaper than baking soda in several places. Perhaps it’s true for you, but where I live, it’s the opposite. Examples:
    The cheapest baking soda here is 5.2c/oz. It ranges from 79c/1 lb (store brands) to $1.19/1 lb or $1.69/2 lb (A&H), or I can get a 12 lb bag for $10 (used for the swimming pool) at Home Depot.
    At the cheapest, washing soda is half again as expensive, at 7.9c/oz – it costs $9.50 for 26.5 oz (Nellie’s) at one large grocery chain or $4.34 for 55 oz (A&H) at another.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Hi Jen, I’m not sure where you’re going here, but baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and washing soda (sodium carbonate) and not interchangeable.

      Reply
  5. Pat says:

    Mary
    This is the best cleaner for stove tops I have ever used. I have used the soda for my stove top because is does not scratch the surface but I like this better just spray and wait for it to work wipe off so easy.

    Magic Cleaner

    2 oz. Dawn, ( 1/4 cup )
    4 oz. bottled Lemon Juice, ( 1/2 cup )
    8 oz. White Vinegar, ( 1 cup )
    10 oz. Water. ( 1 1/4 cups )
    The secret is to spray on surface, let sit overnight (or longer) and then wipe with clean, wet cloths to remove residue.
    *In the oven, do NOT use heat, just spray, let sit, wipe clean.
    *For showers, just spray, rinse and if you like the shine, wipe with dry towels.
    *The secret on whatever you chose to clean is to let it sit, then rinse off the residue. Amazing stuff!

    This comment is unrelated but followed your advice about pork loin. My super market had loin for 2.58 a lb. I ask one of the men behind the counter if he would cut them into chops for me which he did i bough 2 . I got 28 – 2 chop packages that will feed my family for under 1.85 for 28 meals. The next week their center cut pork chops were on sale for 4.58 a lb not a bad savings.
    Thank you for your advice

    Reply
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