Cheaper Alternative to Super Washing Soda

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that last minute congressional decisions in 2012 resulted in a 2 percent cut in everyone’s take-home pay beginning 2013. That hurts!

I immediately began thinking where ordinary households could cut the cost of goods and services they’re paying for now to make up for the loss of income. You may already know what I’m thinking: Laundry detergent. No, really. Laundry detergent!

Cheap alternative for washing Soda

By reducing your per-load cost for detergent from $.35 or more to just $.03, you’ll have made a good start in recovering the lost income.

I recently wrote about my Homemade Laundry Detergent recipe, including photos and an update here. The ingredients are still the same: washing soda, borax and Blue Dawn. I make three gallons at a time, for about $1.50 total. Because it is not concentrated I get about 48 loads (1 cup per load) from three gallons.

I’ve learned that washing soda (sold for years by Arm & Hammer as Super Washing Soda) has become increasingly difficult to find. My supermarket stopped carrying it, and I can no longer get it at Target or Walmart. Still available online, Super Washing Soda is no longer cheap. But not to worry. I’ve got you covered.

Washing soda contains just one all natural ingredient: sodium carbonate (which is not edible and should never be confused with sodium bicarbonate which is baking soda). Soda ash, used in swimming pools to raise the pH, contains just one all-natural ingredient: sodium carbonate. Bingo!

I stopped into a local pool supply store and picked up 10 pounds of soda ash for $1.89 per pound. The product is identical in all ways to washing soda because, well, sodium carbonate is just sodium carbonate!

Even at $5 per pound for washing soda, making your own laundry detergent is still incredibly cheap. But why pay more for washing soda when soda ash is so much cheaper? You can easily order soda ash online in 5-lb. quantity or save big on a 50-lb. bucket. Or, just find a store that sells swimming pool supplies in your area.

I will let you know when I discover cheaper alternatives for borax and Blue Dawn. While both can be found online, for now they remain available in most supermarkets and discount department stores.

Question: It’s been two months since the 2-percent pay cut took effect. What are you doing to make up for the loss of income? Share your ideas here

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53 replies
  1. GotToHurry says:

    Please correct the discussion about Sodium Carbonate’s effect on pH. Sodium Carbonate is used to INCREASE pH!! Look at the label of this pH increaser: https://www.amazon.com/Clorox-Pool-Spa-4-Pound-19004CLX/dp/B00PZZF9YM/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1500313275&sr=8-7&keywords=Ph+increaser

    Reply
  2. Binkyfinder says:

    If you don’t want to buy pool supplies to use in place of washing soda, one can make their own ash out of baking soda. I realize that for the most part, baking soda costs the same as washing soda. HOWEVER, I live near a farm supply store that sells 50 pound bags of Arm & Hammer baking soda for $9 – $12. I live in an average-cost area in a suburb of a small city, so this may be an option for others. This baking soda can be baked in a thick layer at 400 degrees for one hour so it converts.

    Reply
  3. Lan says:

    I’ve always been a “from scratch” cook. Breadcrumbs are an essential part of my cooking. I used to bake, but we eat less bread now, so we buy day-old whole grain loaf with seeds — it’s almost as cheap as baking it myself. I grind the smallest pieces, add a T of oat bran or wheat germ, and make several bags-full flavored with different herbs and spices — for fish, burgers, and chicken. Freeze the bags and use the crumbs to quickly put dinner together. One of my faves is oven-fried chicken, all skin and fat removed. Grease a cookie sheet with a light coat of olive oil, and bake on high. The tasty coating enhances the flavor better than fat does. Now fatty chicken feels too heavy and greasy to me.

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  4. rondavue66 says:

    Vinegar will help with the smell if you think your laundry needs to smell better. Use 1/4 c to every load and it will keep the smell away. I use fels naptha instead of dawn. Been using homemade for over 7 yrs now and won’t ever go back.

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  5. AL KD says:

    I am assuming when you say to use 1/4 cup of this detergent it means for the Large setting on the washing machine and if I use the Normal, Medium or Small setting, then I would adjust the amount accordingly. Yes?

    Reply
  6. Cj says:

    How to make sodium carbonate from sodium bicarbonate..

    http://chemistry.about.com/od/makechemicalsyourself/a/Sodium-Carbonate-From-Baking-Soda.htm

    Reply
  7. Bethany Twine says:

    I grow a container garden of vegetables and use the Square Foot Garden Method, I get more veggies, less work and use a special section for harvesting seeds for the veggies like carrots and potatoes and onions. I make my own spaghetti sauce, alfredo sauce, tartarsauce, etc (plus my recipes are healthier than store-bought) and then I can them since I always cook in large batches. I also make my own pasta which has saved us a lot of money since my family eats a lot of pasta! The $80 for a pasta machine (hand-cranked at my local JungleJim’s) saves us money on energy and more than paid for itself as the savings at Kroger’s built up. I can all of my extra veggies and I also can my homemade raviolli that I make practicly from scratch. Also, since my fiance loves to go hunting (I also love it since I get to use my compound bow) we substitute ground vennison for ground chuck. When we take out deer to be processed we have it all ground up. Plus the time out in the woods hunting and camping is excellent for bonding and we save energy on cooking since we do it over a campfire. We save energy on electricity too, since we don’t use all those electronics we love so much. A hunting license and tags (etc.) is generally about $50 so we spend $100 on licenses (make our own arrows so it is less expensive than buying and we also sterilize them and reuse), and we generally spend about $15 each trip in processing fees at our local butcher shop. We go for the biggest buck/doe we can find so we maximize our food store. I also only wash in cold water for laundry and make my own detergent. We plan to have solar panels put in so that we can pay Duke Energy less and also earn a small profit for the excess energy we sell back to the electric company. And though we have an energy efficient dryer, we try to hang our clothes on a line to dry as often as weather permits and unplug our dry in the meantime to cut energy costs. This is how my household cuts back on spending.

    Reply
  8. sheila says:

    I ordered 50# of soda ash (used in pools and the same exact product as washing soda) from Amazon.com for just over $30. Even with the shipping, it will be “cheap”. It will take me years to go through the 50# bucket. I make it in 1.5 gallon jug, but add about 1 T. of Downy Unstoppables (scent booster pellets) while the water is still hot so the pellets dissolve. Adds a bit to the cost, though, need to figure out how many more cents per load.

    Reply
  9. Cbart343 says:

    I saw that regular baking soda says to add to your laundry so I used your recipe using that instead of washing soda, I liked how the clothes came out but wonder if there is harm in using the bicarbonate instead.

    Reply
  10. Cath says:

    What happened to your recipe for detergent that was a cup of borax, a cup of washing soda, and a grated bar of Fels Naptha? That’s what I’ve been using for years. I haven’t figured out the cost. I can get all three at Giant Food Stores, as well as other supermarkets around Philadelphia. It seems logical to me that Fels Naptha would work better than Blue Dawn simply because it is made to wash clothes, while Dawn is meant for dishes. I’m a little nervous about the pool supplies. Have you run this by a chemist?

    Reply
    • debra says:

      I use this detergent as well buying it from Soaps Gone Buy. Very happy with the smell and also make my own softener from vinegar, water and ocean breeze scented conditioner (VO5 or Suave) goes on sale locally at Big Y for 79 cents a bottle.

      Reply
    • blazingb says:

      I found out by accident how to make the Fels Naptha easier to grate. I had a bar that got “put away” when I got help (my daughter and my brothers/nephews) moving the last time. Anyway, it was over a year old when I found it again. It grated easier than cheese. My friend was over and watched in awe as I grated the bar which was all I need as I live alone. Went to the store and purchased a few bars to “put away” for later.

      Reply
    • Matthew Alisha Snell says:

      actually Dawn is a great grease and stain remover and the borax and soda ash basically takes place of the other aspects of normal laundry detergent, the biggest portion of laundry detergents are the chemicals used to make the “suds” which are absolutely unnecessary for anything other than mind games to make you believe they make things cleaner. This is just as effective and much healthier for your family and your washing machine

      Reply
  11. Diane, Science enthusiast says:

    I must comment on something even better, you can make your own washing soda out of baking soda!!! All you need to do is bake it. Seriously! The differrence chemically is water and carbon dioxide and baking removes them both. If you don’t believe me, google it.

    Reply
  12. Wildflowernbloom says:

    The Sequestration is resulting in a 20% reduction in the pay of Federal employees for 22 weeks. That means from April 1 until August 31.

    Reply
  13. JM says:

    Not only has our pay been cut, but I am on unemployment and working part time 2 days a week, so we have to really watch our $. We are really watching our electric bill and that is going really good. Our bill for last month was $86.54. We unplug our computer when it is not in use, unplug anything that is not being used, like our microwave. We plug them up only when we are using them. Some evenings we eat by candlelight and leave the kitchen light off – nice. Coupons for everything also help out. We have also cut out eating out to one time a week, usually at a place that we have a coupon for and before usual dinner hour. Hope that this helps someone else cut their output. JM

    Reply
  14. mgibbs says:

    I have trouble with the odor of my clean clothes after washing them in this detergent. They don’t smell bad, just not fresh and clean. I bought some essential oil (cheapo at WalMart) and that didn’t make one bit of difference. Can you give me any ideas? Thanks, love the hints.

    Reply
    • vicki1954 says:

      Im new to this site but can tell you that my friend uses homemade detergent all the time. Instead of Dawn she uses Ivory soap (grated and melted in 1/2 gallon of water, 2 cups of Borax, and 2 cups of ph+ soda and 4 1/2 gallons of water. She told me she also buys a small bottle of CHEAP scented laundry detergent and adds it to her soap. She says she gets some strang looks when she’s opening bottles and sniffing but whatever it takes.

      Reply
      • Sheila says:

        Check out my reply to Mary Beth Gibbs for my solution to the scent issue. You are willing to work harder than I am. No way would I grate/melt bar soap. And 2 cups of Borax and soda ash will get expensive really quickly.

    • Lorrie Ney says:

      We too find that the detergent can leave an unusual smell that doesn’t stay fresh smelling for a long time. I think it might be the condition of the water in your area–and mine–which mixes with the detergent. But even with purchased detergents, in our hardened water we’ve found that our washed/dried and stored linens will eventually smell “weird” in just a few days. A friend across town from us made the same comment about her own linen closet, and many of us in our Bible study that day shared that our towels, dish cloths, etc. would smell like a “garage” smell. Some of us using self made soaps and other using the store bought. Dryer sheets don’t seem to help. It seems to be a petroleum based smell. And then sours quickly.

      Reply
      • Sheila says:

        See my reply to Mary Beth Gibbs and Lorrie Rooney Ney. Add Downy Unstoppables (scent booster pellets). Great smell and I can’t even tell I didn’t use Tide.

    • Sheila says:

      Me, too. I like a scented detergent. I add Downy Unstoppable (scent boosting pellets). I think I bought it at WalMart, but you can find it at any grocery, etc. I add about 1 T. to 1.5 gallon jug while the water is still hot so the pellets dissolve. Shake jug before each use. The bottle was $8, so I need to do the math to find out how much more is spent per load.

      Reply
      • Bethany Twine says:

        Hey! I am loving the tips on here! Here is a tip for you on the scent-issue. Purex Crystals works great and on Walmart.com, 55 oz. is under nine bucks. Plus, you get free shipping on orders of $45 or more of qualified items so I tend to stock up. Also, I have anxiety issues and I have noticed that anything scented with lavender works wonders for my nerves (I even grow it in adorable pots around my home for extra help), so I buy the lavender scented crystals and I stock up when I go to buy it online since there is never any guarantee that my local walmart will have it in stock. They also have “fresh spring waters” scent. Hope it helps

    • Matthew Alisha Snell says:

      cheapo would be the prob and walmart ,,lol companies take the EO oils and dilute them down to stretch them out as far as possibly and they are not what they are supposed to be. Here is what I do I add a cup of vinegar,it softens and removes odors without leaving vinegar smell but I will saturate a rag, sock ect but a smaller something in lavender water while it is washing and I also put a few drops of tea tree or purification oil in my detergent. Go online to a reputable co for EO’s, it is a little more but you get what you pay for some are Young Living, Do Terra, and one I have heard alot of really great reviews and there prices are really unbeatable if the oils are as good as the reviews given, Plant Therapy, I plan on trying a few things from them on my next lot. If you want to start a little ‘collection”to try your hand in the EO living world I would greatly suggest the Young Living premium starter kit because it is a perfect starter and worth the money and it includes a diffuser , an awesome diffuser at that

      Reply
      • Tara J. Brady says:

        I highly recommend NOW essential oils. They have been around for many many years. If you go on Amazon and type in: “Now essential oils 1oz” you can actually find a TON of quality oils in a giant (well giant in the essential oil world lolz) 1oz size for the price of a 10/15ml in any other brand. They currently have a trio of 1oz Tangerine oil, 1oz Lime oil and 1oz some other citrus oil for $9 and change!!! That’s only $3.XX an ounce which is incredible. They are extremely good quality as I said, my mom used to buy them for years and so I decided to and now they’re my “go-to” for any oil. They make certified organic oils also that are more expensjve but that is an option & they also have other all natural products in general. Plant Therapy does have a few great deals on 1oz oils as well. I HIGHLY recommend searching “name of essential oil here 1oz” and see what pops up. Remember if it seems to good to be true…. IT IS! Oils are like everything else out there and “natural” “pure” etc. doesn’t mean anything and is a marketing scheme. Unforunately, even “therapeutic quality” or “aromatherapy quality” does not mean anything. There are NOT regulations on essential oils just like there aren’t on cleaning products so protect yourself- don’t be afraid to email the company & dig deeper either- check out their website, reviews etc. 1 other brand I trust is Aura Cacia. They are a bit more pricey but even if you don’t buy their oils they have an aaeskme blog for all categories from DIY cleaning to DIY spa products. A blog can tell a lot about a company. I hope this is helpful!!

    • Roze Law says:

      I have added fabric softener right to the soap … Snuggle makes a powder that is concentrated but it’s strong. This is not the laundry soap that I use but I had the same problom and it helped

      Reply
  15. Eco gal says:

    I too continue to be frugal. More soups have been added to our menu and one day a week is meatless. While I continue to use coupons I have noticed that there seem to be fewer and fewer coupons available for the products I use. Additionally I have started using Dr. Bonner’s soap as my go to cleaner for just about everything. A very little goes a long way.

    Reply
  16. chirping says:

    In a word “SOUP”. We have soup at least every other day; sometimes as a side dish,sometimes as the main course. It can be bean, lentil, vegetable with or w/o meat. It’s filling, its healthy and it’s cheap! It is a great way to use all those tidbits of left overs.

    Reply
  17. IL Mom says:

    Interesting and sad that I haven’t noticed it because of the decreased amount allowed for my Health Savings Account. Last year I had $4000 deducted from my salary for the HSA and this year it is limited to $2500. So my take home pay is about the same, maybe a little higher. But, I have $1500 more in taxable income.

    Reply
  18. Jim. Capistrano Beach, CA says:

    You can buy the 3lb. 7 oz. box of Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda at www.acehardware.com for $4.79 and shipping is free to your local Ace Hardware store. Or you can go to your local Ace Hardware store and they will probably have it in stock as mine does.

    Reply
    • Sheila says:

      Not just better for your diet…better for your life. Congratulations on giving up alcohol. I drank very little anyway, but in 1993, my husband and I joined the LDS (Mormon) Church, gave up all alcohol and have saved soooo much money.

      Reply
  19. KCarter says:

    Mary, my concern about soda ash you recommend from pool supply store is how has it been processed? Although it may be the same product, chemicals used in processing could vary greatly and make a difference whether it is safe at smaller ratios for washing clothes compared to a larger dilution in a pool.

    Reply
  20. renee says:

    Is Soda ash bio-friendly to our skin? I had border line cancer 7 years ago and am very careful what I put in my wash and bathing and eating. Any input would be helpful

    Reply
    • sheila says:

      If you swim in a swimming pool, you are exposed to soda ash, albeit in diluted form. It is added when the pH is too acidic (too low). The soda ash is rinsed out in your washing machine and then your clothes are dried. I’m no expert, but I do not worry about using it.

      Reply
  21. Ruth says:

    A nice alternative to the very expensive oil from the beauty supply store that you put on your hair ten minutes before you wash it is olive oil. This is especially helpful for curly hair. Just put a nickel size amount in your palm and rub it into the ends of your hair (not your scalp) ten to twenty minutes before washing it and your hair will look like you’ve had an expensive conditioning treatment.

    Reply
  22. BellaTerra66 says:

    Soda ash comes in “light”, “medium” and “dense” grades. I would suppose we would need the ‘light’ grade, yes?

    Reply
  23. TX Grandma says:

    The pay cut – it’s really just restoring us to the level before a two-year “tax cut”. I always figured it would end, because it was robbing our social security system. I didn’t see that big a rise in my paycheck when the tax cut was given, and I mentally prepared myself for when it was gone. I believe this is just smoke and mirrors. Living debt-free is the BEST way to be prepared for anything! By living below our means, this kind of government “adjustment” doesn’t have to hurt!

    Reply
    • Renita says:

      Thank you for pointing that out, it was not a pay cut, it was ending a tax break that was always meant to be temporary. It seems really disingenuous to call it a “pay cut”.

      Reply
  24. Beck says:

    When my tax refund comes I am going set aside a grocery fund to buy what is on sale enough to last 6 months to a year. I want to stock enough meat in the freezer as it comes on sale, canned goods and so forth to the point that weekly or biweekly shopping would just be for fresh items. This would help my budget while getting the best prices.

    Reply
  25. Debbie Sue says:

    What is the difference between original Blue Dawn and the concentrated? Are their alternatives to Blue Dawn? I’ve only found it in one place and this is hit or miss. I’m in Canada so I would love to find something a little more generic if possible. Thanks so much for looking out for all of us watching our financial bottom line.

    Reply
    • RoxieRenae says:

      I have been using the re-labeled ‘concentrated Blue Dawn’ and since it’s concentrated I’ve been using less to make my laundry detergent. I’m suspicious that the company re-labeled their product to keep consumers interested. I know a gal who has used other dish soaps to make her laundry detergent. I’m not sure how well they’ve worked and I’m reluctant to use other products since my skin is sensitive to some additives.

      Reply

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