What is washing soda?
A. A soda such as RC cola used to help swallow a moon pie?
B. A type of ginger ale used to clean clothes?
C. Sodium carbonate
The answer is A of course.
Just kidding. Continue reading to find out the correct answer.
Chemistry and Source
Washing soda is a chemical compound composed of sodium, carbon, and oxygen also known as soda ash or sodium carbonate. It has the chemical formula Na2CO3. In the United States, most sodium carbonate is produced from trona. Trona is a mineral that was created by lake evaporation long ago. There is a deposit near Green River, Wyoming that is the largest known deposit in the world. There is also a laboratory method called the Solvay process that uses salt and limestone to make sodium carbonate. This is primarily used in countries other than the United States.
Although sodium carbonate has many uses, we are interested in what it can do for our homemade laundry detergent or other homemade cleaners.
Is Washing Soda and Baking Soda the Same Thing?
Washing soda is a different chemical compound than baking soda. Baking soda(NaHCO3) is not as effective at water-softening or laundry cleaning as washing soda. The reason washing soda is more effective is related to the extra sodium atom present in the molecule. We won’t go into the in-depth chemistry of it all. Just know that there is a reason why one is called washing soda and one is called baking soda.
Washing soda does two things for us in the washing machine:
- It helps to precipitate dissolved minerals out of the wash water before the minerals have a chance to react with our laundry detergent. This process is called water softening. The washing soda is sacrificing itself to save our detergent. This means we can get more cleaning power out of a given amount of detergent.
- The high alkalinity of the washing soda allows our homemade laundry soaps and detergents to cut through greases, waxes, and oils better.
When mixing and working with washing soda, it is a good idea to wear rubber gloves. Washing soda is caustic and will irritate the skin. Take care not to breathe the dust or get it in your eyes.
Also keep washing soda out of reach of children.
Washing soda is a very versatile cleaning agent that can be used in many areas of the home. It can scratch or corrode fiberglass or aluminum surfaces and therefore is not recommended on these surfaces.
Homehints.org will explore the many uses of washing soda in future articles.
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