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What Is Washing Soda?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Washing soda is a highly alkaline chemical compound that can be used to remove stubborn stains from laundry. It also has numerous uses around the house, and it is used in a range of industrial applications as well. Washing soda should not be confused with washing powder, which is a powdered soap used as a detergent; it is also not the same thing as baking soda, although the two compounds are closely related.

The chemical formula for washing soda is Na2CO3, and it is also known as sodium carbonate. It is a salt of carbonic acid, a chemical that produces a wide range of salts collectively known as carbonates. One common source of washing soda is the ashes of plants; for this reason, it is sometimes called soda ash. Sodium carbonate can also be created from sodium chloride, also known as table salt.

In laundry, washing soda accomplishes several things. The high alkalinity of washing soda helps it act as a solvent to remove a range of stains, and unlike bleach, washing soda does not usually stain. It is also used in detergent mixtures to treat hard water; the washing soda binds to the minerals which make water hard, allowing detergent to foam properly so that clothing will come out clean, without any residue. Sodium carbonate is also used by some textile artists, since it helps dyes adhere to fabric, resulting in deeper penetration and a longer lasting color.

Around the house, washing soda can be used to descale things like coffee machines and bathroom tiles which may accumulate mineral deposits as a result of exposure to hard water. It can also be used to strip floors of wax so that they can be refinished, and for other touch cleaning jobs like scrubbing the stove. You should wear gloves when cleaning with washing soda, because it can cause skin irritation.

Many markets carry washing soda, typically with other laundry products. Some companies make mixed detergents with washing soda which are specifically formulated for hard water, and you can also find washing soda on your own. Since sodium carbonate can be dangerous in large quantities, make sure to keep washing soda out of the reach of children and pets, and clearly label the container to indicate that it is caustic. It can be harmful to the eyes, cause irritation to the lungs if inhaled, and may cause abdominal pain or vomiting if large doses are swallowed.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By AfricanChef — On Feb 04, 2016

I read at the top of the page that sodium carbonate can also be created from sodium chloride, or in plain English, washing soda can be made from ordinary table salt. I have but one question: How?

Can anyone help please? (Sorry - that's two questions.)

By anon974040 — On Oct 15, 2014

What is the formula for making washing powder?

By anon314213 — On Jan 16, 2013

We too have just made our first batch of laundry detergent. Can't wait to use it. We had a hard time finding Arm & Hammer super washing soda in most stores but we found it at Wal Mart. It was 3 something a box.The 20 mule team borax was available just about everywhere. Good hunting. P.S. my wife is trying a Natural Lavender soap base she bought at a vitamin shop.

By anon296224 — On Oct 10, 2012

People can easily make their own washing soda (sodium carbonate)! Simply heat a box or two of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes. The carbon dioxide and water given off create washing soda. This is all over the internet, so you can look it up it yourself. You can check to see that it's changed by appearance, or you can slightly wet your finger and taste the tiniest amount. It will tingle and burn because it's so caustic (spit it out -- don't swallow -- it's not to eat!). I make all my own washing soda this way, to make my own homemade laundry detergent and dishwashing detergent, and it's much cheaper than Arm and Hammer's store-bought and driving to the store.

I buy two boxes of baking soda at 16 ounces each for 45 cents at our Aldi so I get 32 ounces of washing soda for less than $1. It's cheap and easy, and washing soda is very effective.

By anon275480 — On Jun 18, 2012

Washing soda is used as a degassing agent in metal casting industries globally.

It enables the molten metal to be poured into the green sand (foundry sand) or other mold, without forming undesirable bubbles.

Arm & Hammer is an enormous US company that made its fortune selling washing soda and baking soda to the US steel industry.

By anon258051 — On Mar 30, 2012

The best and most amazing use for washing soda is to quickly clean up burnt cooking pans. Just boil up water and some soda and the black burn will just lift off after a few minutes, no scouring necessary. My mother-in-law is the only other person I know who uses soda for this purpose.

By anon255623 — On Mar 18, 2012

Where can I buy Dr Bronner's magic soap in South Africa?

By Cheet4 — On Jun 13, 2011

The remedy for exzema is to only use arm and hammer laundry detergent on clothes, and only use dove bar soap (make sure it is not the citrus) and see the difference in the skin. My daughter was born with eczema and had it repeatedly until i stopped using the perfumed and harmful detergents out there. She has been eczema free for years

By anon145447 — On Jan 23, 2011

Can I use use washing soda to clean my wedgewood jasper epergnes without damaging the ceramic?

By anon139482 — On Jan 04, 2011

Reverse electroplating is not a bomb, or a complicated technology, oh shopper of Woolworth's.

By anon137415 — On Dec 27, 2010

TO Anon87046: The only thing you people "across the pond" have cornered the market on regarding Woolworth's, is the first lunch counter. FYI: F.W. Woolworth's has been an American icon since, the late 1800's.

By anon130187 — On Nov 27, 2010

I make my own laundry detergent without having to make it! I've been doing this for quite a while, and it works great. In a full load, I put 1 Tbsp of washing soda, 1 Tbsp of borax, and 1 Tbsp of Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap. I also pretreat any stains with the Dr. Bronner's. This is very economical, and all the ingredients are natural, and the Dr. Bronner's is even organic, so no scary chemicals on our clothes or in the water supply.

By anon87330 — On May 29, 2010

I've recently tried white vinegar as a clothes softener, and it worked great-the clothes were very soft.

I've also made my own clothes detergent and it also works great. I'm just about to make some more.

I'm even looking forward to making my own dish and dishwasher soap.

By anon87046 — On May 27, 2010

You Americans are a laugh a minute!

I bought Lectric washing soda at Woolworths, which is a major supermarket chain in my country. It was with the laundry soakers which have god-knows-what in them and still do not get greasy stains out of clothes!

I don't know if it's true about being able to make explosives with it, but it won't put holes in your clothes if you use the powder form diluted in water.

I can't wait to try it on the bathroom tiles and the kitchen sink.

By anon85200 — On May 19, 2010

With a two amp battery charger and a non-conductive (plastic) tub you can reverse rust on metal parts.

Simply dissolve 1 cup washing soda per gallon of water in the tub,

Connect battery charger negative to the work piece and put a piece of metal in the corner of the tub and connect battery charger positive to it. Leave 24 to 48 hours.

Rust will be removed and rusted metal restored.

This is an old vehicle restorer's trick and it works quite well for cheap.

Do not use a charger that puts out more than about two amps. Motorcycle battery chargers or 'battery maintainers' work quite well.

By anon79489 — On Apr 22, 2010

I will save you people a lot of trouble. No one has ever heard of it but I managed to order it at ace hardware and it will be here tuesday. It's made by arm and hammer and it does exist. I plan on making my own laundry detergent next week.

By anon79178 — On Apr 21, 2010

I made my first batch of laundry soap today and it is great. I did 1 cup grated Fels Naptha soap, 1 cup baking soda (got 50 lbs for $15 at feed mill) 1/2 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup Borax 20 mule.

I used 2 tablespoons and my kids clothes look great. Took out chocolate ice cream and daily grunge without pretreatment!

By anon79056 — On Apr 21, 2010

I don't know guys, I don't want to end up with holes in my clothes and I'm getting scared by some of your comments! I'm sticking to store bought -- albeit a generic brand perhaps. Thanks anyway.

By anon78920 — On Apr 20, 2010

I wouldn't generalize- while Walmart doesn't always hire employees for their brains, that's not to say they don't have them.

Not long ago, I met a young woman working at Walmart to cover some of the bills while completing her final year of medical school.

There are also plenty of retired professionals working there.

By anon78482 — On Apr 19, 2010

Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda is the product to look for. It's in a yellow box and its a powder, cost is about $3.

By anon74706 — On Apr 03, 2010

If you really want to find a knowledgeable wal-mart employee, you would have to go another store and find it. They don't hire wal-mart employees for their brains.

By anon68883 — On Mar 04, 2010

I read washing soda could be used to soften towels. (I do not use fabric softener.) Is this true and worth the try.

By parisian — On Feb 25, 2010

I found the Arm and Hammer washing soda and the 20 Team Mule Borax at the Kroger grocery store.

By anon66560 — On Feb 20, 2010

There is no such thing as a "knowledgeable Wal-mart Employee."

You can buy Arm and Hammer Super washing soda at many hardware stores or online.

By anon66063 — On Feb 17, 2010

can you tell me how you did the colon cleanse for your eczema? what product or solution? thanks

By anon64937 — On Feb 10, 2010

heavenly horsetail liquid detergent is the stuff!

By anon64139 — On Feb 05, 2010

Can I use baking soda instead of washing soda to make my own laundry soap?

By anon63071 — On Jan 30, 2010

Looking for washing soda to make my own laundry detergent I found from an informed Wal-Mart employee that it has been removed from their shelves as it could be used in making explosive recipes. Who knew? I want clean clothes not to put holes in them. LOL. Then i heard Ace Hardware may have it or may order it so that's my next step.

By anon62415 — On Jan 26, 2010

I have approximately 15,000 to 20,000 pounds of soda ash to dispose of. It was in a chemical storage bin at a water plant. It may have a bit of lime in it or dolomite.

By anon57600 — On Dec 24, 2009

@jjc I've had eczema since a child I got a colon cleanse and it went away! I lie to you not, I also use Dermarest for eczema, so great I use it on my face mostly almost like a lotion. I don't need it on my body because the eczema is gone.

I could be wrong but I think (after the cleansing I came to this conclusion) eczema is the body trying to get rid of toxins through it's largest organ, the skin. It's been since 2003 I've been eczema free.

By anon52920 — On Nov 17, 2009

@jjc For heaven's sake, do not give your child washing soda! It is very caustic and would seriously injure if not kill your kid. Baking soda and washing soda are not the same thing. Washing soda has a pH of around 11 and baking soda only around 8.

I applaud your efforts to pursue alternative medicines but check your sources carefully, please!

By jjc — On Nov 17, 2009

i've been desperately searching for alternative meds in curing eczema for my seven year old. I found a source that explains the alkaline level needed for the body and suggests that if you combine washing soda and baking soda correctly and drink it -- which i have the measurements to -- then the eczema disappears almost immediately. However, i read elsewhere that if you drink washing soda, it may cause vomiting.

Does anybody have any input on this?

By anon46486 — On Sep 26, 2009

Reply to 2489's question "If washing soda is the ashes of plants, then can we make our own soda ash from burned weeds from our garden?" Yes, in Japan, it is the tradition to use burnt plants instead of washing soda to make the water very alkaline for a number of traditional dyeing techniques. So I guess you could do that too to make your own to soften the water for instance, but I really don't know if it would have the same effect for cleaning. You just have to try. Also, it depends on which plants you are using. Some plants will give more alkaline ashes than others.

By anon43067 — On Aug 25, 2009

Ace Hardware will order it for you.

By anon41861 — On Aug 17, 2009

Sodium carbonate is widely used by wineries as a cleaning agent, also I imagine in food plants and breweries -- another source.

By anon38263 — On Jul 24, 2009

Give properties of washing soda.

By anon38041 — On Jul 23, 2009

sodium carbonate = soda ash = Ph + at your local pool supply store, or in the pool chemical section at your local walmart.

By anon36640 — On Jul 13, 2009

Arm and Hammer washing soda is available at any discount store.

By anon35097 — On Jul 02, 2009

It is found in the laundry aisle and is often marketed under the name of Lectric Salts (i.e Washing Soda)

By anon34006 — On Jun 15, 2009

Who discovered/invented washing soda?

By anon32403 — On May 20, 2009

response to anon22899:

'If sodium carbonate can be extracted from sodium chloride, then cows can fly!'

It isn't "extracted" it is manufactured using the salt as a sodium.

By kholmes2u — On Mar 10, 2009

So, is it safe to say that if we cannot find washing soda or soda ash, we can then use Ph increaser which says that it is soda ash granules to make our homemade laundry detergent?

By anon27496 — On Mar 01, 2009

I have never been able to find Washing Soda at WalMart. However, I did (finally) find it at Fry's Marketplace in Queen Creek, AZ. I'd be willing to bet that other Fry's Marketplace stores carry it. It was shelved with the laundry products, next to the Borax.

By anon24891 — On Jan 19, 2009

If washing soda is the ashes of plants, then can we make our own soda ash from burned weeds from our garden?

By elfi64 — On Dec 15, 2008

anon22899 - some companies are using salt, or sodium chloride as a raw material to produce sodium carbonate. Another raw material used is limestone.

By anon22899 — On Dec 12, 2008

If sodium carbonate can be extracted from sodium chloride, then cows can fly!

By anon19938 — On Oct 22, 2008

Soda Ash is sold as a pool chemical - either called "soda ash" or "pH up"

By grammarose — On Oct 20, 2008

Where can I buy washing soda?

By anon9061 — On Feb 27, 2008

What are some brand names of washing soda that you can purchase at like a Wal-Mart?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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