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I’ve been using washing soda (also called sodium carbonate) in my natural cleaning for years. It is an ingredient in my homemade laundry soap and all-purpose cleaners and I’ve found dozens of other ways to use it around the house as well.
What is Washing Soda?
Sodium Carbonate, commonly called Washing Soda or Soda Ash, is a water-soluble sodium salt of carbonic acid. Its proportions of sodium, carbon and oxygen make it effective as a natural cleaner and cleaning booster.
It can be obtained from natural sources like the ashes of plants that grew in certain types of soil or created synthetically. It has a fascinating history of use in glass making, film developing, taxidermy, cooking and chemistry but I am most fond of it for its simple household uses.
Where to Get Washing Soda?
Even in our relatively small town, washing soda is easy to find on the laundry aisle of the grocery store and it is also available in boxes and in bulk online. I’ve always just purchased it because it is so inexpensive and versatile and easy to find.
I’ve gotten many comments from readers who don’t live in the US or who live in very rural areas asking if there is a substitute if they can’t find it in their area and a few other readers chimed in that they’ve been able to make it at home from baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) which seems to be available practically everywhere.
The best part?
The process of turning sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate is a simple chemical reaction that can be easily accomplished in an oven!
In short, using enough heat for a long enough period of time will change the structure of sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate while releasing excess carbon dioxide and steam.Bonus points if you try this simple method and turn it into a science lesson for your kids at the same time!
How to Make Washing Soda
If you have an oven and are feeling crafty, try this simple method of making washing soda. Another bonus is that baking soda is typically even less expensive (especially at big box stores) and making this at home can help further reduce the cost of budget-friendly cleaning recipes.
Washing Soda Ingredients
- Baking Soda
- A large baking dish or baking sheet (I use these stainless steel restaurant pans for this and all of my baking and cooking)
- An Oven
- Patience (and not even very much!)
Washing Soda Instructions
- Turn oven on 400 degrees F.
- Pour a thick (1/2 inch or so) layer of baking soda on the bottom of the baking dish.
- Bake for 1 hour, stirring 1-2 times in the middle, or until it has changed in look and feel. Baking soda has a silky/powdery feel and washing soda is more grainy and not silky. The baking soda will need to reach the full 400 degrees for this reaction to take place, so give it time.
- Let cool and store in air-tight jar.
Use this homemade washing soda as you would store-bought in natural cleaning recipes, laundry soaps and more!
Ever tried to make Washing Soda at home? Many thanks to reader Erin for the email with the tip on how to make it!
Discussion (30 Comments)
Hi there and thanks for the great info (now I can stop ordering in bulk and just make it!!) – I have a question about the chemical reaction of sodium carbonate with water – wondering if the “cleaning” properties of washing soda change if I try to use it in a liquid laundry soap formula? I’ve been making powder for years – but with the breakdown of the old machine comes a need to try a liquid formula. I know sodium percarbonate cannot go into a liquid formula because the cleaning has to happen immediately when it chemical reacts with water, but not sure about sodium carbonate (aka washing soda)…. oh, and do either baking soda or washing soda truly dissolve in water? I know I’m a few months late to the conversation, but hoping!
Hello, one day I saw you have a cleaning checklist – something I can print out and hand the little mess-makers – but I got distracted before I clicked the link and now I can’t find it again. Obviously I should be able to now what needs cleaning but an already printed list would be wonderful 🙂
This one? https://wellnessmama.com/4733/cleaning-checklist/
How long does the washing soda last? I want to make it while it is still winter. Thank you.
It is very shelf stable once it cools so you should be able to make it ahead of time
So simple! That is really cool.
How can I substitute for borax? I want to make laundry det. And scouring paste
Well that’s a good idea!
I haven’t found the washing soda (ok, I never searched of… because I am way too lazy to search for the Portuguese name for it… bummer!). I’ll probably give it a try… or get more serious into finding it at the market.
Although it is simple, I don’t think it is really helpful on cutting costs. You spend energy with the oven instead.
But it is good to know that there is a way.
Actually, if you look at the Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings, it will only cost about 16 cents to run an electric oven for 1 hour. Less for a gas oven. So, yes, you will be saving a ton of money.
I can get washing soda only in one store here, and they don’t always have it in stock. Now only thing left to figure out is where to get borax…
I too want to make washing soda and your scouring scrub. And I would like to make a laundry wash as well, can I make it Borax free? And do you know if I may add essential oils to it I use young living in some of my homemade natural cosmetics.
Do you get better results if you wash clothes with washing soda rather than washing with just baking soda? I’ve never tried it but am curious to know if that chemical change makes a big difference in the end result.
Thank you! I live in Canada in a rural setting and I wanted to try your scouring powder recipe but I wasn’t sure where I could possibly get washing soda locally. Your recipes are great and I look forward to your tips.
You can actually make washing powder if you can get your hands on baking soda: https://wellnessmama.com/76866/washing-soda/
If you have a Home Hardware, you will be able to buy it there. ARM & HAMMER 3kg So Clean Laundry Detergent. Item: # 4527-273 I know it says Laundry detergent but the rest of the label says Super Washing Soda. I’ve also bought it at No Frills if you have one of those. I haven’t looked for it elsewhere since they always have it at either one or the other store.
Linda, YOU ARE A GENIUS!!! I have been looking everywhere in the NCR (I’m new to the area though so I don’t know every single location) for washing soda and have had no luck. I am familiar with making this from baking soda, so I am currently making a batch. However, I took your advice because there are numerous Home Hardwares in my area, and they sell this! Thank you for posting about it! You just saved me the next time I need it. I’ll have to keep my eye out at No Frills too!