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Friday, August 08, 2014

How to Make Homemade Washing Soda

Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda Detergent Booster/Cleaner - 2 Boxes ...Washing Soda is one of the main ingredients in most of my homemade laundry detergents and various cleaners.  It's pretty easy to find in the laundry aisle of most stores and it's not expensive.  But some people, especially those in other countries or remote locations, seem to struggle to find this cleaning staple.

So I decided to tell you how to make your own!

It's surprisingly easy, but you'll have to endure a very short layman's chemistry lesson first.


Many people confuse Washing Soda (also called Soda Ash) and Baking Soda.  That could be a rather disastrous mistake.  Baking Soda (Sodium BiCarbonate) is edible, mainly used for baking, as an antacid and as a deodorizer.  Washing Soda (Sodium Carbonate) is NOT edible and is mainly used in cleaning applications, as a water softener, and to balance PH.  It's also caustic and you should use gloves when cleaning with it.

borax vinegar baking soda lemon juice and murphy s oil are just a few ...The interesting thing is that Washing Soda is MADE from Baking Soda!  What the What??!!

The chemical difference between baking soda and washing soda isn't much. . .just a bit water and carbon dioxide separate them. The chemical make up of baking soda is NaHCO3 (this means that it's made up of 1 sodium, 1 hydrogen, one carbon, and 3 oxygen molecules). The chemical makeup of washing soda, on the other hand is Na2CO3 (2 sodium, 1 carbon, and 3 oxygen molecules). Pretty dang close, huh?  The addition of high heat breaks the baking soda down into water (steam), carbon dioxide (both of which are released in the heating process) and the remaining washing soda. Voila!

Allrighty, 'nuff chemistry stuff.  Let's get to the process.

Here's how:
  • Heat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  • In a rectangular metal or glass baking pan (glass works but takes a little longer), sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda on the bottom of the pan (no more than about 1/4 inch deep)
  • Bake in the oven about one to one and half hours
  • Stir every twenty minutes or so to encourage even baking
  • That's it!

To know for sure that the chemical change has taken place takes a little bit of practice, but it's not hard once you know what you're looking for.  When the chemical change is complete, the clumpy, powdery baking soda will have transformed into grainy, opaque washing soda.  Baking soda is crystallize, like salt while washing soda is dull.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will probably not make too many batches of washing soda.  The physical energy, oven usage and time is just not worth it.  But if you don't have access to a cheap, reliable source nearby, it's awesome to know that you can very easily make your own!
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