Make Your Own Homemade Washing Soda


I use Washing Soda in my laundry detergent recipes, with and without Borax. I also use it to wash dishes in my dishwasher, clean bathtubs, scrub burnt pots, wash moldy shower curtains, make dishwashing soap, and etc…
As you can see, Washing soda is a key ingredient for cleaning jobs at my house and I can easily find it in my local stores. But I understand it’s harder for some of you to find washing soda in your area, especially if you live out in far away places. And there seems to be a bit of confusion between using baking soda and washing soda because I’ve been receiving emails from some of you asking, whether to substitue one for the other or if you can just skip using one altogether.

So I thought I’d share how you can make your OWN Washing Soda. Yup! You can totally make your own!! And to clear up some of the confusion about the difference and why you can NOT substitue one for the other.

So turn off your phone and grab something hot to drink and read on.

Warning: Don’t try to explain what you are doing to your family because mine looked at me like I had two heads … taking over the kitchen, with glass bowls and cake pan filled with white powder all over the place…

“Mom, you forgot to add the flour to baking soda! How are you going to make a cake without flour???” Don’t ask.

how to make washing soda ecokaren

How to make Washing Soda

1. Baking Soda

What? Only one ingredient? Yup! That’s it!

ONE ingredient: baking soda. I like this kinda tutorial, don’t you?

And the direction is real simple too.

Use a large baking pan, like a glass cake pan or a deep cookie sheet. Set your oven at 400 degrees F. Spread a thin layer of baking soda in the pan. Bake for about an hour and mix it, then, bake for another hour. There are sites that say it should only take about an hour but when I checked mine, it wasn’t done. So I baked it for about 2 hours total, until the color became a bit dull and yellowish.

Note: According to one of my readers, LK, if you use glass pan, it will take longer. If you use stone or metal, it will take less time. Thanks for the tip LK!

There you have it! You made Washing Soda!


And now here is a bit of a Chemistry lesson on how this happens.

Simply, when baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) gets heated, it turns into washing soda (Sodium Carbonate) + Carbon Dioxide + Water.

2NaHCO3 + Heat ==> Na2CO3 + CO2 + H2O

That’s it! See how that works? Easy peasy.

Here is a picture of washing soda (L) and baking soda (R) and how the coloration and the textures are very different. Baking soda is finer and whiter.


This is how it looks after baking soda turns into washing soda. I know you can’t really see the grains in the homemade version but trust me, it’s not as fine and powdery as its former life. You can tell the color has yellowed a bit too and when you rub it between your fingers, you can feel the tiny granules, unlike baking soda.


And to test it even further – because I wanted to be absolutely sure I made washing soda – I added vinegar to it. After fizzing died down, here are the results. See how washing sodas (M and R) got clumpy and the solids separated from the liquid (water)? Yup. Washing soda (basic) neutralized the vinegar (acid) and created solid salts (the clumps), water and, get this, smelly CO2 while giving off heat. Yes, the bowl was warm and CO2 smell stunk when I added vinegar. See how baking soda (L) is just sitting there? It didn’t get clumpy at all.


Difference between washing soda and baking soda

1) Washing Soda – Sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3) Otherwise known as soda ash, it is mainly used for WASHING. The compound is strong basic at pH 11.

It is used as:

  • water softener
  • pH balancer
  • photo developing agent in darkrooms (yes, people used to use chemicals to develop pictures and not just “upload” them to computers.)
  • chemical to make chlorine less acidic and balance pH in pools
  • ‘lyeing’ agent for making German pretzels
  • to degrease, remove oil and wine stains
  • to descale hard water for laundry, coffee pots and pipes
  • a way to polish silver – see my tutorial on non-toxic silver cleaning method

But it is, CAUSTIC and NOT EDIBLEAnd it’s strongly advised to use gloves when cleaning with it and not inhale the particles.

2) Baking Soda – Sodium BiCarbonate (NaHCO3). Mainly used for BAKING and is a mildly ‘basic’ with pH of 8.

It is used as:

  • an antacid.
  • an leavening agent as it reacts with acidic ingredients such as buttermilk and yogurt.
  • cleaning agent and a deodorizer.
  • an ingredient in toothpaste.
  • a fire extinguisher in an emergency

And it is SAFE TO EAT.

In short,

Washing Soda —> NOT EDIBLE

Baking Soda —> EDIBLE

*Caution – in one particular site I read, she says “…and taste different”. YIKES! Folks…DO NOT TASTE Washing Soda! Trust me. They are different from baking soda! Don’t put that in your mouth to taste. It’s caustic!

So would I make my own washing soda?

In short, NO. It makes no sense for ME to make washing soda because 1) I can easily find it and 2) cranking up the oven to 400 degrees for two hours just to make some washing soda is NOT going to save ME a ton of money or time. I’d spend more energy and money on electricity than save a few pennies. Unless I was going to bake POUNDS of baking soda or bake dinner at the same time, it makes no sense to me.

But if you can’t buy it anywhere or you are stuck in your house in a blinding blizzard and you can’t go out to the store, then, bake a few pounds or bake a turkey dinner at the same time. And open the oven door afterward to get warm.

If not, you can always buy Washing Soda in bulk from Amazon. Yes, this is my affiliate link if you decide to buy it. It doesn’t cost you more. It just gives me a few pennies so I can post more fabulous tutorials like these.

What do you use washing soda for? Would you try making it?

Sources: eHow, Chemical Formula, Penniless Parenting, Arm & Hammer

NOTE: The information in this post is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Dr. Karen disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information. Opinions and statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. The information is for general consumer understanding and education, and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice and it is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. I am not your doctor and you should consult with a qualified health care professional on any matter relating to their health and well being on one-on-one basis with thorough physical examination. Dr. Karen encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional. Products Dr. Karen recommends and their properties have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using the products. For more info, visit the Disclaimer page.


Just so you know - Arm & Hammer is not cruelty free. You might want to try Bob's Red Mill baking soda. Bob's doesn't torture animals with unnecessary and inhumane testing of its products. 


Hi, I am new to making dishwasher detergent and want to continue to do so for all the reasons you have mentioned.  I just finished my first load and am very pleased (I added some all natural powdered lemonade to the mix, but other than that I did all the same as you listed out)!  One thing I am wondering is if the washing soda is caustic, how is it better to use than other caustic store-bought cleaners?  Just a thought I had...Thank you!!


Loved all this information and enjoyed perusing your site. Only one thing I noticed in this particular post: Sodium Bicarbonate is what is used in pools, not the washing soda. I only know this because my husband just went to a class for public pool certification and we just adjusted all the chemistry for the pool at a summer camp. He was trying to find some Sodium Bicarbonate and I asked if he wanted to use our new unopened bag of baking soda. He looked at me like I had three eyes, researched in his pool book and on the internet, made a couple calls and came back and said yes. Lots of helpful information. Thank you!


Thanks for the chemistry lesson. Good to know how to make it if we had to but till then I think I will just buy it for now even tho I will keep the instructions on how to make washing soda.  You make me laugh with your funny comments to us . So glad I happened across this site.


I use it for laundry and cleaning my bathroom! 


Loved the chemistry lesson! I like the idea that I CAN make my own if I wanted, even though I may not want to. ;)


you explained it in such simple terms, thank you! I knew there was a difference but now I know exactly what the difference is and how each does a diffeent "job"

Anna@Green Talk
Anna@Green Talk

Love the idea of making my own. I wonder if I could "baked" it outside when it is really hot?


whoops, link took me to Amazon, but they were talking soda pop. I don't really need to make my own soda pop. I shouldn't even be drinking the stuff, as fluffy as I am.


Dear EcoKaren;

I've been thinking about doing just that, now that you mention it, but I'm wondering, are we talking using this in a high-efficiency washer? Is that cool? Lemme know! Thank you! and thanks some more!

Dr. Karen
Dr. Karen moderator

@ginnygross08 I think it depends on the pH level of the water. When I researched, both can be used. According to this source, washing soda can be used others say you have to use baking soda. I think it depends on the pH and how big the pool is. This wiki source says, baking soda is used.

So it looks like it really depends on the size of the pool and the pH level. Good point. 

Latest blog post: Hub Cap Chandelier

Dr. Karen
Dr. Karen moderator

@almostallthetruth LOL...yea, if you can buy it easily, I'd recommend it. But some people were asking me where they can buy it and thought I'd post a tute. :)

Dr. Karen
Dr. Karen moderator

@queentob Oh, I'm so glad you found it helpful! Just wanted to make sure that people didn't substitute one for the other. Thanks for reading! 

Dr. Karen
Dr. Karen moderator

@greentalk You need to bake it at 400 degrees F ... On Mars, maybe. :) 

Dr. Karen
Dr. Karen moderator

@LindaWeeks That was weird it took you to a page to make soda pop. Sorry about that. The link is fixed. And to answer your previous question, you can definitely use Washing Soda in HE. This does NOT create suds. It's perfect for HE. Thanks for reading! 


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