Use this guide to make homemade washing soda from baking soda. It's easy and you only need one ingredient!
Washing Soda In Homemade Detergent
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.
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. The most popular questions are, "can I substitute baking soda for washing soda?" and "can I make DIY cleaners without washing soda?"
Make Homemade Washing Soda
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 substitute 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.
DIY Washing Soda From Baking Soda
To make homemade washing soda, you only need one ingredient: baking soda.
Wait. What? Only one ingredient? Yup! That's it!
ONE ingredient: baking soda. I like this kinda tutorial, don't you?
And the direction is really simple too.
Place the Baking Soda In The Oven
Use a large baking pan, like a glass cake pan or a deep cookie sheet. Set your oven to 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 a 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!
How Baking Soda Turns Into 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.
Vinegar Reacts Differently With Washing 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.
Differences Between Washing Soda and Baking soda
If you have ever wondered, "can baking soda be used instead of washing soda?" the answer is no, it cannot. They are different chemically.
Let's look closer at how baking soda and washing soda are different.
Washing Soda Is Used For Washing
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 electric coffee pots from hard water.
- softening water for laundry
- a way to polish silver - see my tutorial on non-toxic silver cleaning method
Washing Soda Is Not Edible
But it is, CAUSTIC and NOT EDIBLE. And it's strongly advised to use gloves when cleaning with it and not inhale the particles.
Baking Soda Is Mainly Used For Baking
Baking Soda - Sodium BiCarbonate (NaHCO3). Mainly used for BAKING and is a mildly 'basic' with pH of 8.
It is used as:
- an antacid.
- a 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.
- 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. Washing soda is different from baking soda! Don't put that in your mouth to taste. It's caustic!
Is Making Your Own Washing Soda Worth It?
In short, it doesn't make sense for me to suggest you make your own washing soda.
You can easily find it in the store and 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.
Washing Soda FAQs
No, they are different chemically. Washing soda is Na2CO3 and Borax is Na2B4O7. They have the same purpose and you can use them in the same way. Borax dissolves in water easier than washing soda.
A detergent is a cleaning agent that combines with impurities and dirt to make them more soluble. Washing soda is an ingredient in homemade detergent. It is not a detergent by itself.
No, washing powder is not the same as washing soda. Washing powder is a mixture that includes washing soda in it.
Washing soda is safe and non-toxic. However, you should never eat it. It is caustic and very non edible.