Standard FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for products or services, including from Amazon.com. Read full disclosure here.
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 substitute 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 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.
Make Your Own Homemade 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 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!
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 electric coffee pots from hard water.
- softening water for laundry
- a way to polish silver – see my tutorial on non-toxic silver cleaning method
But it is, CAUSTIC and NOT EDIBLE. And 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.
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!
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?