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What Is Washing Soda And How To Use It

How to clean a toilet using washing soda.

What Is Washing Soda?

Washing soda is probably one of the ingredients in a lot of the cleaners you use, but what is washing soda exactly? Washing soda is the powdered form of a chemical compound called sodium carbonate. With a pH of 11, washing soda is considered very alkaline, which makes it an effective solvent for a wide range of stains. You might also see it referred to as soda ash, soda wash, or soda crystals.

Though it’s safe to use as directed and doesn’t give off any harmful fumes, you may want to wear gloves when cleaning with washing soda, because it can cause minor skin irritation. As with other cleaning products, keep washing soda out of the reach of children.

Washing soda has the ability to convert fats and grease to water soluble salts, which is why it’s often called a “laundry booster” and added to (or used in tandem with) laundry detergent. Though washing soda, baking soda, and borax are different, they’re all useful in different ways in cleaning and laundry applications.

Washing Soda vs Baking Soda, Oxygen Bleach & Borax

A woman is holding a package of baking soda, which she intends to use for cleaning.

Washing Soda vs Baking Soda

Baking soda and washing soda are not the same thing. Interestingly, washing soda is very closely related to baking soda – which is also a cleaning agent – but has been processed differently. Washing soda in laundry detergent softens water to help get stains and oil out of fabrics by binding with the minerals that make water hard. 

One difference between washing soda and baking soda is that washing soda is more abrasive. It’s also more alkaline, and the two can be used together in homemade laundry detergent recipes. There really isn’t a substitute for washing soda, but it’s fairly easy to find and also easy to make.

Baking soda and hydrogen peroxide are a powerful cleaning duo that I use quite frequently for stubborn bathroom and kitchen stains. There are some surprising uses for baking soda including helping to relieve UTI’s and soothing diaper rash!

Washing Soda vs Oxygen Bleach

You might also wonder if OxiClean is the same as washing soda. It’s not the same thing, but OxiClean does contain washing soda as an ingredient. (FYI, you make a great DIY oxygen bleach at home using washing soda and hydrogen peroxide!)

A woman demonstrating the use of washing soda, holding a box of borax.

Washing Soda vs Borax

Washing soda (sodium carbonate) and borax (sodium tetraborate) are both alkaline compounds used for cleaning. Washing soda has a high pH level, making it an extreme alkaline compound that is very effective as a cleaning agent. Borax, on the other hand, has a lower pH level and is not as effective as washing soda.

Cleaning with borax is most effective in hotter water, while washing soda works well at any temperature. If you need to clean something and you don’t want to use hot water, washing soda is a great substitute for borax.

Washing Soda is NOT the same as baking soda.

Where To Buy Washing Soda

You can find washing soda in the laundry aisle of most grocery stores, including Arm & Hammer’s popular Super Washing Soda Laundry Booster. Arm and Hammer Washing Soda is NOT just baking soda. You may have to look on the high or low shelves to find it, but it’s usually there somewhere!

If you can’t find where to buy washing soda in stores, you can always buy washing soda online, or you could make washing soda at home using baking soda and your oven (and it’s super simple to do!) Since baking soda is often the more common of these two cleaning ingredients, knowing how to make my own washing soda often comes in handy!

A woman pouring a bag of laundry detergent onto a baking sheet, demonstrating the use of washing soda.

How To Make Washing Soda From Baking Soda

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate while washing soda is sodium carbonate, and you can make your own washing soda from baking soda. Make washing soda by spreading baking soda in a shallow baking dish. Put it in an oven preheated to 400 degrees (F) and bake it for one hour. The heat of the oven will cook water and carbon dioxide off of the sodium bicarbonate, leaving sodium carbonate (AKA washing soda) behind. 

12 Brilliant Uses Of Washing Soda

Washing Soda dissolves laundry stains.

1. Dissolve Laundry Stains

I use washing soda in my DIY laundry detergent because it really boosts the cleaning power of detergent. Allowing the washing soda to soak heavily stained fabrics makes it easier for your detergent to work. To help dissolve heavy stains on cotton or linens, you can soak them in a solution of warm water and washing soda. This process can help remove stains made by grease, blood, ink, tea, coffee, and more!

Just fill a bucket or your sink with warm water, add 1/2 cup or so of washing soda, and give it a stir. Once the washing soda starts to dissolve, add the stained clothes and let them soak for an hour or two (or even overnight, if needed.) Remove the items from the washing soda solution and wash as usual.

Washing Soda softens water to make detergent work better.

2. Soften Water For Clean Laundry

One of the most popular ways to use washing soda is as a water softener in your laundry. The washing soda competes with the calcium and magnesium ions in the water, which helps prevent the minerals from binding with the detergent and your clothes. Add 1/2 cup of washing soda to your wash load, then add the amount of detergent recommended for soft water. (This can also help prevent limescale buildup on the inside of your machine, which will help extend its lifespan!)

Washing Soda cuts through grease, making it ideal for cleaning all the parts of your range and oven.

3. Clean Ovens, Range Tops, & Burner Pans

Washing soda can help make some of your toughest cleaning tasks easier. For instance, you can use a solution of 1/2 cup of washing soda dissolved in 1 gallon of warm water to clean your oven, range, and broiler pans! (Note: This formula is very common when using washing soda for cleaning. To keep things brief, I’ll use the phrase “regular solution” to refer to 1/2 cup of washing soda in 1 gallon of hot water from now on.) 

Remove smaller items like burner pans and soak them in the regular solution for at least 30 minutes. Dip a damp sponge into the solution and use it to scrub the inside of your oven and your range top too. (If you’re dealing with really stubborn gunk, you can sprinkle some washing soda directly onto a damp sponge and give the gunk a good scrub.)

Washing Soda removes stains from cookware and dishes.

4. Clean Pots, Pans, & Cookware

I frequently use washing soda to help dissolve tough food messes in my pots and pans, and it works like a charm! Just add a couple of tablespoons of washing soda and a small squirt of regular or homemade liquid dish soap to the pot, pan, or dish, then fill it with hot water and let it soak. This is also great for removing coffee and tea stains from cups and glasses.

For pots and pans that need a lot of help, I’ll put the filled pot on my stovetop and bring the cleaning solution to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes, and that mess will come away easily! (Do not use this method on aluminum cookware.) 

Washing Soda is perfect for removing residue from cutting boards.

5. Remove Cutting Board Residue  

Using the wrong thing to clean cutting boards is a common cooking mistake, but you can use washing soda to keep your cutting boards fresh and clean. It’s quick and easy, and doesn’t leave residues behind so it won’t affect the taste of your food. Use a damp sponge and a regular solution of washing soda to scrub the cutting board clean, then rinse thoroughly.

Washing Soda dissolves hard water spots, so it's perfect for cleaning bathrooms and showers.

6. Break Up Hard Water Stains In Baths, Sinks, & Showers

Use a regular solution of washing soda with a sponge or scrub brush to scrub your bathtub, sink, or to clean your shower. Washing soda will help to cut through soap scum, greasy residues, and limescale!

Washing Soda can clean your toilet and keep it flushing strongly.

7. Clean Toilets

Sprinkle a handful of washing soda into your toilet and flush it. The washing soda will help clean and freshen your toilet bowl, while also preventing blockages. You can also use a washing soda solution to soak and clean your toilet brush!

Washing soda is nontoxic and highly alkaline, making it great for cleaning.

8. Remove Soap Scum And Mildew From Shower Curtains

Your shower curtain is probably one of the things in your bathroom you aren’t cleaning often enough. Mix up a strong solution of washing soda: pour 1 cup of washing soda in 1 gallon of hot water. Use the solution and a sponge to scrub down your vinyl shower curtain and shower curtain liner. The washing soda solution will help remove soap scum, mildew, and unpleasant smells.

You can also wash your vinyl shower curtain liner in your washing machine. Just place it in your washing machine along with a couple of clean bath towels and 1/2 cup of washing soda. Run a gentle cycle, then hang to dry.

Washing Soda removes stains from carpets and upholstery.

9. Clean Upholstery & Carpet Stains

Washing soda is great for spot cleaning carpet stains (including tricky ones like wine stains!) Dab upholstery with a regular solution to eliminate stains and refresh fabrics. It’s always a good idea to test fabrics for colorfastness in an inconspicuous area first!

Washing Soda cleans and deodorizes trash cans.

10. Clean Out Smelly Trash Cans

Use a solution of washing soda to clean out your indoor and outdoor trash cans. Use a regular solution with a sponge or scrub brush to give the inside of your garbage cans a good cleaning and remove dirt, grime, unpleasant smells, and anything else that’s lurking at the bottom.

Washing Soda will restore the shine to your silverware and silver jewelry.

11. Restore Silverware & Silver Jewelry

Washing soda can help you restore shine to your silverware and silver jewelry! Soak your silver in a regular solution of washing soda for about 15 minutes or so. The tarnish will melt away before your eyes! After soaking, rinse the items thoroughly and buff with a clean microfiber cloth.

12. Kill Moss On Your Walkways

Sprinkle washing soda right on the moss and let it sit for a day or two, then use a flat shovel to scrape everything away. You can also use a solution of a couple of tablespoons of washing soda in a quart of water and soak small patches of moss with it. Be careful with this because washing soda will also kill plants and grass, especially when it is undiluted.

What’s your favorite way to use washing soda around the house?

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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  • Today i saw a receipe for Homemade Laundry Soap. Actually its using 3 products to make it. They said to use Washing Soap and i had no idea what that was. But then below the article they showed a picture of Baking Soda. So there IS A DIFFERENCE and i am glad i keep your posts and found this to find out what the difference is. Thank you for all your great information and endless ways to save money!

  • I use washing soda to clean the coffee maker. A tablespoon in a carafe of cool water stirred to dissolve then run through the machine cycle. Follow 3 or 4 times with clean water.
    I also use it to remove the wax residue in nice jar candles so I can reuse the jar. They’re lovely in the bathroom holding q tips, cotton balls, etc. I melt the wax at the bottom by sitting the jar in hot water. After pouring out any melted wax, wipe down the inside with a paper towel then add a spoonful of washing soda and hot water and let sit. When it is cooled a bit dump out and wash as usual. It will be sparkling clean.

  • I mix hot water with washing soda (about 1/4 cup to a 3/4 gallon of water) to soak labels off of bottles and jars. It works better than anything else I’ve tried. I have found that if the solution is too strong for cleaning, it will take paint off, so be careful about that.

  • Jillee,
    Recently while I was getting a facial, I noticed a sign that advertised eyelash extensions. I said that I needed eyebrow extensions. My facial lady told me to apply Castor Oil to my eyebrows with a Q-tip. Have you ever heard of this remedy for growing eyebrows? While shopping for the Castor Oil, I saw one version that was organic ($16) and on the front of the bottle, it said, “Use for eyebrows, eyelashes, and hair.” I purchased a less expensive bottle ($3) and have started using it but I wonder what you think.

  • Now I know how to use washing soda, you can bet I will be cleaning the litter boxes outside with a solution. I have trough size litter boxes and when they need scrubbed out I usually just empty them and take outside and spray them and use DAWN to clean inside and let dry. Now I have a master cleaner to use!! Thank you Jillee!!

  • I keep this in my laundry room and it works great at getting that stink out of clothing that has been left too long in the washer (the story of my life lately!)

  • In my area, you will not find washing soda in a regular grocery store.

    Helpful hint for others that can’t find it in a grocery store: I was able to find it at a health foods store that also sells supplements, natural cleaners, etc. It’s kind of like a mini Whole Foods.

  • Thank you for sharing these ideas. I already use washing soda for hard water in the washer, but there were several of these I had never heard. I will definitely have to try them out!

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