Sodium carbonate (also known as washing sodasoda ash and soda crystals)
is the water-soluble sodium salt of carbonic acid.

Pure sodium carbonate is a white, doorless powder with a strongly alkaline taste. washing soda featured

Washing Soda or Sodium carbonate (also known as soda ash and soda crystals) has a chemical formula of Na2CO3.

Pure sodium carbonate is a white, doorless powder with a strongly alkaline taste.

It has been used for centuries.


Soda ash was called so because it was originally extracted from the ashes  of plants growing in sodium-rich soils, such as vegetation from the Middle East, kelp from Scotland and seaweed from Spain.

It also occurs naturally as a residue. “When seasonal lakes evaporate, they leave a huge chunk of mineral deposits behind. These deposits are good sources of sodium carbonate. Other dry lakes and wells are also good sources of the same. It is also believed to have been erupted from volcanoes. Large deposits of sodium carbonate are found in Africa and North America.”


While it can be made from the  ashes of  plants or  occur naturally as a residue most is now via one of these heavily industrialised processes:

The Solvay Process  Uses limestone, salt and ammonia to transform salt (sodium chloride). 

Mining –  Trona ore  is mined, then heated until it turns into soda ash also known as washing soda. Bicarbonate of soda is obtained along the way. Read more.

Baking Soda V Washing Soda

Baking Soda’s PH is not as alkaline as washing soda, so it doesn’t cause skin irritation and you don’t need gloves to handle them. It is not as harsh as washing soda but neither is it as effective a cleaner. It is also half as effective at softening water.

You can turn bicarb back into washing soda by baking it so that breaks back down into water steam, carbon dioxide and washing soda. I have never done this but by all acounts need to cook your bicarb in the oven for half an hour at 400 F (or 200 C).

You can read more about bicarb versus washing soda  here


Water Softener

Methods for softening hard water involve the removal of calcium ions and magnesium ions from the water.

This can be done by adding sodium carbonate to the water.

  • “The water is softened because it no longer contains dissolved calcium ions and magnesium ions. It will form lather more easily with soap.However, the calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate precipitates to form limescale. As well as being unsightly on your taps, it can also clog up pipes in heating systems (causing them to break down). This makes treatment with sodium carbonate suitable for softening water only in certain circumstances – such as softening water for hand washing clothes.

washing Soda is alkaline which means it will work well  with organic soils ( dirt). Alkaline emulsify grease.  Fatty acids are normally insoluble which is why they cannot be cleaned using water alone. The alkaline breaks down fat making them dispersable in water. Read more here

For the same reason it can help remove wax from floors

•helps in better absorption of dye

•reduces the acidic effects of chlorine in swimming pools.

• an excellent descaling agent

A powdered form of dishwasher detergent can be made with washing soda and Borax .

For more uses and a rather cheery info graphic visit Dripak.

Dripak sell washing soda – in plastic bags. Here’s some of their blurb

All-natural Dri-Pak Soda Crystals are bio-degradable and contain no phosphates, enzymes or bleach. Soda Crystals are an alkaline “washing soda”. The main uses of Soda Crystals are to dissolve grease, soften water, loosen dirt and reduce acidity. You can safely combine Soda Crystals with other natural ingredients like baking soda and soap flakes for even more cleaning power. Soda Crystals, along with Soap Flakes, have a long history. They were the primary cleaning products in use at the turn of the twentieth century.

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