When I first went plasticfree I read up on alternative ways to clean online. Lots of people reccomended Bicarbonate of soda, Washing Soda and Borax.
So I went out and stocked up.
Then I began to make increasingly complex recipes to clean my tiles and wash my clothes. To be honest I found ECover refill washing up liquid, bicarb and soap met all of my needs. Adding borax or washing soda made very little difference. But because they are stronger than bicarb, you are meant to wear gloves when you use them. So now I have to source plastic free gloves. Way too much hassle So I have stopped using them. And I don’t miss them.
What Are They
The trinity of green cleaning – washing soda, bicarbonate and borax. Often mentioned rarely explained!
Let’s take washing soda and bicarbonate of soda first. Why because they are related.
They are both biodegradable
Washing soda has many industrial uses and as such is produced on an industrial scale. Bicarbonate of soda is a byproduct of that process.
Washing Soda or Sodium carbonate (also known as soda ash and soda crystals) has a chemical formula of Na2CO3.
Bicarbonate of soda Chemical formula NaHCO3.
One sodium atom difference between the two
Making Bicarbonate and Washing Soda
Bicarbonate of soda can be produced as a by product of washing soda 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
Both are alkaline so good at removing organic soils (but not inorganic).
Washing soda has a pH of 11
borax is 9.3 pH
Fairy liquid has a pHof 9.2
Ivory bar soap from Proctor and Gambol 9.5
Soapy water has pH of 9
Bicarbonate of Soda has pH of 9
Baking Soda’s PH is not as alkaline as washing soda. That one sodium atom (Na) makes a difference.
Washing soda is stronger than bicarb
Washing Soda can soften water bicarbonate of soda cannot.
N.B. 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 accounts need to cook your bicarb in the oven for half an hour at 400 F (or 200 C).
Borax falls somewhere in between .It is gentler than Soda Crystals yet stronger than Bicarbonate of Soda.
There are concerns that borax is toxic. So much so that you cannot buy it in the U.K. anymore. but there is little in the way of firm conclusions leading many to pooh pooh this ban.
What do I use
NB if I ever did need some washing soda I would cook up some bicarb.
BUT I live in a soft water area.
Use & Buy
Uses of Borax and where to buy
Borax occurs naturally in evaporite deposits produced by the repeated evaporation of seasonal lakes. The most commercially important deposits are found in Turkey; Boron, California; and Searles Lake, California. Also, borax has been found at many other locations in the Southwestern United States, the Atacama desert in Chile, newly discovered deposits in Bolivia, and in Tibet and Romania. Borax can also be produced synthetically from other boron compounds.
Proper borax is No longer sold on the shelves in the UK. You have to make do with a borax substitute from Dripak.
“Borax Substitute is sodium sesquicarbonate – a mineral compound, with similar pH to borax, making it ideal for cleaning and laundry. It is gentler than Soda Crystals yet stronger than Bicarbonate of Soda.
Using Borax Substitute around the house
Uses Borax Substitute as a:
Multi-purpose cleaner – Mix it with some water to form a paste. This makes it an excellent scouring agent that offers more cleaning power than Bicarbonate of Soda.
A water softener to help keep your washing machine clear of limescale.
To make your own bath salts, simply add some perfume or essential oils and a drop of food colouring to some Borax Substitute.”
That said you can still buy borax from Ebay
Sodium carbonate, also known as soda ash, is a white, anhydrous and hygroscopic powder with a purity. There are two forms of sodium carbonate available, light soda and dense soda (granular). Sodium carbonate has a melting point of 851C, it decomposes when heated and therefore a boiling point can not be determined. Sodium carbonate is an inorganic salt and therefore the vapour pressure can be considered negligible. It is soluble in water and solubility increases with temperature. The average particle size diameter (d50) of light sodium carbonate is in the range of 90 to 150 µm and of dense sodium carbonate is in the range of 250 to 500 µm. Sodium carbonate is a strong alkaline compound. The pKa of CO3 2- is 10.33, which means that at a pH of 10.33 both carbonate and bicarbonate are present in equal amounts.