Washing soda is a highly useful household staple, recalling the days when housewives made their own soaps at home. It is used as a chemical base in a variety of soaps and cleaners and for this reason, it is also used to increase the pH level in swimming pools. It is often called soda ash or pH increaser when sold for that purpose.
Washing soda is also known as soda ash or sodium carbonate, and is a close chemical relative of baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate. If you heat baking soda to 176 or 204 degrees C, it will turn to washing soda. It can be found at mass retailers in either the laundry or cleaning sections or the pool supplies. In some detergent recipes, baking soda substitutes for washing soda adequately.
Washing soda has been used for centuries in its naturally occurring form. The Egyptians used a compound containing washing soda in their mummification of the dead. Nicholas LeBlanc, a French chemist, first made it in a laboratory in 1791. Its components are salt and limestone, and it also occurs naturally in some parts of the world, such as in Wyoming. Previous to LeBlanc’s discovery, alkaline compounds like soda were used mainly in commercial soapmaking and laundering because of their rarity and cost. LeBlanc opened the doors for lower classes to launder and bathe more often with his method of deriving washing soda from salt.
Washing soda is commonly used as an ingredient in homemade dishwasher soap, combined with Borax and often lemon or orange essential oils for fragrance. A powdered form of dishwasher detergent can be made with washing soda and Borax (see Resources for recipes). Regular dish soap is not made with washing soda.
Washing soda is a key ingredient in homemade laundry soaps along with Borax. A laundry soap from Borax, washing soda and Fels-Naptha bar soap is a time-tested recipe for detergent made at home. It can be used to make powder, gel or liquid laundry soaps, depending on the amount of water used in the soapmaking (see Resources).
Washing soda can be used for many other household cleaning tasks. It cuts grime and grease, so it makes a good stain remover with some water. It is good at removing or lightening tea, coffee, grease, blood and ink stains. When shaken onto grease or wax deposits, it helps dissolve them, and can be spooned down drains to remove grease and soap scum build-up. Use it to clean delicate silver and glassware for shine and also to remove moss and plant slime from patios and greenhouses.
Washing soda, or soda ash in most pool chemical references, is an inexpensive and easy way to raise the pH level in pools when the acidity is too high. It’s used by mixing the soda with water ahead of time and then adding the mixture to the pool. Soda ash is an alkaline material and will raise the pH level in a pool.
Sodium carbonate is a strongly basic substance, and can be irritating to the eyes and mouth. Avoid breathing in any fine powder from it, and wear rubber gloves when skin contact may happen. Keep it away from young children and animals. Washing soda is also not good to use on aluminium surfaces, fibreglass, waxed or varnished surfaces--because of its alkalinity, it will eat away at the wax or varnish.
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