What Is Washing Soda and How Is It Used?

washing soda in a jar

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

If you are researching how to make your own laundry detergent, one of the most common ingredients in a DIY recipe is washing soda.

What Is Washing Soda?

Washing soda is a chemical compound, also known as sodium carbonate, frequently used in DIY and commercial laundry detergents.

Washing soda (a more abrasive cleaning agent) should not be confused with baking soda (a less abrasive cleaning agent), although the two compounds are closely related since they both contain the mineral trona. Washing soda and baking soda can be used together in DIY detergent recipes to remove stains, but washing soda has more of a stripping action to remove residues of oils, minerals, and fabric softeners. The sodium carbonate in washing soda "softens" water to help other cleaning ingredients lift soil from the fabrics and suspend the soil in the wash water. The washing soda binds to the minerals which make water hard and allows the detergent to be absorbed into fibers to properly clean the clothes.

The following is an even deeper look at washing soda and the role it can play in cleaning laundry and tackling other household chores.

washing soda and laundry
The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Fun Fact

One common source of washing soda is the ashes of burned plants; for this reason, it's sometimes called soda ash.


Click Play to Learn What Washing Soda Is and How to Use It

What Are the Uses of Washing Soda?

  • In the laundry room, the high alkalinity of washing soda allows it to act as a solvent in removing a wide range of stains. For home laundry, washing soda can be dissolved in water to create a pre-soaking solution for tough stains such as grease, blood, tea, and coffee stains.
  • Outside the laundry room, sodium carbonate is also used by some textile artists to help dyes adhere to fabric. This is particularly useful when creating natural dyes from plants.
  • Washing soda can be used to remove greasy buildup from pots and pans, oven racks, and drip pans. It is very good for removing coffee and tea stains from ceramics and plastic storage containers. It can even be used in bathrooms to remove soap scum and around the house for general cleaning of hard surfaces. For cleaning, mix a solution of 1/2 cup of washing soda to 1 gallon of warm water.
  • To unclog drains, pour 1 cup of washing soda into the clogged drain followed by 2 or 3 cups of boiling water. Allow the washing soda to work for 30 minutes and then flush the drain well with plain water. Repeat as needed.
  • In the garden, washing soda works well to clean outdoor furniture and decks.
  • It can also be mixed (1/2 cup to 2 gallons of water) to create a spray to help control aphids, whiteflies, and black spot on roses.

Since sodium carbonate can be dangerous in large quantities, make sure to keep washing soda out of the reach of children and pets. You should wear gloves when cleaning with washing soda because it can cause skin irritation.

In the United States, most washing soda is sold under the Arm & Hammer brand, manufactured by Church and Dwight. If you can't find it locally, washing soda is readily available online.

using washing soda to clean pots and pans
The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 

How to Make Washing Soda From Baking Soda

If you cannot find washing soda in your area and don't want to place an online order, you can make your own by slowly heating baking soda.

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate NaHCO3) is plentiful and inexpensive. By heating baking soda you will release the carbon dioxide and water molecules, leaving you with dry sodium carbonate or washing soda.

  1. Place about 2 cups of baking soda in a shallow baking dish or on a shallow baking sheet. Working in smaller quantities is easier to monitor and control.
  2. Place the dish in a 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for one hour.
  3. Stir the baking soda and smooth back out to an even layer.
  4. Bake an additional hour at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Allow the baking soda (now washing soda) to cool completely. It will look more yellow and be much more coarse in texture.
  6. Store in an airtight container.
  7. Label the container and store it out of reach of children and pets.
making your own washing soda
The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Trona. Wyoming Mining Association.

  2. How to Strip Your Laundry With Washing Soda. Arm & Hammer.

  3. Sodium CarbonateNational Library Of Medicine.