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Washing soda is a household staple and it is not surprising to find a box of it in the laundry room in most homes. However, what is surprising is the versatility of this humble compound, the many uses it secretly conceals. I happened to stumble upon a washing soda hack last month (one that made my life very easy, but more on that later) and soon unearthed a veritable goldmine.
But before I talk about different ways you can put washing soda to good use, let me give you a brief idea of what it exactly is.
What is Washing Soda?
Washing soda or sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), is a chemical compound that is a component in most laundry detergents. It is used to remove stubborn stains from clothing, and can also be used to treat hard water.
Washing soda softens water, by binding the constituent minerals which make the water hard. It also gently cleanses stains from clothing and enables the detergent to be properly absorbed by the fiber.
Is Washing Soda Safe?
Washing soda is highly alkaline and has a ph of 11. This makes it especially effective when it comes to the removal of seemingly indelible marks on garments.
It is considered safe for unsupervised use and does not give off harmful fumes or odor. It is a mild skin irritant, but only when used in an extremely concentrated form. However, if one is prone to allergies then it is advisable to wear gloves during use so as to avoid direct contact.
23 Brilliant Uses of Washing Soda:
1. Laundry Soap
If you wash clothes by hand, then you are no stranger to the abrasive nature of most store-bought laundry soaps. In addition, they are usually quite bland- a square bar of a rather unappealing green or blue.
Making your own soap at home might sound like a lot of work, but it actually is not. Use a standard DIY soap recipe for the process, and add the requisite amount of powdered washing soda to the mixture.
You can also add organic coloring and/or essential oils to the mix, to whip up a batch of really fancy soap!
2. Laundry Pre-soak
Another use in the “laundry” universe, a laundry pre-soak is not spoken about enough. Have you ever had your clothes err just slightly on the side of looking unwashed, even though you’ve just given them a rigorous scrub? Me too.
A laundry soak is a perfect solution for your garment woes. Best done overnight, soak your clothes in a bucket of hot water and a couple of tablespoons of washing soda. Wash with detergent the next day.
Pro Tip: Add a few drops of eau-de-cologne to the bucket, and have your clothes come out of the wash crisp and perfumed.
3. DIY Cleaning Solution
A great way to save money around the house is to make one’s own cleaning solution, courtesy of a few easily available ingredients. You can use one of the many recipes on the internet, or fashion your own concoction as I did.
I took inspiration from one of my favorite cleaning recipes by Sophie Uliano, with a few tweaks of my own. You will need washing soda, soap, white vinegar or lemon and a vial of your favorite essential oil.
The resulting mixture can be bottled for days and used at will. It functions as a natural multi-purpose cleaner and works wonders on all types and textures of surfaces ranging from wood to marble. Added bonus? It is eco-friendly and does not wreak havoc on delicate furnishings as bleach cleaners do.
4. Drain Cleaner
Drainage in our homes and gardens is an aspect most of us tend to overlook (and with good reason). What if I told you I had a way to combat this, and with panache?
All you need is a cup of washing soda and a good quantity of warm water. Run hot water down your drains and add the solution. Flush the drain with hot water after a stipulated time. Easy to use, this can be done every few weeks and helps one keep on top of their drainage maintenance schedules
Pro Tip: Washing soda is also very useful when it comes to unclogging drains. Use hot water (boiling hot) and half a cup of vinegar for the clogs that refuse to budge.
5. Floor cleaner
Cleaning floors can be a task, and often has disappointing results. No matter how hard you scrub, your floors might never end up looking sparkling “advertisement-clean” clean. It might be time to switch to a more effective home remedy, a floor-cleaner with washing soda!
Washing soda has natural exfoliating properties and works wonders when part of the right mix. Vinegar and hot water are the two staples. You can further customize with lime juice which works as a natural bleach. Adding citrus juice (grapefruit, orange) also performs the exact same function.
6. Stripping Solvent
Refinishing floors brings with it a multitude of issues that require proper handling, most commonly the stripping of paint or wax. Washing soda makes for a very effective stripping solvent.
Make a thick paste of sodium carbonate and water, and spread it on the concerned areas. Take care to make sure it is even and uniform. Leave on for a few hours, and if possible, overnight.
Pro Tip: Always wear gloves.
7. Carpet Cleaner
A natural successor of the DIY floor cleaner, washing soda can also be used to clean carpets. Now, carpets are a little more tricky due to their various textures.
Washing soda works admirably well during the process. Gentle exfoliation with a warm water solution is considerably effective for the more delicate variety of carpets.
Add vinegar or lime juice to make sure the cleaning solution bleaches out stains. Wash and vacuum dry.
8. Removing hard water deposits
Coffee pots and tea servers tend to accumulate their fair share of hard water deposits. Eventually, the sedimentary nature of these deposits affects the quality of the beverage brewed inside the kettle.
It is a good idea to clean your kettles and pots occasionally with warm water and washing soda. Washing soda is a water softener and is notoriously effective at getting rid of the unwanted deposits.
Run the pot or kettle with water 3-4 times, to clean out any remnant washing soda particles.
10. Silverware Polish
If you have an eye for silver dinnerware or dessert services, you are familiar with the need for regular upkeep and maintenance. And while packaged cleaning solutions marketed especially for silverware is definitely a tempting option, they usually contain harmful chemicals and bleaches.
Fret not, because it is deceptively simple to fashion one’s own silverware polish. All you need is washing soda, salt, and aluminum foil. Wrap the bottom of a baking pan in the foil, and add a cup of washing soda and 2 tablespoons of salt in a gallon of water. Bring the water to boil, and put in your silverware for half a minute. Gently pat dry.
Sustainable and free from toxicity, this DIY recipe can be whipped up at a moment’s notice.
11. Grease removal
Washing soda works wonders when it comes to the easy removal of grease stains. Using simply detergent is not as effective and often leads to some rather unfortunate dissipation, which is certainly not the intended result.
Spread an even layer of the washing soda powder on the stains before you put them in the wash.
Pro Tip: Time yourself correctly, and keep a 20-30 minute window in hand. Leaving the washing soda on for too long might eat through thin clothing.
12. Clean Moss and Mildew
It takes a remarkably short amount of time for decks and driveways to become slick with moss, especially during monsoons. Keep them clean by combining a simple mixture of washing soda and borax in hot water. Scrub the area with the solution, and wash with water once the plant growth has been removed.
Mix 1 cup of borax and 3 cups of washing soda per bucket of water.
13. DIY Deodorizer
Washing soda is not only an effective cleaner but also is a great natural deodorizer. Put a light dusting on the base and around the edges of the trash cans in your kitchen and bathroom, and keep the air smelling fresh.
Alternatively, you can also clean out sinks, tubs and garbage cans with a washing soda solution once every few weeks. The fun part? You can manufacture a cleaning potion that caters to your own preferences by adding in a few drops of your favorite fragrance.
14. Shower curtain cleaning
We tend to overlook the periodic cleaning of shower curtains. The logic is simple- is the shower curtain not washing itself every other day? No, it is not. In and out of the water constantly, shower curtains are never properly dry and accumulate mildew in the folds. Mildew is who we have to thank for the nasty greenish tinge all shower curtains acquire after a while.
Give your shower curtains a good scrub with a washing soda solution every three months to get rid of the mildew.
15. Treat your Pool Water
The ideal pH for pool water is 7.4, just a little above the optimum mark for basic solutions. Pools require a proper chemical balance, and in the scenario that your pool water gets acidic, the results could be harmful. It corrodes pool equipment, causes staining and leads to an irritant-rich environment for swimmers.
To ensure the health of your pool water and bring it back to its requisite pH, you can add washing soda powder to the water. An inexpensive fix, it can be added until the requirement ceases.
16. Oven and Grill cleaning
You have just hosted a very successful outdoor barbecue. It is the day after and you are still in high spirits until you catch sight of your grill. It looks both grim and grimy and has charred remains of food and grit.
Cleaning grills, ovens and similar cooking apparatus is hard work. It is also something one cannot exactly put off for later, because a clean kitchen is imperative to good health. And while dishwashing liquid is the more obvious solution, certain stains are too stubborn for even these bottled chemicals to deal with.
Instead, make a washing soda solution and use it to scrub your range, ovens, and broiler. Add vinegar to get rid of the more stubborn staining.
17. Shoe cleaning and deodorization
Sneakers are not to be worn without socks. But it is easy to slip up (I know I have) and with disastrous results. An easy way to combat smelly sneakers is to sprinkle some powdered washing soda inside the shoes. Loosen the laces, flip the tongue and watch this sodium salt work its magic. Dust the shoes properly before use.
Hot water and washing soda solution can also be used to clean shoes, even your dirtiest pair. Soak the shoes for an hour or two, then scrub them down with a loofah or bristly brush.
Pro Tip: If you are cleaning white shoes, make sure you wash them separately.
18. Clean your Gardening Equipment
As well as washing soda works indoors, it is equally useful in the garden. As avid gardeners will have you know, a simple washing soda and vinegar mix can miraculously even the oldest mud stains on a pair of rusty old shears. Take a leaf out of their book ( one on autumnal foliage, no doubt) and adopt this technique to keep your gardening tools squeaky clean.
19. Clean Cutting Boards
Cutting boards, ever since their advent, have made a mundane task like chopping up vegetables enjoyable. If you tell me you do not take pleasure in neatly slicing a carrot or cubing up a cucumber with swift, decisive moves you are a liar. And with the incentives, comes the responsibility. The responsibility of keeping these trusty blocks of wood, plastic or marble clean.
And as is the case with every other item on the list, a washing soda solution does the job. Gently rinse the board to remove any residual traces.
20. Pest control
If you have a garden, you know that even a small plot of grass can house countless bugs. Bugs that seem to slip in through closed doors. And while chemical sprays guarantee results, they are expensive and harmful to the general environment.
Using a washing soda spray is sustainable and inexpensive. Spray the plants in and around your home to get rid of whitefly and mites.
Pro Tip: Line the base of earthen pots to keep bugs at bay.
21. Clean Windshield
An easily available and sustainable solution for your windshield woes, give your windshield a wipe down with some washing soda in hot water. It removes grime, stains and dead bugs that may be caught in the wipers.
Pro Tip: Avoid splashing onto the paint surface or aluminum alloy wheels.
22. Toilet bowl cleaning
Chemical toilet cleaners do not always give the best results, and often leave the toilet bowl looking wan and faded.
Measure a cup of washing soda powder and flush it down the toilet to clean and deodorize. It also acts as an unclogging agent and helps to naturally induce dissipation of any blockages.
You can also periodically scrub out your toilets with a washing soda and vinegar solution. Use a toilet brush for optimum effect.
23. Clean concrete
Last on the list but not the least, washing soda or soda ash is an excellent concrete cleaner. All you need is warm water, washing soda, a good brush, and formidable patience. The solution’s alkalinity removes stains and marks off of concrete surfaces, albeit with a little hard scrubbing.
Pro Tip: Use a washing soda mix to clean out the motor oil stains from your garage floor.
With its inherent cleansing properties, washing soda is a safe bet for all your household chores. It is also a green product and does not wreak havoc on the environment as do most chemical cleaners. Cost-effective and easily available, washing soda should be the go-to product before spring cleaning and otherwise. If it is not already.