This DIY Treatment Is the Secret to Cleaner Laundry (Seriously!)

published Jan 3, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Young female worker in dry-cleaning salon removing stain from white shirt.
Credit: hedgehog94/Shutterstock

If you’re a pro at making your own cleaning products, washing soda may already be on your radar. Similar to (but more potent than) baking soda, washing soda is a chemical compound, which also goes by “soda ash” and “soda crystals.” According to Amber Hendrickson, owner of Bubbles and Buckets, washing soda is a cleaning workhorse that can help you tackle many chores around your home, including laundry stains, clogged drains, and dirty grout

Here’s everything you need to know about this cleaning agent that might make your cleaning days a little easier.

What Is Washing Soda? 

Hendrickson says washing soda is the inorganic compound sodium carbonate decahydrate (Na2CO3). “It’s a white and odorless powder that’s highly alkaline,” she explains, adding that it’s become a go-to cleaning agent for people due to its strength and versatility. 

“It’s popular for cleaning because it’s powerful and serves many purposes, including stain removal, unclogging drains, softening water, deodorizing,” Hendrickson says. “And many use it in DIY cleaners as well,” she adds.

Washing Soda vs. Baking Soda vs. Borax

You might hear washing soda, baking soda, and borax referred to as similar types of cleaners, but Hendrickson says these are very different compounds. “Washing soda is extremely alkaline with a pH level of 11,” she says, adding that borax (sodium tetraborate decahydrate) has a pH of nine, and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) has an eight. 

Hendrickson says washing soda’s high pH level makes it “superior when it comes to cleaning and as a laundry booster.” High-alkaline cleaners, meaning substances with a high pH, easily remove “organic residues,” according to cleaning company Alconox. “[Washing soda] is effective at removing stains from laundry and better at fighting grease and grime around the house,” Hendrickson says.

Washing Soda Uses 

Now that you know what washing soda is, you may wonder how to take advantage of it in your home. Hendrickson says all you need to do to get started is add a half-cup of washing soda to a gallon of hot water. Once it’s dissolved, she says you’ll be able to use it for everything from cleaning your bathrooms to tackling hard water stains. Note: Make sure you wear gloves whenever you use washing soda to clean your home because it can irritate your skin.

Laundry

Washing soda is also “fantastic as a laundry booster,” Hendrickson says. You can add washing soda to all your loads of laundry for an extra clean boost, according to the Arm & Hammer Washing Soda uses, but don’t use it on silk, leather, wool, or dry-clean-only items. It can also be used to treat stains and soften hard water.

Clogged Drains

“Clogged drains? No problem! Pour one cup [of washing soda] down the drain followed by a gallon of hot water to help remove buildup,” Hendrickson says. Harris Washing Soda also lists clearing drains as an approved use of the cleaning product. “To keep up on any stubborn drains, add a half-cup once a week followed by a gallon of hot water to keep your drain clear,” Hendrickson adds.

Household Chores

Some common uses listed on washing soda packages include spot-cleaning upholstery; cleaning kitchen sinks; cleaning bathroom sinks, tubs, and showers; getting rid of burnt-on stains from pots and pans; and removing tarnish from silver, copper, and brass. “It’s super versatile and can replace a lot of your average household cleaning products,” Hendrickson says. 

But don’t start dousing all of your surfaces in washing soda quite yet; Hendrickson says there are some things you should never clean with washing soda. “Don’t use it on aluminum, painted finishes or surfaces, or floors with a wax finish, as it will damage them,” she explains. 

Where to Buy Washing Soda

You can buy washing soda almost anywhere cleaning agents are sold. Just remember that washing soda does go by a few different names, so you may see it advertised in a variety of ways while you’re shopping — for example, Arm & Hammer sells Super Washing Soda — or sold just using the chemical name of sodium bicarbonate.