Welcome to the fourth installment of “Back to basics,” a series of posts where I highlight Earth-friendly, old-school household cleaning and laundering solutions that have been around for a while for good reason: they’re inexpensive, effective, sans synthetics, and likely have your granny's or great-granny’s seal of approval.

Previously I featured Bon Ami Cleaning Powder, 20 Mule Team Borax, and Dr. Bronner’s Classic Liquid Soaps. Up to bat today is Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (aka sodium carbonate, SAL soda, or soda ash), a naturally occurring alkaline mineral that’s related to baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) but packs more of a punch with a pH of 11.

What makes washing soda a stellar product to have around the house is its all-in-one versatility: similar to borax, it makes for a great water-softening, stain-busting bleach substitute when added to laundry; it neutralizes odors much like baking soda; it gives shine to silver; and it can replace chemical solvents when removing heavy-duty household spills and stains like motor oil, grease, wine, crayons, lipstick and wax.

And while you can find generic brand washing soda in the laundry section of grocery stores, the gold-standard brand of everything soda, Arm & Hammer, packages its Super Washing Soda in recycled content boxes.

Washing soda should not be used on fiberglass or aluminum surfaces, shouldn't be used to clean/de-clog drains, and should be kept safe from the curious tongues of kids and pets. Again, although it’s “natural” and closely related to milder baking soda, washing soda must be handled with care given that it is, in fact, caustic. The use of rubber gloves when handling washing soda is recommended since it can irritate the skin.

Below are two basic washing soda-based recipes to try out. Do you have any of your own to share?

All-purpose cleaner

1/2 tsp. washing soda

1/2 tsp. liquid laundry soap

2 tsp. borax

2 cups hot water

Mix washing soda, soap, and borax in a spray bottle. Add water.   

Powdered laundry soap

8 cups washing soda

8 cups baking soda

8 cups grated Kirk’s Original Coco Castile Soap

12 cups borax

Mix all ingredients together and store in a sealed tub. Use 1/8 cup of powder per full load of laundry.

Photo: allison b216

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