It looks and feels for all the world like laundry detergent. White. Coarse. Powdery.
A mineral mined from vegetation in dry lake bottoms in the Middle East, kelp from Scotland and seaweed from Spain, it’s used to make glass, bricks, paper, rayon and toothpaste. It cleans silver and softens water.
Its real name is sodium carbonate, but this stuff also goes by soda ash, Na2CO3 and good old Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda.
Washing soda and I go way back. For years, I have added washing soda to the washer for cleaner, whiter, brighter laundry. More recently, it has become one of the ingredients in our homemade laundry detergent.
Best of all, washing soda (aka sodium carbonate) is cheap. Depending on the source, expect to pay around 10 cents per ounce.
More recently, I have discovered that washing soda is much more than a laundry detergent booster. With a powerful pH of 11, washing soda acts as a solvent all around the house and garage. It removes dirt, grime, greasy buildup and a range of stains.
Remove the burners. Sprinkle dry washing soda on a damp sponge, and scrub that stovetop, broiler pan and oven, making sure to avoid the heat element. Soak the burners in a solution of 1/2 cup washing soda dissolved in a gallon of warm water for at least an hour. This will soften and break down all of the greasy gunk and grime. Scrub as needed. Rinse well. And dry.
COOKWARE, POTS, PANS
To remove greasy, burned-on stains from cookware (do not use on aluminum cookware), fill the pot with hot water. Add a spoonful of washing soda and a splash of dishwashing liquid. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then simmer for 15 minutes. Caution: DO NOT use on aluminum cookware.
COFFEE POTS, CUP, CARAFES
Coffee and tea often leave ugly brown stains in kettles, pots and cups. Fill the stained item with hot water, and add some washing soda. Allow it to sit for at least an hour, or even overnight. Stains will easily rinse away in the morning.
Clean and freshen garbage cans, tablecloths, shower curtains, patio furniture and anything plastic with 1/2 cup washing soda dissolved in 1 gallon warm water. Wash and rinse.
Flush a cup of washing soda down the toilet to clean and freshen, and to help prevent blockages.
Clean ceramic tile and grout with a regular solution (1/2 cup washing soda to 1 gallon warm water). You may need to scrub the grout with a stiff brush. You won’t believe the clean and sparkling results.
A mild solution of washing soda will help remove dead flies, bugs and grime from windshields. Avoid splashing onto the car’s painted surface. DO NOT use on aluminum alloy wheels.
Get rid of whiteflies and mites by spraying plants and trees with a mild solution of 1/2 cup washing soda to 2 gallons water.
STAINS ON CONCRETE, GARAGE FLOOR
Pour a generous amount of dry washing soda on spills and stains. Sprinkle lightly with water to create a thick paste. Allow it to sit overnight. The following day, scrub with a stiff brush (re-wetting as needed). Hose down, and then wipe the surface clean.
Look for Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda in the laundry aisle of some supermarkets and discount stores and online. Generally, a 55-ounce box runs about $5 in the store. When the price is right, I buy it online as soda ash. Remember that Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda and soda ash are 100% sodium carbonate — exactly the same.
CAUTION: While washing soda doesn’t give off harmful fumes, you do need to wear gloves because it can cause skin irritation. DO NOT use sodium carbonate on aluminum, fiberglass, leather, silk, wool, no-wax floors or treated wood surfaces. Always test in an inconspicuous place first.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, “Ask Mary a Question,” or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a personal finance member website and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living, Revell 2014. To find out more about Mary visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.