What is the Difference Between Washing Soda and Baking Soda?

Washing Soda and Baking Soda are ingredients mentioned in my environmentally friendly detergent and fabric softener recipes. Washing Soda was used in the detergent and Baking Soda was used in the fabric softener. Both of the products are found at most grocery stores – the washing soda is usually sold by the laundry boosters (like Borax) and the baking soda is usually found in the same isle as the flour and other baking items.

Let’s start with the washing soda - If you read the box, it does not tell you exactly what it is made of, but it will tell you what it does. Basically, it claims to assist your regular detergent in getting out ground-in dirt and stains, along with cutting through greasy soils. It also claims to help neutralize and eliminate odors, not cover them up with perfumes.

Instructions say to add ½ cup of washing soda along with laundry detergent – liquid or powder - at the beginning of the wash cycle. And for tough stain removal it is recommended that you pre-soak the item for a minimum of 30 minutes, however overnight soaking is recommended.

So what’s in it? Baking Soda was my first guess – and that guess would be wrong. A little research found that washing soda is actually made of Sodium Carbonate Dechydrate, also referred to as “soda ash.” One of its main functions is to raise the pH of the water, which helps detergents to create suds more easily in hard water and do a better job cleaning and rinsing completely.

Washing soda’s ability to break down minerals in hard water is a reason why you can use it for cleaning toilets and descaling coffee pots, among other things.

Baking Soda is different in that it is made of Sodium Bicarbonate. Also known as bicarbonate of soda, it is most commonly used in baking and can also be used to neutralize the acidity in certain dishes (and our stomachs when used as an antacid). It has also been widely used to clean everything from your teeth to the kitchen sink.

Also, since many odors are caused by strong acids, and baking soda neutralizes those acids, you will find baking soda a key ingredient room and body deodorizers.