What Is The Difference Between Baking Soda and Washing Soda?


So, what is washing soda?

Washing soda has been used for a long time to clean laundry and around the house. It’s rich in sodium and can be made from the ashes of seaweed, kelp and other vegetation, though these days it’s usually derived from limestone.

I promise not to dive too deep into this part, but from a chemistry standpoint it’s very similar to baking soda:

Washing soda  (sodium carbonate) = Na2CO3 (2 sodium, 1 carbon, and 3 oxygen molecules)

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) = NaCHO3 (1 sodium, 1 hydrogen, 1 carbon, and 3 oxygen molecules)


Chemical Qualities of Washing Soda

You can view the chart above to see more of a side by side difference between baking soda and washing soda, but here are some key components to know:

  • More alkaline with pH around 11.6
  • Water Softener
  • Laundry Booster
  • Deodorizing
  • pH regulator

Although washing soda and baking soda have similar chemical equations, you can see there are some key differences for home use.

Use bicarb to clean your clothes

From dull whites to dull jewellery, baking soda will refresh and restore your whole wardrobe!

18. How to brighten whites with baking soda

Are your whites looking a bit dull? Try cleaning with baking soda!

Add 1 cup of baking soda to your next load of laundry along with regular liquid detergent. They’ll emerge much cleaner and brighter than before!

Use this little trick to whiten up the kids’ school shirts and polos.

19. How to clean jewellery with bicarbonate of soda

Clean and shiny. 
Clean and shiny. 

Make a paste using three parts bicarb and one part warm water until it resembles fondant icing. Then, using a cloth or old toothbrush, apply it to your jewellery. Rinse carefully and dry with a clean cloth.

Where do you buy washing soda?

You can purchase washing soda at most grocery stores or places like Target or Walmart. Look in the laundry aisle for the big yellow box near the detergent. It’s usually next to the borax.

Washing soda can be difficult to find but it is becoming available at more and more grocery stores. If you can’t find it you can always buy it on Amazon.

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Which one is more effective? Baking Soda vs Washing Soda?

Baking soda is not as effective as washing soda when it comes to cleaning power.

When it comes to getting rid of stains on clothing with baking soda, there is also a tendency for the stain to come back even after you have washed your clothes multiple times with baking soda.

This happens because bicarbonate-based cleaners such as baking soda are not very effective when it comes to removing grease stains. However, baking soda is an excellent cleaner for hard surfaces such as glass, tiles, and stainless steel sinks

In contrast, washing soda is more effective than baking soda when it comes to clean laundry as it has higher pH. Washing soda is also more effective than baking soda when it comes to getting rid of the smell of cat urine.

This natural cleaner can also help to make our clothes brighter and shinier by removing stains from them as they act as deodorizer and clean.

Washing soda can be used as an alternative to laundry detergent when we do not have access to laundry soap or liquid detergent that we can use on our clothes while washing them with cold water. And it’s okay to use washing soda in the washing machine

When people use washing soda as homemade laundry detergent, it has been found to be more effective in a number of different cleaning tasks such as cleaning grout without bleach.

However, washing soda cannot be washed with hard water because this will cause the chemical reaction to stop because the sodium hydroxide would get destroyed by the water. This would make washing soda not useful anymore.

Why Choose one over the other?

I ran a test to see if one powder works better than the other. I define “Works Better” as: “draws more current at a fixed voltage and therefore works faster”. First I cut two identical plates (4″ X 4 5/8″) out of 1/16″ thick mild steel to use as positive (anode) electrodes. I polished them with Scotchbrite so they were shiny on both sides. Then I located two rusty items of identical size and level of rustiness (old drifts from an auction pail) to use as the negative electrode (cathode). Next I poured 2 gallons of tap water into a 4 gallon plastic pail, filling it to 5 1/2″ deep. I added 4 tablespoons of baking soda to the water. I hooked up the electrodes and plugged in my homemade battery charger/power Supply. I set it to 15 volts and took an initial current reading. I took a few readings during the first half hour, then waited one hour and took another reading. I continued taking hourly readings for a total elapsed time of 10 hours. At each reading, I reset the voltage to 15, if needed, so I’d be comparing apples and apples. Then I cleaned the pail up. I installed the other mild steel plate as the positive electrode and used the other rusty piece as the cathode. So, I had an exact duplicate of the previous test, except that I added 4 tablespoons of washing soda.


Washing Soda causes slightly more current to flow over a 10 hour period than Baking Soda does, but probably not enough more to make it worth a special trip to the store.

If you want to see the details of the test I ran, here’s my Excel Spreadsheet: Derusting Electrolyte Strength Test

Here you can see the results of the two tests. Both drifts (the parts that I “Derusted”) look about the same after the test. It’s the left end of the drifts that I derusted. The shiny right ends are due to my polishing them slightly to get good electrical contact. About the only difference I can see between the two tests is that the anode plates themselves rusted very differently. The rust on the “Baking Soda” plate is very fine and tightly attached. But the rust on the “Washing Soda” plate is coarse, thicker and very loose. So loose, in fact that about half of the rusty surface slid off the piece as I was moving it from the pail to the floor for this picture.


Washing soda is Na2CO3, or Sodium Carbonate. It is

Washing soda is Na2CO3, or Sodium Carbonate. It is naturally derived from the ashes of plants that are grown in sodium-rich soils but can also be synthetically made from limestone and salt through the Ammonia-soda or Solvay process. It is also called “soda ash” in some areas.

Washing soda is a white coarse odorless powder with a pH level of 11. It should not be consumed, inhaled, or applied to the skin because it is abrasive. When handling the product, it is best to wear gloves.

As the name suggests, the chief purpose of washing soda is for cleaning or washing. Aside from being used to wash clothes, it can be used to clean bathtubs, bathroom sinks, floor tiles and stubborn stains like grease and wine. However, it is caustic so it may damage some surfaces. When not rinsed well, it may leave white marks on the surface as it does not quickly dissolve in water.

Difference between a Bobcat and a M… x To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video Difference between a Bobcat and a Mountain Lion

Because washing soda reacts with calcium and magnesium bonds, it is also widely used as a water softener. Additionally, it is also a component in glass-making and is used in neutralizing the chlorine in swimming pools.

On the other hand, baking soda is Sodium Bicarbona

On the other hand, baking soda is Sodium Bicarbonate or NaHCO3. It can be collected from a natural mineral called “nahcolite” but can also be artificially produced by the Solvay process. It is a water-soluble white fine powder with a pH level of 8.1.

Baking soda, sometimes called “bicarbonate of soda” or “cooking soda,” is an edible base. It is used not only as a leavening agent in cooking and baking, but also as an ingredient in homemade diy personal hygiene solutions like mouthwash, a toothpaste and facial exfoliator.

As a as a cleaning agent, baking soda is widely used to clean and disinfect ovens, carpets, countertops, chopping boards and sinks. It is gentle and does not damage surfaces.

Baking soda is not a type of alkaline material that has been used in the past to make things work better. In fact, the main uses of baking soda in the past was as a material for medicine for people who had various medical conditions.

Baking soda can neutralize gastric acid by acting as an antacid.

Additionally, baking soda quickly dissolves in water and does not leave white residue on surfaces. Although it is gentle enough to be ingested, it should not be inhaled or applied around or to the eyes.

Uses of Washing Soda

It is advisable to wear protective gloves and a mask, as washing soda may irritate the eyes and skin. It can also be toxic when inhaled. Take the necessary precautions while using washing soda.

While Doing the Laundry

  • As the name goes, washing soda is predominantly used as a cleaning agent. It is used to get rid of tough stains, including those left by grease, oil, and red wine. However, one must refrain from applying it directly on to the clothes, as it may damage cloth fibers.
  • It is also used as an agent to soften hard water. It reacts with the calcium and magnesium bonds present in the water, enabling the detergent to work.

Industrial Uses

  • Sodium carbonate is a vital ingredient used in manufacturing glass.
  • It is used in public swimming pools to neutralize the acidic level of chlorine.
  • Being a good conductor of electricity, it is used as an electrolyte in many experiments.
  • It can be used in the process of dyeing clothes, to enhance the effect of the color.
  • It effectively descales the tiles, flooring, and coffee machines as well.

Whiten Whites With Washing Soda

Another way to utilize washing soda, is making a homemade oxi-clean type of solution. Check out this post for details on making a homemade oxygenated bleach for white clothes, sheets, and towels.

Can You Use Washing Soda in HE Washing Machines?

This is a very common question from readers, so I thought I would quickly add this in here. Yes, you can. According to Arm & Hammer’s website, “ARM & HAMMER™ Super Washing Soda is 100% sodium carbonate, so there should be no issues with adding it to an HE machine. However, it is suggested to start with 1/4 to 1/3 of the recommended dose because the HE machines use much less water. For instructions on how to use ARM & HAMMER™ Super Washing Soda please visit Usage Tips .”

So, what is the difference between baking soda and washing soda?

The difference between baking soda and washing soda is water and carbon dioxide. That’s it!

When baking soda is heated up to high temperatures, it breaks down to become washing soda, water steam, and carbon dioxide.

Both products can be used to improve liquid laundry performance for cleaner, fresher clothes. Baking soda can be used in baking, as a dentifrice and as an antacid, washing soda cannot be used in baking, on or in the body.

Never, ever ingest washing soda!

I’ll show you how to turn baking soda into washing soda at the end of this post. This is a really great trick to know if you can’t find washing soda at the supermarket.

Can I substitute baking soda for washing soda?

It depends on the recipe but probably not. Since they aren’t the same thing you aren’t going to get the same results by substituting one for the other. Washing soda is better for cleaning and removing stains from laundry and baking soda is better for removing odors and neutralizing acids.

You may also like: DIY Dog Shedding Remedies

Is borax the same as washing soda?

No, borax is made from boric acid (this is a whole different post for a different day)

Can I use borax instead of washing soda?

Though washing soda and borax are often used in household purposes (mainly for cleaning), they are not the same. Both of them are used as laundry boosters. Many households uses borax as a catalyst while washing soda as the main cleaning agent.

baking soda vs washing soda
baking soda vs washing soda

What is washing soda used for?

Apart from being a key ingredient in homemade laundry powder, it has other household uses as a water softener, degreaser and stain remover.

I’ve used washing soda:

I’ve used washing soda:

  • For oven cleaning
  • Cleaning garage floors
  • As a dishwasher powder
  • To pre-soak tough stains out of fabrics (but be careful because it can damage soft fabrics)
  • On our cream coloured carpet to remove stains (sprinkle, leave to absorb, vacuum up)
  • To descale the toilets
  • To descale the kettle
  • To clean burnt pots (don’t use on aluminium)
  • For cleaning grout.
Nothing could get this burnt food off…
until I mixed some washing soda in water and boiled it for a little while…
All the burnt food lifted off and I wiped it clean.

Now that I can make as much washing soda as I’d like, I’d love to know what things you have found it useful for?

How To Make Washing Soda From Baking Soda

Although it’s not actually alchemy, making washing soda is super easy and feels kind of magical to me. I usually start a batch just after dinner while my oven is still warm from cooking.

You’ll Need

  • Baking soda
  • Large baking dish or cookie sheet with a lip around the outside
  • Heat-proof spoon or spatula

Step-By-Step Instructions

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 425-450F.

Step2: Spread 2-3 cups of baking across a large baking dish or baking sheet.

Step 3: Bake for about an hour, stirring well at least once around the halfway mark. The baking soda needs to reach 400F in order to convert to washing soda, so the exact amount of time needed will vary based on whether your oven runs hot or cold, and how thick the baking soda layer is in your pan.

You’ll know it’s ready by its visual texture. Baking soda is light and fluffy, while washing soda is flat and grainy. In the photo below, washing soda is on the left and baking soda is on the right.

It may be helpful to compare your washing soda wit

It may be helpful to compare your washing soda with baking soda to see the difference until you get a feel for how long the conversion takes with your oven.

Store your homemade washing soda in an airtight container.

Where to Get Washing Soda?

Even in our relatively small town, washing soda is easy to find on the laundry aisle of the grocery store and it is also available in boxes and in bulk online. I’ve always just purchased it because it is so inexpensive and versatile and easy to find.

I’ve gotten many comments from readers who don’t live in the US or who live in very rural areas asking if there is a substitute if they can’t find it in their area and a few other readers chimed in that they’ve been able to make it at home from baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) which seems to be available practically everywhere.

The best part?

The process of turning sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate is a simple chemical reaction that can be easily accomplished in an oven!

In short, using enough heat for a long enough period of time will change the structure of sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate while releasing excess carbon dioxide and steam.Bonus points if you try this simple method and turn it into a science lesson for your kids at the same time!

Anushka F


A keen money-saver and fan of all things natural, Anushka enjoys making her own beauty products and is partial to a bit of crafting. Never short of a clever tip or two, she’s always looking for new ways to make her money go even further.

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