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8 Wonderful Ways to Use Washing Soda – Ask Annie

Submitted by on Thursday, 1 October 20093 Comments

washing-sodaHi Annie... I was looking at all your green cleaning product recipes. My daughters and I have started to wash our hair with products made from home that are non-toxic. Both my girls have very curly dry hair (they are mixed, their father is African American,) and I could not believe when I started looking at the ingredients! No wonder so many people are going bald. In any case, it caused us to really start looking at the ingredients in everything, and we just want to be good to our world. So thank you for sharing…

I do have a few questions: what is washing soda, where might one get that stuff, and what’s the best way to use it?
Thanks, Ashley

Hi Ashley,
Thanks for checking with me. I recently put an article on GreenChiCafe.com called Five Basics for Nontoxic Cleaning. You will find your answer there, as well as a number of other great kitchen cupboard ingredients to use for cleaning. You can buy washing soda in the laundry section of most supermarkets; it is usually next to 20 Mule Team Borax.

But let me tell you about some wonderful ways to use washing soda:

1. FIREPLACE AND SOOT CLEANSER: Washing away fireplace smoke and soot, or cleaning the smoke off the glass in wood stove doors, is easy and safe using washing soda (available in the laundry section of the supermarket).

Washing soda can peel wax off floors, and it isn’t recommended for aluminum, so only use on surfaces such as unpainted wood, glass or stone; they won’t be harmed.

1 bucket warm water
1/2 cup washing soda

Wash surface, wearing gloves; then rinse.

2. TOUGH JOB CLEANSER: For really tough jobs, make a thick washing soda paste by mixing it with water, and then spread the paste on the soot. Keep the paste damp by spraying every hour or so with a spray bottle. Leave the paste on overnight, and then rinse. Make certain to only use this formula on inert surfaces such as glass and stone, as this amount of washing soda can peel off paint, wax, etc.

3. DRAIN CLOGS: No lye, you can keep your drains from clogging in a kinder and gentler way.

Washing soda is an excellent choice for helping drains stay clear because while it is alkaline—a pH of 11—it isn’t as caustic and damaging as the commonly used lye-based commercial product.

Ideally, use washing soda on your drains once a week to keep them clear. Just pour 1/4 cup or so down the drain, and then flush with water.

Washing soda is found in the laundry section of the supermarket. You can use baking soda instead by pouring 1 cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by three cups of boiling water.

The boiling water will change the chemical composition of baking soda to become more alkaline like washing soda. If you already have a clog, try pouring 1 cup of washing soda (or baking soda) down the drain followed by three cups of boiling water. Repeat two or three times.

If you still have a clog, try pouring down 1 cup of vinegar. Being an acid, the vinegar will neutralize the washing soda or baking soda and there will be some foaming and gurgling, but sometimes this agitation is all that is needed to dislodge the grime.

4: ALL-PURPOSE CLEANER: This terrific all-purpose cleaner formula is one that you’ll stick with for a lifetime.


1/2 teaspoon washing soda
2 teaspoons borax
1/2 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent
2 cups hot water

Combine the washing soda, borax, and soap in a spray bottle. Pour in the hot water (it will dissolve the minerals), screw on the lid, and shake to completely blend and dissolve. Spritz every 6 inches of surface once or twice, wiping off the cleanser with a rag as you go. For tough dirt, leave the cleanser on for a few minutes before wiping it off. Shake the bottle each time before using.

5. KITCHEN GRIME CLEANER: Fill a sink or pail with 1 cup of washing soda and enough hot water to cover the pans. Soak the pans overnight.

6. PAINT STRIPPER: Make a thick paste of washing soda and water. Smear it on the problem area; let dry and then rinse. Note that washing soda can peel wax off a floor, and is often used as a paint stripper, so make sure the place being cleaned is inert.

7. GRILL CLEANER: You can forget the steel brushes, rolled up sleeves, dirty clothes, elbow grease, and toxic solvents to clean old grime off cooking grills. Washing soda is the right stuff for this sort of heavy-duty cleaning job, and it is non-toxic, easy and cheap.

1-2 cups washing soda
Enough hot water to cover the grills

In a pan big enough to hold the grill (the kitchen sink might also work), soak the grills overnight in the washing soda and water. In the morning, the grime on the grill will come off easily. Wash with soap and water, and rinse.

8. OUTDOOR CUSHION CLEANER: Assuming you can rinse your cushions, spot clean cushions using this:

1/2 cup washing soda
1 gallon hot water

Dissolve the washing soda in a bucket of hot water. Wearing gloves and using a sponge, slather the water onto the furniture, and let it set for 10 minutes or so before rinsing. For stubborn stains, redo and leave the water on the plastic for an extra 10 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.

Note: Spot test the washing soda mixture on wood furniture first. It is a powerful cleanser, and you don’t want to peel off any existing wood finish.


By Annie B. Bond, the best-selling and award-winning author of five healthy/green living books, including Better Basics for the Home (Three Rivers Press, 1999), Home Enlightenment, Clean & Green (1990), and most recently True Food (National Geographic, 2010 and winner of Gourmand Awards Best Health and Nutrition Cookbook in the World). She has authored literally thousands of articles and was named “the foremost expert on green living” by Body & Soul magazine (2009).

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