Washing soda—the body-builder cousin of baking soda—is a natural, highly alkaline chemical compound. It’s similar to baking soda but harsher, so it’s great for heavy-duty jobs such as descaling bathroom tiles or stripping floors of wax. Its high pH, which grants washing soda cleaning power without the fumes many solvents emit, also means it’s caustic. Wear gloves when handling washing soda, and rinse it off surfaces as a final step. Don’t use it on aluminum, as it can cause pitting or color changes, and don’t leave washing soda on painted or waxed surfaces (unless you intend to strip the paint or wax).
1. Wash It Up: Make your own laundry detergent by mixing 2 cups baking soda with 1-1⁄2 cups washing soda, 1 cup grated castile soap and 1 teaspoon lavender essential oil. Use 1⁄8 cup per load.
2. Coffee Mate: Rid the coffee maker of hard water deposits by adding 1 tablespoon washing soda for every 8 ounces water your coffee maker holds. Run it once with washing soda where the coffee grounds would normally go, then run it two or three times with just hot water to thoroughly rinse.
3. Dishwasher DIY: Whip up homemade dishwasher detergent by mixing 1 cup washing soda, 1⁄2 cup grated castile soap and 1⁄4 cup citric acid. Place a scoopful of the resulting powder in the detergent compartment of your dishwasher, and fill the rinse compartment with white vinegar.
4. Tile Descaler: If your bathroom tiles never look quite clean, despite scrubbing, hard water buildup could be to blame. Descale bathroom tiles with washing soda by mixing 1⁄2 cup washing soda with 1 bucket warm water. Wearing gloves, wash the tiled surface with your washing soda-water mixture, then rinse the surface.
5. Hot Tip: Make a fume-free oven cleaner by combining 1 cup baking soda with 1⁄4 cup washing soda (you can add up to 1⁄2 cup for extra-greasy ovens) and 1 tablespoon liquid castile soap. Add hot water gradually until you have a thick paste. Add a few drops white vinegar, then coat oven surfaces and leave overnight. Wipe off with warm water.
6. Laundry Booster: When you are dealing with a heavily soiled load of laundry, turn to washing soda for an extra boost. Add 1⁄2 cup washing soda to a load of laundry to supercharge your detergent. If your washing machine has a powdered detergent dispenser, add it there if it fits. If it doesn’t fit or you have a front-loading or high-efficiency machine, your machine instructions will most likely tell you how to remove the liquid detergent dispenser and use the tray for powdered detergent. Or you can simply add it straight to the washing drum with the laundry.
7. Glittering Grill: Give your grill a deep clean. Simply dip a moist, stiff-bristled brush in washing soda and scrub down the grill grate. Rinse and let it dry. (Don’t use this trick on any aluminum grill parts.)
8. Moss Removal: Clear slippery moss off walkways by sprinkling washing soda on the moss-covered surface, adding water to form a paste and then letting the paste sit for a day or two. Rinse the area with a hose to clear away the dead moss and washing soda.
9. Clear Drains: When caring for your home, the best policy can be prevention. This is especially true of drains, as clogs can be a major problem once they crop up. Maintain clear drains by pouring 1⁄4 cup washing soda down the drain every week or two, then follow with 1 quart boiling water.
10. Down the Tubes: If you do get a clogged drain, unstop it with this trick. Pour 1 cup washing soda in the drain. Let sit for 15 minutes. Follow with a few quarts boiling water. You can also try adding hot vinegar to the mix (just heat it in the microwave for about 30 seconds) if the clog is extra stubborn. Note: Don’t try this after pouring commercial drain cleaner in the drain, as the chemicals will react.
11. Concrete Cleaner: Tackle stubborn oil and grease stains on a concrete garage floor with washing soda. Simply sprinkle washing soda on the stains, add a bit of water to make a paste, and leave it overnight. The next day, scrub the area with a damp brush, hose the area down, then wipe it clean.
12. Start Fresh: Stripping floors of paint or old wax can require nasty, fumy solvents—but not if you use washing soda instead. Mix washing soda with just enough water to form a paste, and spread the paste on the area you want to strip. Wear gloves for this project. Check your progress on a small section of floor every few hours; you may need to leave the paste overnight to strip the paint or wax to your satisfaction.