Kitchen Chemistry #2: The Best Cleaning Chemical Ever!

If thallium is the Rolls-Royce Corniche of poisons, what are some other classes of chemical measures of excellence that we may be true interested in?

Well, how about cleaning?  What is the single best cleaning chemical ever placed on this earth?  Is there a naturally occurring chemical that is as good at cleaning things as thallium is at killing things?

Yes – there is!

I refer to sodium carbonate, which goes by the industrial names “soda ash” and “washing soda.”

The name washing soda should be a clue to us.  This chemical was widely used in the home well before synthetic detergents had ever been thought of.  But like brass doorknobs, we thought we all knew better, and it has fallen by the wayside. Mostly these days it is used in washing powders and automatic dishwasher detergents, for both of which it is the principal ingredient.

Well, no more! This remarkable chemical has many uses around the home and it’s about time it was revived, right here on Dr Chemical’s website.

Chemically, it is the big brother of the much more widely known sodium bicarbonate.  For some reason bicarb is known as a good home cleaning chemical, but the bottom line is that whatever bicarb will do, the carbonate will do better.  The reason simply is that it is more alkaline, and for cleaning around the home, where much of what you want to clean is animal or vegetable fat based, alkalinity is what you want.

1.  In the kitchen.

Put some in a small tub near the sink when you wash the dishes.  Use a damp sponge to dip into it, thereby picking up some of the soda.  Simply then use this to scrub your dishes or whatever it is you are trying to clean.  The grains will act as a scourer, but you also get the cleaning effect of the chemical itself

It doesn’t foam, but foaming has nothing to do with cleaning anyway (I’ll say more about this in a later post)

2.  In the automatic dishwasher.

Used by itself, it will do almost as good a job as a commercial detergent.  The only thing you might notice is that there may be a white dusting on glassware.  This is easily removed with vinegar.

3.  In the laundry.

It will do a basic job of cleaning clothes, when all you want to do is remove general grime and body odour.  It doesn’t contain any fluorescing agents, or enzymes, or builders, or antiredeposition agents, or bleaches, or any of the other additives that separate a premium laundry detergent from a cheap one.  So you can use it for old T-shirts, workclothes, socks and undies, and so on.

4. As a floor cleaner

It’s a pretty decent floor cleaner as well.  Sprinkle some on the floor or put some in a bucket and it will do a decent job, mainly because most of the sticky stuff on a tiled floor is animal fat from your feet or from food.  But once again it will leave a white residue behind.  This is easily removed with dilute vinegar.

5.  Outside

it’s an excellent barbecue cleaner.  It rips through the grease like you wouldn’t believe.  Sprinkle some on, wet it down, rub it in with a brush and then hose it off.  You won’t believe the results.

General Comments:

it’s best to wear gloves while using it, although it’s not strictly necessary, as repeated use without gloves will strip the fats from your skin and dry it out.  Also, as mentioned above, it will often leave a white residue behind.  This is simply left over soda ash.  It is easily and quickly removed with dilute vinegar.

Also, this website has some good recipes



1540cookie-checkKitchen Chemistry #2: The Best Cleaning Chemical Ever!

3 thoughts on “Kitchen Chemistry #2: The Best Cleaning Chemical Ever!

  1. As you say,my mother used washing soda many years ago. I must admit I didn’t like it much when I was a kid because it did not look as flash as other mother’s soapy suds but it always worked and I had been using it again before I heard you about it on 6PR.
    Great info you have. Thanks.

  2. I have a problem of how do I remove human urine odour and the stain from a carpet with out having to pull up the carpet to the bedroom and renewing the carpet.
    Your help would be much appreciated for this problem

  3. The best way to do this is with a poultice – something that will draw it out. Get some washing soda and sprinkle it liberally on the affected area, at least up to 5 mm depth, or even more. use a brush of some sort to rub it into the weave of the carpet as much as possible. Add more if necessary so that it is covered to about 5 mm depth. Now get a generic trigger pack (or an empty pack of Windex or something), fill it with water and spray a fine mist over the area. Spray enough so that the washing soda is wet all the way through to the carpet. Now just let it dry for a day or so. now just brush and vacuum it up. As it dries the soda will suck the stain and smell up with it. It may not all come out in the first time, so you may have to repeat it. Good luck

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