I am not a chemist, but I am a hazmat technician, so work made me take some chemistry courses.
I have decided that I want to try my hand at making soap, its easy DIY chemistry, and its about the only chemistry left for the layman to “relearn” from our forefathers. That being said, I keep finding recipes using washing soda, with a stern warning about not mixing it up with baking soda. Since I believe that most warning labels are posted in response to an act, I figure that people may get confused. So here is the difference:
Washing soda is sodium carbonate – two sodium atoms, a carbon atom, and three hydrogen atoms.
Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate – the same ingredients, but with a hydrogen atom replacing one of the sodium.
What that means to us is that their pH is different. Baking soda is about an 8 on the scale (7 being neutral) – and that since most of our body fluids (Stomach acid and urine are acid) are around a 7.4 Baking soda is not corrosive to us.
Washing soda on the other hand is about an 11 on the scale so it is a lot more base. as a matter of fact, it is just base enough to not be allowed to be labeled “non-toxic”. You do not want to get this in your body.
But since washing soda is more base, it is can neutralize more acid, so its perfect for washing things like dirty diapers.
In another post, I will show you how to turn baking soda into the washing soda with a simple method you can do in your kitchen.