What is the difference between Baking Soda and Washing Soda?
One of the main questions that we get asked regarding laundry is about the usage of Baking Soda and/or Washing Soda. There is much conflicting information across the diapering sites and diapering boards online. Many are concerned that Baking Soda will build-up on their diapers, in their washing machines or even, eat away at their diaper’s fibers. There is also confusion about the difference between Washing Soda and Baking Soda, why either should be used and which one should be used (if at all) in laundering cloth diapers.
The Baking Soda/Washing Soda question pondered . . .
A definition from Dr. Dan Berger (Faculty- Chemistry/Science dept. at Bluffton College) gives a bit of understanding regarding the primary difference between Washing Soda (Sodium Carbonate) and Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate).
“. . . washing soda will consume two equivalents of acid, while baking soda will only consume one equivalent.”
So, what does this mean for those of us concerned about laundering our cloth diapers and family laundry? Well, basically that Washing Soda is a stronger base than baking soda, and is in fact, CAUSTIC. This is one reason why it isn’t used for baking!
Washing Soda is caustic/alkaline with a pH of 11 (with 7 being neutral). Though it does not give off harmful fumes, you do still need to use/wear gloves when handling it directly as a cleansing agent. In reading about safe household cleaners, it always is recommended to save the Washing Soda for the stubborn stains that you are going to tackle by making a paste. For instance, if speaks about petroleum spills on garage floors . . . grease build-up in your oven . . . y’know, truly STUBBORN STAINS!
Baking Soda is only slightly alkaline with a pH around 8.1 (again, 7 being neutral).
What exactly is PH?
I personally prefer Baking Soda to Washing Soda for my laundry because it is a much milder alkali and yet, still can lift dirt/grease/urine/poopies off my diapers/laundry effectively to dissolve easily in the wash water. Because it is so very water soluable, it dissolves before its soft crystalline molecules can scratch or damage a surface. The same is NOT TRUE of Washing Soda – because of its extra alkaline, it can eat away at elastic and cloth over time and is also used to rough-up fabric for dying. In fact, Washing Soda has just enough alkaline content to fall short of being labeled non-toxic.
Baking Soda and Washing Soda have the power to neutralize odors, instead of just covering them up. Most unpleasant odors come from either strong acids (like our baby’s urine) or strong bases (fish oils – which we find in some of our mainstream diaper rash ointments). The Baking Soda and Washing Soda deodorizes by bringing both acidic and basic odor molecules into a neutral state.
Consider buying large bags
of baking soda for your wash!
Robert Barefoot – Medical Journalist – cites from Nobel Prize Winner, Otto Warburg’s work in his article, “Why is our pH Balance So Important . . ?” He substantiates that all body fluids are supposed to be mildly alkaline at pH 7.4, EXCEPT for stomach and urine fluids. Stomach fluids must remain acidic to digest food and urine must remain acidic to remove wastes from the body.
Drawing from what we know of Baking Soda’s neutralizing properties and the acidic levels naturally present in our baby’s urine, we can see how Baking Soda would help restore pH balance in our washing routines.
We know that our body also produces a form of sodium bicarbonate (Baking Soda) and utilizes it much like we do with our laundry. For instance . . . our body’s naturally produced sodium bicarbonate neutralizes the stomach acids mentioned above (helping to prevent ulcers) and neutralizes plaque acids (helping to prevent tooth decay). So, this ‘like’ substance that even our bodies produce is most definitely a safe alternative for stain removal and pH balance in our laundry/for our diapers.
What is pH?
It is a measure of whether a particular substance is alkaline or acidic based. It is compared to water – which has a neutral base of 7.0. If a substance falls below 7.0 it is considered to be acidic. If a substance rises above 7.0, it is considered to be alkaline. Two examples are Blood and Urine. Blood is slighly alkaline (between 7.35 and 7.45) while urine is slightly acidic (with a pH of about 6.4).
© 2002, Heather L. Sanders. May not be reprinted without permission.
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