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How Does Washing Soda Soften Hard Water?

Kristen Dennis

Hard water makes cleaning more challenging. Laundry seems dull and stiff; surfaces are caked with residue; glasses look dull and cloudy. Washing soda added to hard water can minimize these negative effects by chemically reacting with the mineral deposits in the water.

What is hard water?

Washing soda can reduce the effects of hard water on laundry and other household chores.

According to the Water Quality Association, "hard water...exist(s) where water has access to rock that contains calcium, magnesium or a combination of both." Pure water picks up these mineral deposits, making the water "hard." The WQA ranks water hardness by the number of grains per gallon of water with 0 being the softest and 10.5 and above being the hardest.

What is washing soda?

Washing soda is a transparent crystallized form of sodium carbonate that can be dissolved in water. Found with detergents in grocery stores or hardware stores, washing soda is often called soda ash, soda crystals or sal soda.

How does it work?

Washing soda can reduce the effects of hard water through a chemical reaction. The carbonate ions in the washing soda bind together with the calcium and magnesium deposits in the water. This process creates an insoluble substance that gets washed away by the water instead of soaking into fabrics or settling on surfaces.

What are the benefits?

Using washing soda allows you to complete household chores more efficiently and economically. You will be able to use less detergent and fewer chemicals than before, appliances like washing machines and dishwashers will work more effectively, and fabrics and surfaces will be cleaner.

What are the disadvantages?

If washing soda is mixed with acids like vinegar, it will create carbon dioxide gas, which can cause suffocation dangers in small enclosed spaces.