Family Health


Washing Soda vs Baking Soda: Chemical Breakdowns and Differences

Baking Soda With Water And Meyer Lemon

Washing Soda vs Baking Soda: Chemical Breakdowns and Differences

Baking soda is something that many people have heard of and know well as a household item. Washing soda, on the other hand, is a bit different and far less common. Both, however, are used as household cleaning products and offer distinctive benefits when used properly. It's important to know the chemical compound differences between the two, as well as the overall usage differences. Before using anything in the home, individuals should note what they are used for and where to use them, so as to not ruin anything of value. Washing soda and baking soda both provide a plethora of uses, if used in the proper ways.

Baking soda is used often to clean surfaces in the home.


What is Baking Soda

Baking soda, whose chemical name is sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), is a white powder substance that is used in a variety of ways in the home. Many people use baking soda for baking, cleaning, self-care, a deodorizer, and even as a first-aid treatment. Baking soda was discovered 4 million years ago from salt lakes that evaporated into trona deposits. Trona rocks can be broken down into soda ash, which can then be turned into baking soda.

Baking soda is used for many things. When using baking soda during cooking, baking soda gives off carbon dioxide gas. This gas promotes a recipe, be it dough, yogurt, buttermilk, cakes, or cookies, to rise. This gives off a fluffy and light texture to baked goods and recipes.

When used to clean, baking soda is non-toxic. It removes stains, unclogs sinks, and promotes a clean, fresh scent. Many individuals use baking soda on their carpets to eliminate unwanted odors and smells in the home. Baking soda is also used in toothpaste, deodorants, and even laundry detergents.

Woman using baking soda to unclog sink drain, closeup
When combined with vinegar, baking soda can combat clogged sink drains.

©New Africa/Shutterstock.com

What is Washing Soda

Washing soda, also known as sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), is a white odorless chemical that is used for many different things in the home. Washing soda was originally created by burning off specific plants. These plants grow in soils that have high sodium concentration levels. This process is a mix of reacting sodium chloride and limestone.

Washing soda has a very high level of pH. This makes it toxic for some individuals and means it should not be ingested at all. Instead, washing soda is used primarily as a laundry detergent and household cleaning product. It is never used for cooking and should not ever be confused with this. In addition, washing soda can also unclog drains and balance pH levels.

Smiling young woman taking spoon of soda lye from glass jar when making fragrant soap at home
Washing soda is highly toxic for pets.

©Dragon Images/Shutterstock.com

The Differences Between Washing and Baking Soda

Chemical Composition

Washing soda is known as sodium carbonate, while baking soda is known as sodium bicarbonate. The two have distinctive chemical differences. Baking soda has a pH level of 8-9, making it more mild and non-toxic for ingestion and consumption. However, washing soda has a higher pH level of 11-12. This makes it toxic for digestion, and also toxic for children and pets. When using washing soda, one should wear gloves.

Uses of Each

Baking soda is used for a variety of things. It is used to bake, to clean, in many self-care products, and even can be used as a first-aid remedy or a fire extinguisher. Baking soda is used regularly and is easily purchased in many grocery stores. This white substance is milder than washing soda, which makes it a more common purchase.

Washing soda, on the other hand, is much stronger making it a more cautionary tale of the two. Washing soda is usually used to clean, but can only be used on certain things in the home. Due to the high pH level of washing soda, it can ruin certain surfaces. Washing soda is primarily used to remove grease stains on certain things and also clean washing machines and dishwashers. It should not be used without gloves.


Baking soda is mainly non-toxic and can be used regularly, around all different types of people and animals. The lower pH makes it safe for consumption. Washing soda, however, is very toxic when ingested and is not safe to use around children or pets. There should be no contact with the eyes, or skin, when using washing soda, and should always be used with gloves and other protective gear.

Close up hand adding baking soda powder in to front-loading washing machine for clean inside the washer drum.
Washing soda is a good way to clean a washing machine.


The Bottom Line

Washing Soda vs Baking Soda
Great care should be taken when using washing soda
  • Washing soda has a very high PH balance and needs to be used with great care.
  • Baking soda is widely available and can be used in similar ways to washing soda without the risks.
  • While washing soda is used in laundry, check your clothes and linens before using it.

Baking soda and washing soda may look similar, but they are vastly different in a variety of ways. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate and is non-toxic. It is used for baking, cleaning, self-care, and first-aid. Baking soda is easily purchased at any store and can be used in the home around everyone, without using protective gear or harming any surfaces or individuals.

Washing soda, due to its high pH level, can be very toxic and should be used sparingly only on specific surfaces and around individuals. It should never be ingested and should be used only on surfaces that it will not damage, such as stainless steal or granite countertops. One should always use gloves when using washing soda, and it should be kept away from children and pets at all times.

Baking Soda Used for Baking

Baking soda is a common ingredient in many baking recipes such as cookies, cakes, muffins, and breads. Try this giant cookie pizza recipe that uses baking soda. It's a delicious treat that is easy to make. You can add whatever toppings you'd like. It can be cut like a pizza or enjoyed as one giant cookie!

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This would make a great neighbor gift or can be cut into slices as a dessert pizza!

Giant Cookie Pizza

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  • Author: MomsWhoThink.com


Units Scale
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • Heaping 1/2 cup chocolate chips, M&M's, or whatever candy you desire


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugars, mix in eggs, and vanilla.
  3. Next add in the flour, salt, and baking soda. Then fold in the chocolate chips and candies. 
  4. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1-2 hours. This allows the melted butter to firm up a bit. If you skip this step it may cause your cookie dough to spread a bit too much during baking. 
  5. Use a silicone baking mat (like this one here) and press the cookie dough into a 9 inch circle and about 1/2 inch thick. The cookie will expand/spread a bit while cooking so don't spread out too thin! 
  6. Bake for 13-16 minutes or until the cookie is a light golden brown. Do not remove the cookie from the baking mat until it is completely cooled. It will continue to bake and firm up as it cools and will lift off of the pan more easily without breaking if you wait until it has completely cooled.
  7. Add additional toppings if desired and cut into pizza slices! You can also leave it as a giant cookie and make someone's day by taking it to them as a gift! Enjoy!
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