Domestic Chemistry Lab

I turned our kitchen into a chem lab this weekend! I had bought a bulk pack of baking soda (Bicarb) in error when I meant to buy washing soda. Since we don’t generally refer to either of these in everyday use in the UK, it was an easy mistake to make. Also, their chemical names are very similar, so double chance of me not getting it right :/

(Baking soda (left) and Washing Soda (right)

Anyway, the main reason for the purchase was a plan to make own laundry detergent from a recipe I found on Pinterest. Luckily, Penny at the Penniless Parenting Blog (click the photo to visit her) had found the recipe and knew a bit more chemistry than me, and very helpfully mentioned in the comments that you can convert bicarb to washing soda by baking it in a domestic oven. It seemed simple enough, so I tried it on Saturday when I’d already heated the oven for pizza.

I spread out a few cups of Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda) in the oven tray, and cooked it for 40 minutes at 400F (205C), stirring occasionally to help it along in the process of becoming Sodium Carbonate. See how it can be confusing? Apparently the baking removes carbon dioxide and water, and that’s the difference in the two.

So I now have a decent quantity of Sodium Carbonate to use for my detergent. But even better news, Soda Ash, as it is ALSO known, is a common ingredient in Ceramic Glaze chemistry, acting as a deflocculent when your glaze is too thick, thinning it down, as well as producing some interesting effects on pottery during firing, in its own right.

I feel more experimentation coming on 😀