Washing Soda: The Best Cleaner You've Never Heard Of

Removing greasy, sticky buildup from your kitchen walls, appliances, or grill is a snap with a powerful degreaser. Here's how to make one of the most powerful—washing soda—at home.

Removing greasy, sticky buildup from your kitchen walls, appliances, or grill is a snap with a powerful degreaser. One such potent cleaner that has been used for centuries—but that mostly goes under the radar these days—is sodium carbonate (aka soda crystals, soda ash, or washing soda).

You can buy the environmentally friendly cleaner in the form of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda. But it's more fun and gratifying to make it yourself: Just empty a box of baking soda into a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish and bake it in a 300-degree oven for 90 minutes, stirring halfway through baking. The baking soda will release water and carbon dioxide, leaving pure sodium carbonate, a far stronger alkali. (The powder will still look like baking soda, but you'll know the conversion has occurred because its weight will have decreased by one-third.) Alkalis break up fats, making them water-soluble, and the stronger the alkali, the stronger the grease-busting effect.

To use your sodium carbonate, dissolve it in water, using 1 cup sodium carbonate to 2 quarts water. Sponge off messes and see how fast grease disappears. (Note: Though this powder is very safe, it's also strong, so protect your hands by wearing rubber gloves and avoid contact with your eyes. Don't use sodium carbonate on aluminum, fiberglass, or waxed or varnished surfaces, as it can cause damage.)

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