Monthly special post number two… I’m recovering from a cold contracted over Thanksgiving, so it’s likely to be a little short. Forgive me if it rambles–cold meds are a wonderful thing.
My wife has an interesting hobby–she collects (and reads!) housekeeping/home economics textbooks from as early as possible. Pre-WWII, at the least; some of them date back into the 1880’s. Today’s post is something she discovered in her reading: “Washing Soda.”
This stuff has taken on near-mythic status in our house. We’ve pretty much always got some on hand for a variety of uses. Mix it half-and-half with OxyClean for use in the laundry (septic system safe–and spotless clothes). Want to *really* get the last of the dye out of something you’re changing the color on? This is the stuff. Make a paste of it to pre-treat stains. Something stubborn baked on to a pan? Soak it with some soda for a while. It can safely scrub lots of other surfaces. You get the picture.
How do you obtain this magical substance? Simplicity itself. First, find a cheap bulk source of baking soda. (Last I checked, a 4-pound box ran just a couple of bucks, and it’s been years since I really concerned myself with the price. I’m sure it’s still just as cheap–and can probably be found for even cheaper.) Get yourself a cookie sheet, and heat your oven to 400°F. Spread a cup or two of the baking soda at a time onto the sheet, and bake it for at least 30 minutes; 45 minutes to an hour is OK to be on the safe side. (You can tell it’s done when it becomes more “free-flowing” like sand, and less clumpy–it’s hard to describe, but its nature does change.)
What’s happening here? A simple chemical shift: The baking soda (NaHCO3, sodium bicarbonate) converts into washing soda (Na2CO3, sodium carbonate), giving off a little carbon dioxide and some water vapor. That’s really all there is to it. Simple! Dirt cheap! And, what with local governments all over the place banning phosphates in various soaps and cleansers, this stuff is a lovely replacement. As I mentioned, it’s septic-system safe, non-toxic, and generally just very useful. Ta-da!
I’ll try to get myself together enough for this week’s “regular” post. Hope your Thanksgiving was well!