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Tip for the day: Soda crystals

Maybe I skipped a chapter somewhere, but at what point did fabric conditioner begin to ‘care’ about my woolens? And since when has washing up liquid been ‘kind’? And friendly washing powder? Washing powder was never ‘friendly’… to the environment, to washing, or even to other washing powders. It just cleans. That’s all I’ve ever expected of it, and we’ve always gotten along famously. I’ve never felt the need to be around over-emotional detergent.

I swear, we honestly didn’t use to have half the cleaning products we have nowadays and – back then – life was so much simpler for it. And no one really grow up any more grubby for the lack of options.

Which got me questioning how much we really need all the choice.

Wander through any supermarket nowadays, and you’ll confront an army of day-glow spray bottles – one unique cleaning spray for every unique thing you’ll ever own. Battalions of stain removers, glass cleaners, surface cleaners, oven cleaners… Each one puffing out its little plastic chest and boasting about its ability to do something wonderfully specific.

Need something to remove grass stains from pets? No problem.

Need to remove pet stains from grass though and you’ll probably need a different spray.

And that, in a nutshell, is my gripe with modern cleaning.

See, excelling at something specific while being crap at everything else is great if you’re a surgeon, but not if you’re a detergent.

Go back 20 or 30 years and we had more limited options. Just as any medical problem (from cuts and grazes to full blown smallpox) could be treated by dabbing it with vinegar, all we needed for cleaning was a soapy bucket of ‘detergent’ and a little elbow grease. I’m not sure the vinegar trick ever worked – which is probably why doctors rarely do it – but we were always great at getting stuff clean.


Washing Soda.

Magic crystals from the depths of time that your nan used to use for everything from laundry to baking. Magic, safe, bio degradable, limescale-removing, de-greasing, water-softening, 90p-a-sack-from-pound-shop crystals that – apart from ruining aluminium – really do excel at pretty much every other task you throw at them.

Don’t confuse washing soda (or Sodium Carbonate) with caustic soda (the stuff you pour down drains that dissolves everything on contact). It’s actually a closer chemical relative to baking soda. And its fantastic stuff.

You can use a little to soften water and make your detergent go further. Or tip a cupful into your toilet to keep it clean and shiny. Its safe on clothes and plates. Its phosphate, bleach and enzyme free and is totally bio-degradable. It removes tea stains and I read somewhere that it kills greenfly – although you may want to check that one before you try it. Plant safety aside; for all i know, give it to greenfly and they may grow to the size of houses and develop a taste for human flesh.


Today’s tip for the day is dedicated to washing soda and to nans everywhere.

Ditch the sprays and hit the pound shops. Live clean and live simpler.

More washing-soda-goodness here and here.

And these guys have a pdf instruction leaflet available for download.

Go make your nan proud.


6 Responses

  1. an old fashioned tip.
    before you spend £s on fancy sink unblockers try a big handful of soda crystals onto the plughole and pour on a kettleful of boiling water. Often the blockage is just grease and the soda usually clears this.

  2. I love cleaning and I have to admit that the shiny bottles of American-stylee-hugging bleaches and cleaners seduce me with their wild promises of killing all known germs dead on contact. However, you have got me thinking about the good ole soda crystals. I admit I abandoned them for Cillit Bang (my ex loved it when I cleaned with that product as it sounds like clit bang and that sounds rather filthy) and that’s very naughty of me so I will be heading down to my local paaand shop (as we say in the East End. From where I’m not.).
    Ta for another groovy post.

  3. […] It’s quite amazing that a product that contains no phosphates, enzymes or bleach can be so effective. And bonus, they’re very cheap. I guess it really is getting back to basics. […]

  4. I used this stuff in a science fair project – did you know that it keeps dye in cloth? It added a nice blue-green tint to dye made from purple cabbage; check it out sometime.


  6. I bought some from Wilkos at £0.99 per bag only to find them £0.65 at Home Bargains.

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