Borax and washing soda and where to find it all, oh my! (updated)

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I have long wished to use washing soda and borax–suggested in all sorts of green home guides for everything from dishwashers to washing
machines–but I cannot find them locally. Internet searches have been to no avail either. Do you know where I can buy them online?

Thank you!
New reader of your blog

Heather says:

Borax can be difficult to find because it’s not as marketing heavy as your other cleaning products. You’ll need to go the laundry aisle of a big box store (Walmart, Target etc) and then look toward the bottom of the shelves or out of reach on the top shelves. Prime shelf-space comes at a cost that the borax manufacturers usually can’t justify. Keep your eyes peeled, it’s there.

If you still can’t find it locally, Amazon has 76OZ 20 Mule Team BoraxArm & Hammer Super Washing Soda and can also try Nellie’s All Natural Laundry Soda.

Washing soda can be harder to find. It is sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) which is a little different from sodium bicarbonate, which we all know as baking soda. Washing soda is also known as soda ash. When you look to buy washing soda for laundry you can get nearly the same thing from a pool supplier, but there CAN be a slight difference. This is where label reading and chemistry come into play.

If you buy washing soda or soda ash from a pool supplier, you are most likely getting an anhydrous form of the compound -meaning it does not have water molecules attached to the Na2CO3. When you buy washing soda / soda ash for the laundry you are often getting the decahydrate or monohydrate (just think of it as how many water molecules are included) form of the compound that may also contain optical brighteners, salts for water softening, and sometimes fragrance.

When making your own soaps, please realize that the substitution is not one to one. Laundry washing soda ash is much heavier, due to all those water molecules than the variety sold in pool supply stores, so experiment carefully and make sure you know which one you are using and what was expected by the original recipe. If it calls for laundry washing soda you’ll use significantly less of the pool variety.

Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda is a good choice and is about 85% pure, if my research is correct. If you use this brand, know that you won’t be using that much more than if you were to use the anhydrous soda ash.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

*UPDATED 5/28/2013 with the above information, the original response is below*

Ivy’s original response:

I had a hard time finding Borax too, until I knew where to look.  The original plan for this post was, I was going to zip all over town and take pics at WalMart, Target, KMart and a couple of grocery stores of Borax and washing soda for you. The problem with that plan was, my 13 year old failed to mention that 1. the band concert was tonight and 2. he had outgrown all his black dress pants and therefore we needed to buy a new pair. So, we got a picture of Borax at KMart, since that’s the closest place to my house that sold both black dress pants and Borax.

Borax and washing soda both are found in the laundry aisle at most major discount stores and grocery stores. Washing soda is harder to find as is evidenced by my picture:

concert-001.jpg

Look for it by stuff like OxyClean and that sort of stuff. I’ll run around this week and take more pictures of Borax and washing soda. And readers, if you have any Borax or washing soda sightings, post a picture!

I also hear you can buy washing soda at pool supply stores. It’s also called soda ash, so be on the lookout.

Good luck!

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Comments

  1. I did the borax/washing soda concoction for a while. At first it was hard to find the stuff in the stores and upon asking the store clerks they would just give me weird looks not knowing what I was talking about. Alas I had a break through at a local Kroger. I found mine on the very top row at the end of the aisle. At walmart it can be found at or near the top of the shelves at the end of the aisle near where they keep the dyes, bleach, etc.

    Only downfall that I found with the borax/washing soda mix is that you don’t get a nice laundry soapy smell to your clothes when they are done. Hubby didn’t like this idea since he is HUGE on the smell of things hence resulting in us not doing it anymore and just buying the cheap laundry soap.

    I knew that Borax could be used to clean all sorts of things in your house, I had forgotten that one of them was dishes. We recently moved into a house that doesn’t have a dishwasher so I’m constantly HAND washing dishes. I think I’ll have to pick up some borax and or washing soda to help with my everyday dish clean up.

    • Kim Shupert-Hill says:

      You could simply add some essential oils to your laundry mix (like lavender) and it'll make your clothes smell nice, or you can add the oils to a dryer sheet when you dry them. Just FYI.

    • I also use the Felsnaptha soap in my laundry detergent and we like the smell very much. You can also add in a few drops of essential oil in whatever scent you prefer.

    • Along with the Borax/Soda mix, grate up 3 bars of ivory soap. mix well.

  2. I make my own laundry soap and I know the challenge of finding the washing soda. I actually found it in my local hardware store. Look around in every store you go to in the laundry/cleaning isle.

  3. I found it at Target, and will be using it as a replacement to some of my household cleaners.

  4. I’ve seen Borax with the roach killers at my local grocery store.

  5. do you have any recipes for the laundry detergent you make with this stuff?

    • go to the duggar family web page or TLC home page and find duggars. they have a few great recipes that include adding scents. enjoy!

  6. How do you use these?

  7. I use Charlie’s Soap laundry powder ( http://www.charliesoap.com ), which lists washing soda as its first ingredient, and I’m really pleased with it. I have no connection with the company and have no economic interest in posting this, although I did once get a free gift box because of someone mentioning that I referred them to the company.

    As someone indicated about the washing soda-borax mix above, Charlie’s Soap does not have any of the fragrances associated with store-bought laundry detergents. So your laundry does not smell like Tide or what have you. But I don’t mind at all. It’s inexpensive (per load — you use only a tablespoon for a washload) and it cleans really well.

    • hi i know this post was written a while ago, but wondered what the ingredients are that are in Charlies soap laundry powder…I am searching for ways to get the bacteria that is now in new clothing…has created a health nightmare for me!!

  8. I have seen this on the top shelf at Kroger Supermarket. I hope that helps!

  9. This is the recipe I use with great results.

    3 pints water
    1/3 bar felsnaptha or ivory grated fine
    1/2 cup washing soda
    1/2 cup borax
    2 gallon bucket
    1 quart hot water
    more hot water
    Mix grated soap with 3 pints water in a sauce pan. Slowly warm water untill soap melts. Stir in soda and borax and stir untill thick. Remove from heat and add 1 qt. hot water. Pour into bucket and add hot water untill full. Allow to sit over night to gel. Give it a good stir to mix before using. Use 1/4 cup per load.
    I found lavendar scented ivory at my store and it makes your detergant smell real nice.

  10. Allison says:

    Just a note that the borax by the roach killers is NOT the same as the laundry 20 mule team borax. The roach killer can be dangerous to children and should not be used for cleaning.

  11. washing soda is also known as soda ash and is ease to find on the internet
    thank you

  12. @Allison, the roach killers I think you discuss is boric acid, is an acid, and much stronger insecticide and poison. Borax is an alkaline salt of boric acid, the alkaline makes it a good cleaner, and it is less toxic to people. Different chemicals, don’t confuse them.

  13. does the Borax, the laundry kind, kill ants?, and is it harmful to put outside? around my house foundation?__

  14. Jennifer Drower says:

    I get Borax at my local King Kullen (I'm located on Eastern Long Island, but they're located throughout Long Island, NY) and washing soda at Stop & Shop. Both are in the laundry isle near other laundry additives and usually on the top or bottom shelf. Also, Borax has changed their box: it's now white with red print and a thin light green strip at the top and bottom of box. Sorry, I don't have a picture, but will get one asap. Good luck.
    Jennifer

  15. Go to Alice.com for washing soda, free shipping. The price is $2.99.

  16. Busy Mom says:

    Fred meyer has washing soda for $ 2.49,, :)

  17. I get my supplies and recipes (free) from soapsgonebuy.com

  18. Walmart in my city no longer carries borax or washing soda. They also have stopped carrying amonia and fabric dyes. The employee I spoke to said he had been told they are considered too dangerous!!!! But they still sell drain opener and bleach. What's up with this?

  19. Joan Fletcher says:

    Is washing soda the same thing as borax?

  20. washing soda and borax are completely different products, and you need them BOTH in order to make your own detergent or cleaners. Washing soda is in the same family as baking soda, but it is just sodium carbonate, not sodium BI-carbonate like baking soda.

    Sidenote: the walmart in our city also does NOT carry washing soda or Borax, but the kmart website has it, so I will try my local kmart next.

  21. Ladydi75150 says:

    I found borax at my Walmart today, but no washing soda. In fact I've done a search with my zip code and NO one carries it. In fact I spoke with the grocery manager at Kroger and it wasn't even in his catalog for him to order. I live in a large suburb of Dallas, Tx. So tell me, what is wrong with this picture?

    • Stores will only carry what people buy. If very few people in your area buy washing soda, it's not going to be stocked by stores. Your best bets are Soapsgonebuy.com as Mur suggested or use a site like Amazon. The habits of consumers change and you can talk to the manager of your store, but it's unlikely that corporations will carry a product for very few people in brick and mortar stores. Online it's easier as they don't take up the same shelf real estate.

    • Do you have an ace hardware? They will order it for you, and then you can pick it up. (no shipping charge)

  22. Ladydi75150 says:

    Thank you Heather for your reply. This morning I got a little curious, but that is my nature. I put in several zipcodes, even the zipcode where my sister in law did find the washing soda and the website said no stores carry it. I think something is wrong with the website, so I am going to call Arm and Hammer this morning and talk to a person, I hope. I did look on Alice.com and was going to order it there, but you have to order 6 or more items. Right now, I'm living on a limited butget and just need the washing soda. Have a GREAT day.

  23. Amy Pollard says:

    I buy Borax and Washing Soda at Publix.

    • It's going to vary from region to region. I was recently talking to some people from my Bi-Lo, higher up in the food chain than the local manager. While I had his ear, I asked what the possibility of getting whole fat yogurt would be, since that's the main reason I have to make a side trip to Publix. He made a call and the reason is they can hardly sell the organic version much less the whole fat organic version which is the only supplier they have. It's not worth it for Bi-Lo to buy a case of yogurt to take up space in the refrigerated section and go bad. The same principle applies to the washing soda and borax. If only one or two people buy it, it's not worth the valuable shelf space when so many better selling consumer goods can be stocked.
      It kind of stinks for those of us who DO use the products, and if enough of us ask, eventually it will be worth the space, but most of my acquaintances already think I'm off my rocker, they aren't going to buy whole fat anything or make their own detergent. ;)

  24. Actually you can kill roaches and other common household pests with borax. There are a few recipes out there but essentially the borax kills the insect that ingests it, as well as the others when the borax-food mix is brought back to the nest. It is harmful when ingested, so make sure kids and pets are safe from it.

  25. I know this is a little late but washing soda is just sodium carbonite, like a reader said below. It is also used to help balance the pH in swimming pools. I ran to Home Depot and read the labels for the different bottles for pH balancing and sure enough one of them was sodium carbonite. It is called something else of course but the ingredients list showed it just has sodium carbonite in the bottle. I’ve been using it for about a year, along with borax soap and water, as my laundry detergent and love it!

  26. aglasshouse1 says:

    Ace Hardware has the Borax, Arm and Hammer washing soda and the fels-naptha soap.

  27. deneicer1 says:

    All three products are available at our local Wal-Mart in the laundry detergent/cleaners aisle. I did find the Super Washing Powder at Kroger and I am sure they would have the Borax, too. You can also buy the products online!

  28. I was at wal-mart yesterday looking for borax and washing powder in the laundry aisle and was suprised that i did not find either product. i guess it is specific to the area you are looking in. i am in the shenandoah valley of virginia. i will check our k-mart and kroger as well as our other wal-mart a little further outside of town. i’m hoping to find some soon, as i’m anxious to try making my own detergent! thanks for the info!!!

  29. aglasshouse1 says:

    I found the borax, washing powder and fels-naptha soap at Ace Hardware very inexpensive.

  30. I found the Borax and Fels Naptha at the local Wal-Mart,but the Washing Soda is hard to find. I have checked the ag. supply stores in our area (some people have luck with that) but I have not. Pool store will be open Tuesday-I hope they can help at a reasonable price.

  31. I found both borax and the arm & hammer super washing soda at Ace Hardware!! I live in Chicago and i had a tough time finding them at target or even walmart.

  32. Sorry, Ivy, but this was a somewhat unhelpful answer.I had already searched my local major retailers, which honestly are only Walmart and Safeway, with no luck and was hoping for some better hints or advice. Honestly, I got more information from the comments. Thanks, those of you who commented!

  33. @1sweetday

    I’m in waynesboro, va and haven’t had any luck! Did you find it anywhere local?

    • hi, jillian.  i found both products at ace hardware, but they were a little pricier than i expected. luckily they go a long way because you don’t have to use much of either one.  i live in elkton and i was suprised to find them there.  i think i did check back later on at walmart and found them both there also.  keep trying because i had to search.  good luck! :-)

  34. Wind Star says:

    If you have a Piggly Wiggly they carry Borax.

  35. I’ve heard that you can make washing soda by baking baking soda. Something about losing the extra oxygen atom, I think.

  36. V.I.P. Soap makes washing soda. It’s awesome and totally affordable. No perfumes or dyes and it’s biodegradable. http://www.vipsoap.com/cart/VIP-Washing-Soda.html

  37. V.I.P. Soap makes washing soda. It’s awesome and totally affordable. No perfumes or dyes and it’s biodegradable. http://www.vipsoap.com/cart/VIP-Washing-Soda.html

  38. VIP Soap makes washing soda. No perfumes or dyes and it’s biodegradable and Leaping Bunny approved (not tested on animals). Love their cleaners.

  39. Roger Taguchi says:

    In Canada, Home Hardware sells Arm & Hammer washing soda for $7.29 + tax for each 3 kg box
    WITH NO SHIPPING COSTS (compared to $85 shipping from one ebay site from the US). If not in stock, they will order it for you (same price), but you might have to wait 6 days for their weekly delivery. I’ve ordered 5 boxes to make it worth their while (and repackage in old glass spaghetti sauce jars, since the chemical tends to attract moisture and clump up in humid conditions).

    It’s also great for lifting hair oils, grease, dandruff, etc. from hair brushes, combs, razors, etc.: just soak for
    a couple hours in a hot, concentrated solution in an old glass (the strongly alkaline solution will frost the glass over time, and will react with aluminum).

  40. Roger Taguchi says:

    In Canada, Home Hardware also sells their own brand of borax, a 2 kg box costing $5.49 + tax. See their website, under item #4510-274. The Arm & Hammer washing soda is item #4527-273. Support your local Home Hardware which keeps these traditional items in stock!!! (I do not have any personal or family connections to the ownership or employees at Home Hardware.)