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Dri-pak Soda Crystals
Member Name: Ali72
Dri-pak Soda Crystals
Date: 20/03/07, updated on 26/03/07 (2870 review reads)
Advantages: Cheap and versatile, environmentally friendly
Disadvantages: Irritant, can't be used to clean aluminium
I have always bought soda crystals as a 1kg pack of crystals from the laundry aisle in the supermarket. They come in a light and dark blue plastic bag with “soda crystals” emblazoned across the front in white letters. As the name suggests, the pack contains tiny, free-flowing white crystals. However, I believe that they are also available in a liquid “spray” form, or mixed with an anti-bacterial agent or orange oil. They can be used in virtually every room of the house, and indeed the garden.
Soda crystals are made from sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), which is a white powder. The crystalline version is sodium carbonate decahydrate (deca = 10, hydrate = water added) which means that it has been dissolved in water and crystals formed by evaporation. (And, in case you are wondering, its cousin, “baking soda” is sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO3, which will decompose into sodium carbonate if you heat it - giving off water and carbon dioxide, which is what makes it useful in baking). The crystals are alkaline, and can be used to dissolve grease, soften water and neutralise acidity.
The pack suggests several uses for soda crystals, and here is how effective I have found them:
Washing clothes - This was the “original” use for washing soda, before new-fangled detergents came along. In fact, sodium carbonate is still the main ingredient in most washing powders. I make my washing powder go further by adding a small scoop of washing soda to each wash, and use it to pre-treat any stubborn looking stains. I haven’t found one yet that it won’t shift – even the mildewed shower curtain in our rented house came up as good as new after a soak in a hot solution of soda crystals.
Sinks and Drains - If I have any blocked drains or sinks, I prefer to use soda crystals to dissolve the grease than to pay a small fortune for “Mr Muscle” and other dubious brand marketing. Pouring the crystals neat down the drain sorts it out.
General Household Uses - I use soda crystals and hot water to clean absolutely everything in my house, every appliance, and every surface (except aluminium, which they can not be used for). You do need to rinse it off, unlike some products that claim that you don’t need to rinse them, but honestly, do you really want to be touching those all the time afterwards? It’s the best thing I’ve ever found for cleaning PVC windowframes, you can clean the barbeque with it, and even use it as a weedkiller on the patio!
Advantages - It’s so cheap. A 1kg pack is only 51p in Tesco. You are not paying for fillers and fancy scents, just the active ingredient. This is also good news for the environment, as soda crystals are biodegradable and there are (obviously) no phosphates, enzymes or bleach going down the drain. Which also means it’s safe for septic tanks.
Disadvantages - Soda crystals are irritant, so you are supposed to wear gloves if you are going to have your hands in a solution for any length of time. Although, I must admit to using them a lot without wearing gloves, and have never had any problems so far, just a slight feeling of dry skin afterwards. Also, you need to be a little bit careful with testing fabrics for colour fastness before using washing soda to try to remove stains. The pack also warns not to breath the dust, and that soda crystals are irritant to eyes; this last one is the biggest concern, but then you need to be careful with all household chemicals. The only thing that you can’t use it to clean is aluminium (although there is a nifty trick you can perform with soda crystals and aluminium foil to clean silverware – see www.soda-crystals.co.uk for this and other tips).
I wouldn’t be without a pack or two of soda crystals in the house, and I smile smugly when I see other shoppers throwing money away on other, supposedly more effective “modern” products.
Summary: So cheap!