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Old 11-05-2010, 03:18 PM   #1
geo
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Thumbs up Sodium Carbonate - A handy RV chemical

I'm sure many of you have read post after post about "how to clean tank sensors". And, truth be known, tank sensors are not always what they are cracked up to be. At best, tank sensors "sort of" work. But a common recommendation for cleaning tank sensors is by putting "powdered Water Softener", "Soda Ash", or "Washing Soda" in the grey or black water tanks.

In north Texas, it is next to impossible to find any of these items at the grocery store. If you are resourceful, you might know that sodium carbonate is sold at swimming pool supply stores as a chemical to raise the pH of pool water. Or, you might know that food-grade sodium carbonate is sold in small bottles next to the coffee filters as "coffee pot cleaner". This latter is probably your most expensive choice! I ordered a ten pound bucket (4.5 kg for our Canadian friends) of food-grade sodium carbonate from Gulf Coast Chemical. (Gulf Coast Chemical also sells on Amazon.com.)

IMHO, sodium carbonate is just one of those chemicals that an RV should have. It is an alkaline chemical that should command caution and respect so keep it out of the reach of children and all the other standard warnings. So, how can a RVer use it? Glad you asked.

1. By reducing the pH of water solutions, sodium carbonate makes water "slick". An industrial use of it is as a descaling agent in boilers, pipes, etc., so no wonder it is recommended by RVers to clean waste tanks and sensors. Even if it doesn't cause that errant BW tank sensor to work properly, it will make the tank "slicker" so . . . well, you know. Around a half-cup to a cup for a 40 gallon or so tank seems to work well. It depends on how "hard the water" is at your location.

2. Sodium carbonate in solution competes with soluble magnesium and calcium (what makes water hard). It is a common additive in detergents and laundry soap. If you camp west of the Mississippi (especially west Texas and Oklahoma), you probably have experienced the joy of hard water. When doing laundry, washing dishes, or if it's really bad, in the fresh water tank (food-grade only!), a few tablespoons of sodium carbonate does wonders! In the laundry, it helps remove oil, grease, and who knows what after my dump gloves rubbed against my jeans!

3. Food-grade sodium carbonate will take that coffee stain or scale right out of that coffee pot or coffee cup! As a descaling agent, a tablespoon in ten cups of water, run through the coffee maker (yes, plug it in and let it work) followed by three runs with clean water only does wonders after making coffee for a week in Mule Shoe, Texas!

4. If you carry your finest silverware in your RV (and don't we all?), you know the road will tarnish it. Take a Pyrex or glass pan, pour in hot water with a little sodium carbonate dissolved and add a sheet of aluminum foil. Dip the silverware in the solution so it contacts the aluminum foil and instant shining silver. Rinse well and air dry. But be careful of your skin taxidermists use hot water and sodium carbonate to remove flesh from skulls and bones!

5. Sodium carbonate is also used in making glass, tye-dye (if you are a Baby Boomer), and balances the pH of the campground swimming pool.

If you travel to Green River, Wyoming, you will be on top of the largest deposit of the mineral trona in the world. Trona is mined and refined to yield sodium carbonate. It is estimated that beneath southwest Wyoming, there is enough sodium carbonate to meet world demand for the next 2000 years! Unfortunately, there are no mine tours given, but that doesn't mean I haven't tried!

Ron
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Old 11-05-2010, 05:59 PM   #2
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Great post Ron. Makes me want to buy some land in Green River. Thanks for the info, Hank
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Old 11-05-2010, 06:35 PM   #3
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Excellent post Ron, I'm going to save this one for my records.
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Old 11-15-2010, 02:38 PM   #4
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Sodium Carbonate

Is it the same as Arm & Hammer Washing Soda?

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Old 11-15-2010, 04:28 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Davelati View Post
Is it the same as Arm & Hammer Washing Soda?

Davelati
I think that is sodium bi-carbonate.
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Old 11-15-2010, 08:34 PM   #6
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Hank . . . Sorry, sodium bicarbonate is baking soda. Yes, Davelati, Arm & Hammer Washing Soda is in fact sodium carbonate. As I wrote, it also goes by Soda Ash, powdered water softener, etc. Many names for the same thing. So, to make those breakfast biscuits rise, a little sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and Cream of Tartar will do nicely. But to clean up, use sodium carbonate!

Ron
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Old 11-18-2010, 01:21 PM   #7
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I stand corrected. I guess I have always associated Arm & Hammer with Baking Soda. I better make sure we use the right one for holiday baking. Hank ............. maybe that's why the fridge smells funny.
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Old 11-18-2010, 03:31 PM   #8
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Arm & Hammer

Hank - Arm & Hammer originally produced Washing Soda (sodium carbonate) and Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate). Just like in the grey/black tanks, the Washing Soda softened the water and allowed it to clean the clothes with less soap. Detergent now contains some sodium carbonate plus soap (and other ingredients). What I don't know is if A&H ever mixed up the sodiums in packaging. Now that would be a surprise in the biscuits, wouldn't it?

For us in the petroleum industry, we always laughed about Arm & Hammer versus Armand Hammer - president of Occidental Petroleum and quite a character. It was always rumored that A&H was named after him, but it wasn't. A&H was around before Armand, and I doubt if his father named him after A&H. However, during the merger madness of the 1980's, Armand did own quite a bit of Church and Dwight stock (makers of A&H products) and even sat on the Board of Directors. Armand even publically joked about wanting to gain controlling shares of Church and Dwight, so that Armand Hammer would be CEO of Arm & Hammer!

Ron
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Old 04-06-2012, 02:04 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geo View Post
Hank - Arm & Hammer originally produced Washing Soda (sodium carbonate) and Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate). Just like in the grey/black tanks, the Washing Soda softened the water and allowed it to clean the clothes with less soap. Detergent now contains some sodium carbonate plus soap (and other ingredients). What I don't know is if A&H ever mixed up the sodiums in packaging. Now that would be a surprise in the biscuits, wouldn't it?

For us in the petroleum industry, we always laughed about Arm & Hammer versus Armand Hammer - president of Occidental Petroleum and quite a character. It was always rumored that A&H was named after him, but it wasn't. A&H was around before Armand, and I doubt if his father named him after A&H. However, during the merger madness of the 1980's, Armand did own quite a bit of Church and Dwight stock (makers of A&H products) and even sat on the Board of Directors. Armand even publically joked about wanting to gain controlling shares of Church and Dwight, so that Armand Hammer would be CEO of Arm & Hammer!

Ron
What a great story!
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