Soda ash is also known as sodium carbonate, washing soda, or soda crystals. It is well known for its use as a water softener in laundry, and is synthetically produced from table salt via the Solvay process.
The Solvay process is essentially a method to create sodium carbonate from sodium chloride using recycled ammonia.
Soda ash is a fairly strong base that can be used to maintain alkaline conditions. Soda ash is also used in glass manufacturing, lying (the baking of lye rolls), and taxidermy to remove flesh from bones. It can also be used as an electrolyte in chemistry – it is particularly desirable because it isn’t corrosive to anodes. Additionally, soda ash can be used as a standard for acid-base titrations, a descaling agent in boilers, an agent to ensure proper binding in clothing dyeing between the fiber-reactive dye and the cellulose fiber, and as a food additive (as an acidity regulator, anti-caking agent, raising agent, or stabilizer).
Sodium carbonate can be found in powder included with ramen noodles, as well as the production of sherbet powder. When used as a food additive, soda ash is commonly referred to as E500 – this additive is also used in the production of Swedish snuff (known as snus) as a pH stabilizer.
Soda ash is also used in toothpastes as a foaming agent and to raise mouth pH temporarily. As well as being used to clean teeth and clothing, sodium carbonate can also be found in silver cleaners.
Soda ash can be purchased at the grocery store (Arm & Hammer makes a cleaner with soda ash), as well as at swimming pool supply store or a hardware store.
Application in Wine Microbiology:
In chemistry, sodium carbonate can be used to produce sodium phosphates, sodium silicates, chrome chemicals and photographic chemicals. It is also used in baking soda production (an ingredient in the beverage industry).
Soda ash can also be used in lieu of caustic soda as a less expensive alternative for pH adjustment/acid neutralization, sodium chemical manufacturing, kraft pulping, and flue gas desulferization.
Although sodium carbonate has multiple uses, in wine microbiology it is mostly used as a detergent.
According to Fugelsang and Edward in Wine Microbiology: Applications and procedures (2007), “Sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) is an inexpensive and frequently used detergent, but regular use contributes to precipitate formation when prepared in hard water. Phosphates will help soften water by chelating calcium and magnesium, thus facilitating better cleaning while reducing mineral deposits.”
- Fugelsang, K., and C. Edwards. (2007). Wine Microbiology: Applications and procedures. Springer, Fresno.