Salts, soda's and everything in-between

Updated: May 15, 2019

A post about all the different salts available, because I really got confused.

In eco printing and natural dyeing we use different salts to achieve ph adjustments, or to scour fabrics and to even out dye.

I do not know about you, but I got completely confused between the different kinds when they are mentioned under different names. I ended up with a huge amount of washing soda, because I didn’t know ‘soda’ , 'washing soda' and ‘soda ash’ were the same thing!

So I made a little list with all the commonly known names, I hope this helps.


Also known as; Sodium Chloride, table salt.


How to use in dyeing; use when using Procyon dyes (yes I know that’s not natural),

When dyeing in a washing machine or a five-gallon bucket, you need to add salt to your dye bath. This is to prevent dye from being wasted in the large volume of water; using a large amount of salt helps keep the negative charges of the dyes and the fiber from causing them to repel each other. Using salt in your high-volume dye baths helps to increase the color yield you get from a given amount of dye.

Glauber’s salt

Also known as: Sodium Sulfate


Looks like; white or colorless monoclinic crystals

Tastes salty, and bitter. Glauber’s salt is used in medicine as a mild laxative.

How to use in dyeing; In dyeing it evens out color intake of fabrics. It has been found that strength of shade is higher when Glauber salt is used, irrespective of the type of the shade.

Soda Ash

Also known as; sodium carbonate, washing soda


Looks like; either a fine powder or more crystalized little lumps.

Soda ash is a mild alkali and makes a great ph adjuster for any indigo vat, as an alternative for the more aggressive lye.

Soda ash is also used as a fixative after using Procion dyes.

Use soda ash with ph sensitive natural dyes such as cochineal to turn a bath from fuchsia pink to a mauve purple. Don't leave fabrics in soda ash mixtures for great lengths of time (especially wool and silk) as the alkali level will damage the fibres.

Other great uses for soda ash;

-I scour my fabrics with it, by washing the fabric at 60 degrees celsius with half a cup of soda ash.

-My teacher David Santandreu uses soda ash and chalk to make aquarelle dye from left over dye baths, just like they did in the 18th century. Waste not, want not. I learned this during my internship in France in June.

-Use as an all purpose cleaner;

  • 1 tsp borax

  • 1/2 tsp washing soda

  • 1 tsp liquid castile soap or grated Marseille soap (in Israel we have a lovely olive oil soap)

  • Essential oils of choice – I use 4 drops lemon, 4 drops lavender, and 10 drops orange

  • A spray bottle for storage

  • Mix the ingredients with water and shake well before use.

-Clean your stainless steel dye pots; Sprinkle on some washing soda, spray with a fine mist sprayer until a paste forms and let sit for 20+ minutes and scrub off, a nice way to clean those pesky dye left overs.

In Israel I get my soda ash at the pool supply store in a bucket for cheap. Americans can use washing soda from the supermarket in a box from the brand Arm&Hammer.

If you can’t get soda ash, there is a way of making it yourself from baking soda, I have not tried this myself;

Simply heat baking soda in a 200°F oven for about an hour. Carbon dioxide and water will be given off, leaving dry sodium carbonate. This is the soda ash.

Baking Soda

Also known as; sodium bicarbonate, bicarbonate of soda, or cooking soda.


Used mostly in cooking, and sometimes as a mild ph adjuster.

Sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, does not produce as high a pH as does sodium carbonate, or soda ash. Bicarbonate generally produces a ph around 8, while carbonate can raise it to 11. If you want to use baking soda to turn ph to more alkali, its better to turn it into soda ash (see before).

At our home I use baking soda to make a tooth paste mixed with some coconut oil and peppermint oil.

Epsom Salt

Also known as :Magnesiumsulfate


From what I understand, Epsom salt is not used so much in dyeing but makes a great bath salt to assist aching muscles. It is used as a laxative and I read it makes a fine hair mask. I have not tried this personally.

Let me know if this post was helpful to you by adding in the comments, or share on Facebook, pinterest or your social outlet of choice.

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#pyrenees #naturaldyes #historicaldyes #aquarelle #mordants #mordents #mordenters #cochineal #indigo #woad #ecodye #ecoprint #scouring #diyclean #cleaning #salt #soda #sodaash #epsomsalt #glaubers #dyerssalt #procion

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