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What is Sodium Carbonate, or Soda Ash, Used For?
September 23, 2019

Sodium carbonate, commonly known as soda ash in its anhydrous form, is the sodium salt of carbonic acid with the chemical formula Na2CO3.  It occurs naturally in arid regions and is often extracted from mineral deposits of trona ore.  Wyoming is the largest domestic source, with large natural trona deposits being mined.  Sodium carbonate can occur naturally in the ashes of certain plants, and it can also be derived synthetically from sodium chloride and limestone via the well-known Solvay process.  Sodium carbonate is a stable, non-toxic odorless white powder that absorbs moisture and forms a strong alkaline aqueous solution.  Sodium carbonate monohydrate (Na2CO3 H2O) has an added molecule of water and is often used as a buffer. 

Two thousand years ago, the Romans used soda ash for making bread, glass, and various other products.  Today baking soda and baking powder both come from soda ash, so most Americans have a product derived from Wyoming trona in their kitchens.  Soda ash has several other diversified uses that impact our lives every day.  Glass manufacturing is the largest application, with production of glass containers, fiberglass insulation, and plate glass all making use of soda ash.  Chemical manufacturers use soda ash as a raw material in the production of food sweeteners and preservatives.  In pharmaceutical applications, sodium carbonate is sometimes used as part of acid-base chemical reactions.  It is also used as an abrasive in some toothpastes and as a water softener in dishwasher soaps and other household detergents. 

Soda ash is produced in three grades:

  • Light soda ash, which is widely used as a buffering agent/acidity regulator.
  • Medium soda ash, which is largely used in soaps and detergents.
  • Dense soda ash, which is used for industrial & manufacturing applications.

Sodium carbonate has environmental applications as well.  It can be used to treat and improve the alkalinity of lakes that have been affected by acid rain.  And because it reacts with sulfur dioxide and hydrochloric acid, soda ash can help to purify the air coming out of chemical stacks and power plant exhaust towers by forming less harmful compounds.  In the agricultural sector, soda ash is used as a natural fertilizer. 

Independent Chemical offers Soda Ash (CAS 497-19-8) and Sodium Carbonate Monohydrate (CAS 497-19-3) as well as many other commodity and specialty chemical ingredients.  Contact us to request a quote. 

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