What Is Soda Ash or Sodium Carbonate?
Soda ash is a safe and simple compound. It has been used for over 5,000 years since ancient Egyptian times. Today, is a key component in many industrial processes and is the 10th most consumed inorganic compound in the world. Your most common contact with soda ash is probably its uses in softening water especially in pool or hot tubs.
In tie-dying it is used as a fixative or mordant. It creates a mild alkali that enables a chemical reaction between the dye and the cellulose fibers at lower temperatures. This causes the dye and the fiber to "become one" as the cellulose closes around the dye. This is what makes our fiber reactive dyes so permanent and eco-friendly!
Soda as was first discovered by ancient Egyptians. They recovered soda ash naturally from dessert lake beds. They later found a way to produce it by burning marine plants with high sodium content to produce ashes. These ashes had the same compound as sodium carbonate. This process gave it is commonly used name 'Soda Ash'. Soda ash was produced this way for generations up until the mid-1800's. As the world industrialized there was an increasing demand for soda ash in its many industrial processes. Synthetic soda ash accounts for roughly 70% of todays soda ash. It is chemically identical to natural soda ash, which can only be made from Trona ore. Turkey and Wyoming USA are the only places with commercially available Trona ore which eventually will be depleted. Synthetic soda ash is far superior both economically and environmentally.
Although it is not toxic it is mildly caustic. It can irritate your skin and you definitely do not want to get it in your eyes or breath the dust. It is recommended to wear a N95 mask, gloves, and eye protection when mixing the powder. Make sure to keep it away from dogs and children.