I am a recent convert to green cleaning. I have a 2-year-old daughter with health problems and I want to make my home as non-toxic as possible for her. The problem I have run into is that most of the recipes for cleaning provided on this site require washing soda, which is not available where I live. I am also concerned with the caustic nature of washing soda. Is there something else that can be used in its place that will work as well?
Sadly, you aren’t alone in not being able to find washing soda and that is unfortunate! Getting it online through a source such as Arm & Hammer would be expensive for the shipping because it is heavy. It is also called soda ash and sodium carbonate and you might find a local chemical supply company who could buy it in bulk for you.
I do have an idea for you, however. Years ago I was talking with a chemist about the difference between baking soda and washing soda and was told that washing soda is in the same family as baking soda it is just processed differently. He told me that if you combine baking soda with boiling water it is turned into sodium carbonate. I would try this, stirring 2 cups of boiling water to 1 cup of baking soda in a pan, allowing the mixture to cool, and using the resulting baking soda in the formulas.
Otherwise, an alternative solvent for hard cleaning jobs is one of the citrus solvents on the market. While made of an extract of citrus peels it still gives off volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and shouldn’t be used by asthmatics. That said, for most people it is healthier than petroleum-based solvents.