I’ve been ice-dyeing with fiber-reactive dyes for years, but I’ve actually never bought soda ash for it.
This wasn’t intentional. The first time I wanted to ice-dye, I got everything else together — a couple of dyes, an old container, the ice — and I realized I didn’t have soda ash. Disappointed, I grumbled to my husband about my oversight and how this would delay my project.
“You can make soda ash,” he told me. This turned out to be true, and thirty minutes later I was happily ice-dyeing.
(Yes, my husband is the sort of person who knows random chemistry things like this. It’s only one of the ways that he’s amazing.)
Soda ash isn’t expensive, and the fact that I’ve continued to make my own says more about the power of habit than anything. But if you’re ever in a pinch — you know, when the dyeing urge strikes at 7:30 on a Sunday evening, and you realize you’re out of soda ash — it’s worth knowing how easy it is to make.
Side note: long after I first did this, I discovered that turning baking soda into soda ash is a Thing That Is Known on the internet. However, every tutorial I’ve seen says to heat the baking soda in a 200-degree oven for an hour.
That’s fine if you have an hour to spare. But you can put in slightly more effort and be mixing your soda ash solution in less than ten minutes.
All you need are two things: baking soda, and a heavy-bottomed pan. We have a pan that is dedicated to chemistry, because again, that’s the kind of family I live in. Note that it needs to be heavy-bottomed, or it will warp under the heat — don’t try this in a normal saucepan.
The process is simple. Put as much baking soda as you want soda ash into the pan, and set it onto a burner on high. I normally do a cup at a time, which is the right amount for our small pan while still leaving room to stir. It may seem strange to heat dry powder over high heat, but don’t worry — it won’t burn. What it will do is start to bubble. The gas it’s giving off is carbon dioxide, so make sure you do this either with your range hood on full blast, or (even better) outside.
Stirring will speed the process along, by bringing fresh baking soda into contact with the pan. It’s also just kind of cool to see a powder behave like a pseudo-liquid as it boils. For a cup of baking soda, I find that it takes about five minutes to turn it into soda ash, a little longer if I walk away and stop stirring. You’ll know the conversion is complete when the bubbling stops.
And that’s it! Mix up your soda ash solution like normal, and revel in your DIY prowess!
What are your favorite dyeing DIY tricks?