Sodium carbonate, also known as soda ash, is used to manufacture glass, as a builder in laundry detergents, to control pH levels and to synthesize various sodium compounds, such sodium bicarbonate, otherwise known as baking soda. Sodium carbonate is found naturally or synthesized from sodium chloride, or table salt.
When making glass, sodium carbonate lowers the melting point of silica, or sand, the key component of glass. By lowering the temperature, sodium carbonate reduces the amount of energy required for the production of glass and reduces the cost of manufacture. Of all the sodium carbonate produced, approximately 50 percent ends up in glass manufacturing.
As a builder in laundry detergents, sodium carbonate softens water by binding with magnesium and calcium ions in hard water. Builders assist in cleaning and keeping dirt from redepositing on clothing.