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Sodium Carbonate vs Sodium Bicarbonate for Brush Cleaning

Shavemac recommends not using sodium carbonate for brush cleaning and state in their brush insert that it will damage natural hair. I noticed Zingari brush cleaner has sodium bicarbonate in it.

I had never heard of sodium carbonate before (which means nothing) although it seems to be common in some cleaners. Did Shavemac mean this to apply to baking soda as well or is this really apples and oranges?
 
Two different animals....
Sodium carbonate, Na2CO3 (aka Soda Ash) is very alkaline, so the pH (>11) is in the range that will definitely affect hair and accelerates the break down of hair. It is part often of strong industrial cleaners, and i would not use it at any brushes!!
Sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), also know as Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate (aka baking soda) is much less alkaline and will not affect the hair.
 
Two different animals....
Sodium carbonate, Na2CO3 (aka Soda Ash) is very alkaline, so the pH (>11) is in the range that will definitely affect hair and accelerates the break down of hair. It is part often of strong industrial cleaners, and i would not use it at any brushes!!
Sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), also know as Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate (aka baking soda) is much less alkaline and will not affect the hair.
Thank you for clarifying that!
 
Sooo.... ummm....... @Rudy Vey , you're saying I shouldn't use them interchangeably in my biscuits? :letterk1:
Sodium carbonate is also sold a washing soda. It is a good additive for cleaning clothes. I guess if your intention was to clean out your intestines, sodium carbonate might do the job, but it probably would be rather painful. Thus, I would not recommend it in biscuits.

Sodium bicarbonate is not only good for biscuits, but is it also makes a good toothpaste/powder, a good foot soak, and it is wonderful to counteract bee stings and insect bites. If you are allergic to bees, however, baking soda is not going to prevent a serious reaction.
 
Sodium carbonate, Na2CO3 (aka Soda Ash) is very alkaline, so the pH (>11) is in the range that will definitely affect hair and accelerates the break down of hair. It is part often of strong industrial cleaners, and i would not use it at any brushes!!
In the 1960s, I worked 3 summers in college in a factory producing silicates and using soda ash. I would not only come home every day with burns on my skin, but it blowing out of the stacks also messed up the vinyl top of my car. I would not use it on anything, expecially a brush. Even when I lived in a house with hard well water, a diluted vinegar rinse was good enough to clean my brushes.
 
Sodium Bicarbonate is baking soda. Sodium Carbonate is washing soda. They are chemically related but different compounds.

Sodium Carbonate is not used by itself to wash clothes. It is usually an additive for laundry soap (or detergent) to help get clothes cleaner. It can be harsh on clothes, but is usually OK for clothes in lower concentrations. Sodium Carbonate can also be used to remove stains and some other cleaning tasks.
 
Sodium Carbonate can be used in the electrolysis method of rust removal.
Sodium Bicarbonate is also used as a dry sorbent injection material to remove Sulfur Dioxide from exhaust at coal fired power plants.
You can turn Sodium Bicarbonate into Sodium Carbonate by baking it in an oven at 200F.
It will give off CO2 and water, and change to Sodium Carbonate.
And no, I would not use Sodium Carbonate on a brush.
But then, I wouldn't use Sodium Bicarbonate on a brush either.
While the pH is less, it consists of tiny sharp edged crystals that may not completely dissolve in water if care is not taken or the ratio is incorrect. The sharp crystals can cause cuts and physical rather than chemical damage to the hair.
But thats just me.
 
Interesting. I recall borax has been mentioned in the past. Also vinegar. I generally use a dilute borax solution in warm tap water to rinse a new brush before first use. Never heard of using the carbonates before. Vinegar might be good on severe soap scum I suppose.
 
Shavemac recommends not using sodium carbonate for brush cleaning and state in their brush insert that it will damage natural hair. I noticed Zingari brush cleaner has sodium bicarbonate in it.

I had never heard of sodium carbonate before (which means nothing) although it seems to be common in some cleaners. Did Shavemac mean this to apply to baking soda as well or is this really apples and oranges?
Sodium carbonate by itself will wreck a knot, but commercial brush cleaners use other ingredients like glycerin, borax, or SLS to bring the pH down.

This became clear to me after I did some research on commercial brush cleaners when I needed to de-grease/de-funk a problematic badger brush. I soon realized that all commercial brush cleaners are composed of commonly available household chemicals. This prompted me to make my own cleaner based on a few products on the market (e.g. Zingari, Classic Shaving, and PAA). I came up with the following:

1/4 teaspoon sodium tetraborate (borax)
1/4 teaspoon sodium percarbonate (primary component of OxiClean)
1/2 teaspoon sodium carbonate (washing soda)
1 teaspoon Orvus paste (pH-neutral non-ionic soap largely composed of sodium lauryl sulfate; AKA "SLS")
300 mL water

The first three ingredients are the basic components of Classic Shaving's discontinued brush cleaning powder. Dissolved in water, this mixture has a pH of 11 (reasonably caustic; equivalent to household bleach). Since nobody would dunk a brush in undiluted bleach, I added Orvus until the pH was 9.25 which is equivalent to the advertised pH of Dawn Original dish soap. (If I didn't have Orvus, I would have used baking soda.)

I soaked the brush in this mixture for an hour, agitating vigorously every 10 minutes. The end result was a freshly de-greased and de-funked brush with no damage to the handle or knot. Two years later, this brush is still in my rotation and has not shed any hairs.

So, knowing what I know now, I'd say that commercial brush cleaners are safe.

But, if you think that they're still too alkaline, then you can make them more neutral by adding a 1/4 teaspoon of white vinegar (pH of ~3) to your shave bowl. Then, load your brush on the brush cleaner puck, transfer to the bowl, and whip up a lather (note: it won't lather like a normal shave soap).
 
When brushes get "dirty" it is primarily due to two factors.
a. If your water is hard, soap scum composed of calcium, magnesium, and iron salts of fatty acids will build up in the brush, especially towards the base of the knot.
b. Many soaps are super-fatted which means the fibers/hairs of the brush can be coated with various fatty acids and waxes (lanolin, for example, is a wax).

If your water is hard, vinegar, or vinegar combined with a degreaser like Dawn detergent will work. Mixing cleaners ican be risky, but this combination has been proven safe.

If your water is soft, the contaminants will be primarily fatty acids and waxes. Thus, dishwashing products like Dawn or laundry products will work. Just do not use a detergent designed for dishwashers as these are typically very harsh.

Most commercial tub and tile cleaners are just combinations of these ingredients sold in expensive cans and bottles.

I do like the formula developed by Demolition except I would probably use sodium bicarbonate rather than sodium carbonate and use Dawn rather than a pH neutral detergent. By the way, sodium tetraborate (borax) has a pH of about 9.1. Dawn detergent is also in this range. OxiClean has a pH of around 11, as does sodium carbonate. By using sodium bicarbonate (pH 8.4) rather than sodium carbonate, you will prevent the pH from going to high.
 
I have been using 1/4 teaspoon of borax in a mug of warm water. I soak the brush a total of 30 min and swirl the brush every 10 min. I will also comb the brush each time I swirl it to help break up anything in the knot. After the 30 min soak I give it a good rinse and towel dry.

Any comments as to good or bad?
 
When brushes get "dirty" it is primarily due to two factors.
a. If your water is hard, soap scum composed of calcium, magnesium, and iron salts of fatty acids will build up in the brush, especially towards the base of the knot.
b. Many soaps are super-fatted which means the fibers/hairs of the brush can be coated with various fatty acids and waxes (lanolin, for example, is a wax).

If your water is hard, vinegar, or vinegar combined with a degreaser like Dawn detergent will work. Mixing cleaners ican be risky, but this combination has been proven safe.

If your water is soft, the contaminants will be primarily fatty acids and waxes. Thus, dishwashing products like Dawn or laundry products will work. Just do not use a detergent designed for dishwashers as these are typically very harsh.

Most commercial tub and tile cleaners are just combinations of these ingredients sold in expensive cans and bottles.

I do like the formula developed by Demolition except I would probably use sodium bicarbonate rather than sodium carbonate and use Dawn rather than a pH neutral detergent. By the way, sodium tetraborate (borax) has a pH of about 9.1. Dawn detergent is also in this range. OxiClean has a pH of around 11, as does sodium carbonate. By using sodium bicarbonate (pH 8.4) rather than sodium carbonate, you will prevent the pH from going to high.
I actually tried sodium bicarbonate before trying sodium carbonate, but it couldn't cut the big chunk of lipids (badger fat? 😁 ) deep in the knot of my stinky, greasy brush.

Then, I got the bright idea of using sodium percarbonate. (Side note: OxiClean is 65% sodium percarbonate and 35% sodium carbonate.) It really helped to get rid of the odour and, since it breaks down into hydrogen peroxide, did double duty as a sterilizer.

Speaking of tub and tile (AKA "bathroom") cleaners, there are varieties of Scrubbing Bubbles that sit on both ends of the pH scale, i.e. either extremely alkaline or extremely acidic. The regular one that is commonly used for cleaning razors is close to 12 (similar to bleach). It can cause severe caustic burns.

Then, there's another one (might be the toilet cleaner) that has phosphoric and hydrochloric acid in it which drops the overall pH close to 0. I've used phosphoric acid (which masquerades as "concrete cleaner" at home improvement stores) to clean tea-stained razor blades. It will literally melt your face off.

I thought that I should mention this because Scrubbing Bubbles is often mentioned on B&B as a cleaning agent. Obviously, we need to be careful when choosing which ones we use because they're not all the same.

I have been using 1/4 teaspoon of borax in a mug of warm water. I soak the brush a total of 30 min and swirl the brush every 10 min. I will also comb the brush each time I swirl it to help break up anything in the knot. After the 30 min soak I give it a good rinse and towel dry.

Any comments as to good or bad?
Borax is fairly mild (as mentioned by @RayClem above), so it's safe. It's commonly used as a buffer in other cleaning products to reduce harshness. But it also has good cleaning properties, by itself.

The only issue that I can think of is that it can leave a residue which produces that slippery/slimy feeling on clothes that haven't been rinsed enough. A few drops of dish soap will dissolve the residue and also contribute a bit of grease-cutting power to your cleaning solution.
 
Perfect answer!

Another question: isn't Sodium Carbonate the second ingredient in my Arko?!?
Nope.

Ingredients: Potassium Tallowate, Stearic Acid, Potassium Cocoate, Aqua, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Glycerin, Parfum, Paraffinum Liquidium, Cl 77891, Tetrasodium EDTA, Etidronic Acid, Disodium Distrylbiphenyl Disulfonate, Amyl Cinnamal, Citronellol, Geraniol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Linalool
 

JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
I've never cleaned a shaving brush before, this is a new concept for me. I am very careful about rinsing my brushes after a shave and I let them soak after rinsing in my mug while cleaning up and getting dressed, then I shake it out and put it up. I've had brushes over ten years and never had any soap buildup in the base of the knot or felt they needed any maintenance at all.

That said, why not just use shampoo? That would surely be safe, correct?
 
...That said, why not just use shampoo? That would surely be safe, correct?
The thing you are trying to get rid of is mainly mineral deposits from harder water, like soap scum. If you have soft water, you probably won't have a lot of mineral deposits.

People that wash their hair with plain old soap can have a similar problem. Their hair can become flat and dull. They are often advised to rinse their hair with a weak vinegar+water solution after washing it.
 
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