Sodium carbonate (also known as washing soda, soda ash and soda crystals, and in the monohydrate form as crystal carbonate), Na2CO3, is the water-soluble sodium salt of carbonic acid.
Pure sodium carbonate is a white, odorless powder that is hygroscopic (absorbs moisture from the air). It has a strongly alkaline taste, and forms a moderately basic solution in water. Sodium carbonate is well known domestically for its everyday use as a water softener. Historically it was extracted from the ashes of plants growing in sodium-rich soils.
The manufacture of glass is one of the most important uses of sodium carbonate. Sodium carbonate acts as a flux for silica, lowering the melting point of the mixture to something achievable without special materials.
Sodium carbonate is also used as a relatively strong base in various settings. For example, it is used as a pH regulator to maintain stable alkaline conditions necessary for the action of the majority of photographic film developing agents.
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