Understanding the chemistry of ordinary household ingredients can be confusing. However, being able to recognize the simple oxidizers, acids and bases allows you to use products more effectively and protect your family from them as needed. Sodium carbonate and sodium percarbonate are perfect examples of this because they are found in everyday products.
Sodium carbonate is a salt made from sodium and carbonic acid. This strong base appears as a white crystalline powder.
Sodium percarbonate is an adduct formed from sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide. An adduct is a chemical that includes all the atoms found in the reactants used to make it. Sodium percarbonate is a moderately strong oxidizer. Like sodium carbonate, it is a white, odorless power.
Both sodium carbonate and sodium percarbonate are poisons. Medline Plus explains that the symptoms of sodium carbonate poisoning include breathing problems, throat swelling, collapse, diarrhea, eye irritation and redness.
The amount of sodium percarbonate in household products usually does not cause problems. However, exposure to the pure chemical can cause burns, skin irritation, eye irritations and even blindness. Inhalation can cause throat irritation and coughing.
Sodium carbonate is used in glass manufacturing, as a water softener and a pool additive. MedlinePlus indicates that it is found in automatic dishwashing soaps, Clinitest tablets, pulp and paper products and some bubble-bath solutions.
The oxidizing properties of sodium percarbonate are why it is an effective cleaning agent. It is found in many home and laundry cleaning products, including bleach products such as OxiClean, Oxobrite, OxiMagic and many others.
Sodium carbonate can be synthesized using the Solvay process, which involves mixing sodium chloride with calcium carbonate. Alternatively, this chemical can be economically mined from Green River, Wyoming.
Sodium percarbonate is prepared from hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate.