Baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) slowly turns into washing soda (Sodium Carbonate, a.k.a. soda ash) when heated above 140 degrees F. The carbon dioxide released is what makes things rise. If you heat baking soda to 350-400 degrees, it’ll turn into washing soda fairly quickly.
I've tried using baking soda in the place of washing soda, but it doesn't seem to do the trick - I've had to experiment to see what will work with our well water to clean clothes over a long period of time. I hate the dingy clothes that happen with homemade detergent, but I want to stay as natural as possible. (Charlie's Soap works well, but there was a significant price jump due to the fuel prices, and I need to rethink my options.)
Anyways, I am having trouble finding a reasonably-priced source of washing soda: my rural grocery stores and Wally World have stopped carrying it. However, I can get 50# of sodium bicarb at the feed mill for $9. If the above trick is valid, I would be thrilled. Are there any chemistry people out there who can tell me if this will truly give the desired effect and really work for cleaning - specifically laundry? Thanks!!