By far the largest consumption of sodium carbonate is in the manufacture of glass, paper, rayon, soaps, and detergents. It is also used as a water softener, since carbonate can precipitate the calcium and magnesium ions present in "hard" water.
Sodium carbonate is a food additive (E500) used as an acidity regulator, anticaking agent, raising agent, and stabilizer. It is one of the components of kansui (かん水), a solution of alkaline salts used to give ramen noodles their characteristic flavor and texture. It is also used in the production of snus (Swedish-style snuff) to stabilize the pH of the final product.
Sodium carbonate is also used in the production of sherbet powder. The cooling and fizzing sensation results from the endothermic reaction between sodium carbonate and a weak acid, commonly citric acid, releasing carbon dioxide gas, which occurs when the sherbet is moistened by saliva.
In China, it is used to replace lye-water in the crust of traditional Cantonese moon cakes, and in many other Chinese steamed buns and noodles.
Sodium carbonate is used by the brick industry as a wetting agent to reduce the amount of water needed to extrude the clay.
In casting, it is referred to as "bonding agent" and is used to allow wet alginate to adhere to gelled alginate.
Sodium carbonate is used in toothpastes, where it acts as a foaming agent and an abrasive, and to temporarily increase mouth pH.
Sodium carbonate is used by the cotton industry to neutralize the sulfuric acid needed for acid delinting of fuzzy cottonseed.
Sodium carbonate, in a solution with common salt, may be used for cleaning silver. In a nonreactive container (glass, plastic, or ceramic), aluminium foil and the silver object are immersed in the hot salt solution. The elevated pH dissolves the aluminium oxide layer on the foil and enables an electrolytic cell to be established. Hydrogen ions produced by this reaction reduce the sulfide ions on the silver restoring silver metal. The sulfide can be released as small amounts of hydrogen sulfide. Rinsing and gently polishing the silver restores a highly polished condition.
Sodium carbonate is used in some aquarium water pH buffers to maintain a desired pH and carbonate hardness (KH).