Lingo Love

Welcome to our glossary page!

We want to ensure that all of our members have a clear understanding of what we are talking about at all times. This is just one more way we show our community standards and our love for all our members. Are you confused by acronyms or scientific terms? Not sure what any or some of it means? Look no further than our Lingo Love glossary for all the answers!


Baking Soda
  • Sodium bicarbonate. A very weak water softener. Also a leavening agent for baking. Can be converted into washing-soda.


Bar Keepers Friend
  • A scouring cleanser. Available in powder, cream, and foam, with a few variants for specialty surfaces. The basic form is good for scrubbing most metals, tiles, pots and pans. Not for use on gold, silver, anodized aluminum, or stone.


  • A common typo. See Bar Keepers Friend.


  • Abbreviation. See Bar Keepers Friend.


  • Sodium tetraborate. A water softener. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral mined from the earth. Major deposits are located in California and Turkey, with minor deposits found around the world. Not to be confused with boric acid, though will convert to boric acid in the presence of hydrochloric acid.


Boric Acid
  • Hydrogen borate. A naturally occurring acid that is toxic to humans, particularly if inhaled or ingested, though it is used topically in certain medical situations.


  • A water softener. Not to be confused with ‘Calgon Take Me Away’ found with the bath bubbles.


Cleaning Vinegar
  • White vinegar at 6% acidity, for stronger cleaning power.


  • Dish soap. Generally refers to Original Blue Dawn, as it is the original unadulterated formula and others may be weaker. Other formulations of Dawn may work, as do other good degreasing dish soaps. Dawn Simply Clean is similar, but less concentrated, so you need to use more. Not for use in washing machines or dishwashers except as a pretreating scrub (only minute amounts remain to go into machine).


Dawn and Vinegar
  • Dawn and regular distilled white vinegar, food grade (5% acidity) in a spray bottle. Cleaning vinegar may also be used.
  • Some have found that slightly heating the vinegar helps these ingredients to incorporate easier. They will mix just fine without heating. Also, we do not recommend heating past boiling point of water (100° F), as some have had it explode when shaking hot ingredients together. Make sure to not shake, but swirl the ingredients together as to prevent pressure buildup.
  • Excellent for removing hard water stains and soap scum. Particularly great at cleaning showers. Spray on, let sit for up to 2 hours, wipe or scrub off (depending on stubbornness of staining). Best used in places that can easily be thoroughly rinsed. The leftovers can be saved for future projects, no need to reheat.


  • See Dawn and Vinegar.


Deep Clean
  • A long, hot soak in detergent for the purposes of stain and/or grime removal. Enzymatic and/or brightening boosters such as, Oxiclean Whit Revive or Biz are optional.


  • A class of surfactants containing one strong hydrophilic end (water loving/dissolving) and one hydrophobic end (water hating/repelling). The hydrophilic end can interact with minerals and still have space to interact with water, allowing detergents to literally pull soils away. Importantly, the hydrophilic end can still interact with water very well when it is interacting with minerals.


Hard Water
  • Water with a lot of dissolved minerals, typically calcium and/or magnesium. Hard water may or may not also be “iron hard.” Hard water makes detergent work a lot harder to clean, and can deposit minerals in fabrics, especially absorbent ones such as towels and cloth diapers, providing a home to bacteria, resulting in stink and/or dinginess. Depending on how hard the water is, laundry water should be softened by water softeners. Powdered detergents typically contain more water softeners than liquid detergents, and can handle slightly to moderately hard water. Softeners should be added to absorbent loads when the water is more than moderately hard, and to all laundry if the water is very hard. For more information on hard water, see our page, “What is Hard Water?


Homemade “Detergent”


Iron Hard Water
  • Water with a lot of dissolved iron in it. This can come from the well casing, or it can be natural to the local water table from dissolved ore.


Laundry Soap
  • Commonly used interchangeably with detergent, but properly speaking, laundry soap is anything used to wash laundry in that does not contain actual detergent. See Homemade “Detergent.”


Rain Drops
  • A generic version of Calgon.


Smurf Pee
  • See Dawn and Vinegar.


  • A class of surfactants containing one WEAK hydrophilic end and one hydrophobic end. Made from saponified oils (lye) and ash. Great for washing by hand, but problem-causing for washing machines, dishwashers, and carpet shampooers. The hydrophobic end interacts with soils that aren’t water soluble, while the hydrophilic end interacts with water and with minerals.


Soft Water
  • The opposite of hard water. Water without a lot of dissolved minerals in it. Water may be soft and still be “iron hard.”


  • A long, hot soak in a high concentration of water softeners and detergent. Done to remove mineral deposits, buildup from homemade detergent, detergent contain sodium cocoate, and fabric softener, or when an unsafe detergent has been used.


  • The primary ingredient in detergent that gives it its cleaning power. Surfactants lower the surface tension of water, allowing soil to enter solution easier. Surfactant molecules have a hydrophilic end and a hydrophobic end. The hydrophobic end attaches to soil or minerals in hard water and the hydrophilic end attaches to the water, allowing the soil to cleanly rinse away. For a more in depth look, see our page “Surfactants –  Detergent vs. Soap.”


Washing Soda
  • A water softener. Sodium carbonate. Can be made by heating baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.


Water Softener
  • Any substance that binds to minerals, changing hard water to soft. The most commonly available softeners in the US are Calgon, Borax, and washing soda. They are found in the booster section of the laundry aisle. Other less common brands are White King (washing soda substitute) and Rain Drops (Calgon substitute).


White King
  • Primarily washing soda, but containing a small amount of another softener that is similar to that in Calgon.


  • Generally refers to food-grade distilled white vinegar at 5% acidity. Cleaning vinegar is essentially the same but only diluted to 6% acidity, making it somewhat stronger.