What is It?
Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate is a highly alkaline salt with dozens of uses. It has a slightly bitter, salty taste and is often used in baking for its ability to react with an acid to create carbon dioxide gas, which creates “fluffiness” in the finished recipe.
Baking Soda vs Baking Powder
As anyone who has ever tried to substitute in a cookie recipe knows, sodium bicarbonate is not the same as baking powder (also often used in baking) as baking powder contains cream of tartar, the acid or leavening agent that makes creates the chemical reaction when mixed with water.
To help avoid baking confusion, just remember that baking powder can be used on its own and baking soda should only be used in recipes with an acid or leavening agent that it can interact with.
Is it the same as Washing Soda?
In short… NO!
While baking soda can be used interchangeably with baking powder in recipes with only a flat cake as a result, washing soda (sodium carbonate) is chemically much different and should be used in washing, cleaning and household uses but not in food or baking.
To oversimplify a bit, the difference between baking and washing sodas is water and carbon dioxide, but then again, the difference between water and hydrogen peroxide is just an oxygen group and it certainly isn’t recommended to drink one of those!
Chemically, sodium bicarbonate is NaHCO3 (1 sodium, 1 hydrogen, one carbon, and 3 oxygen molecules) while washing soda’s chemical makeup is Na2CO3 (2 sodium, 1 carbon, and 3 oxygen molecules). Both are alkalais, meaning the react with acids, and both are commonly used to absorb odors.
The reason that washing soda is not used in baking and cooking is that because it is stronger, it often reacts too strongly with the acid in the recipe, changing the taste or texture dramatically.
Uses for Baking Soda:
There are literally hundreds of uses for this naturally occurring alkaline salt, but these are my favorites:
1. Natural Oven Cleaning
For a highly effective inexpensive oven cleaner, simply sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of the oven, spray or sprinkle with water until it forms a paste and leave for several hours. Stuck on grease and burnt on food wipes right off. Full instructions here.
2. Homemade Deodorant
3. Scouring Powder
Baking soda, borax and salt make an effective and natural scouring powder that takes even the toughest stains our of tubs and floors. Here is the recipe.
4. Detox Baths
When combined with a couple of other ingredients, baking soda is a great addition to a detox bath that helps pull toxins from the body. This also helps relieve sunburn! Just add 1/2 cup of baking soda to a warm bath or combine with other ingredients for a detox bath. Here is the recipe.
5. Homemade Toothpaste
Baking soda is one of the ingredients in a simple homemade toothpaste that keeps teeth clean and smooth without being too abrasive. Here is the recipe for homemade toothpaste or homemade tooth powder.
6. Facial Scrub
A paste of baking soda and water makes a natural and gentle exfoliator for the face. Just make a paste by adding a little water to a tablespoon of baking soda and massage in to the face for 10-20 seconds (gently) before rinsing with warm water. Because this mixture is so alkaline, this isn’t recommended daily and is better as an occasional exfoliator.
7. Natural Antacid
I have a relative who swears by 1/4 tsp of baking soda in a glass of water to neutralize heartburn or indigestion.
Other Household Uses + Tips:
- Here are 19 other cleaning tips using natural ingredients.
- Scrub or soak hair brushes in a mixture of baking soda and warm water to degrease and clean.
- Use the same oven cleaning method above to get pans with stuck on grease clean.
- I’ve thankfully never had to use it, but my grandmother swore by keeping it by the stove in case of grease fires.
- Dab a little mixed with water on a bug bite or itch to ease the itch.
- Drop some in the garbage disposal with the rind of a fresh lemon and run to freshen.
- Soak toothbrushes in 1 Tablespoon dissolved in water for 2-4 hours and “rinse” with hydrogen peroxide to kill germs. I especially like to do this after someone has been ill.
- Use in place of salt for icy sidewalks
How do you use baking soda? Share your tips below!