Baking soda has been used for decades as a workhorse around the house. What exactly is it and what makes it so great? I’m glad you asked, because here’s everything you ever wanted to know (and maybe some things you didn’t) about baking soda.
What is baking soda?
Baking Soda’s chemical name is sodium bicarbonate. How it’s made is a little less straight-forward, and it turns out varies depending on who makes it. Here’s what I learned about 3 common brands of baking soda:
EcoPioneer: Created by combining salt and limestone, using ammonia and carbon dioxide in what’s called the Solvay Process (see post script below).
Arm and Hammer: A byproduct of soda ash (aka washing soda or sodium carbonate) production. The soda ash is mined in Wyoming.
Bob’s Red Mill: Made from deposits of mineralized sodium bicarbonate (nahcolite).
Interestingly, because of a marketing tactic used by Bob’s Red Mill claiming that their baking soda is aluminum free, there’s a belief that Arm and Hammer is of inferior quality and may contain aluminum. It appears that this is greenwashing, as baking soda does not have any reason to contain aluminum.
Why is baking soda so great?
Aside from making baked goods rise, baking soda is also a natural deodorizer and mild abrasive. It also has mild disinfectant properties. It cleans and deodorizes without the harsh chemicals typically found in conventional products, and is not known to cause any problems to aquatic life.
I like baking soda because it comes in a cardboard box, so you can reduce the amount of plastic typically used to make cleaning products. And it’s often readily available in bulk – bring your own reusable container for even further waste reduction. Baking soda is biodegradable and nontoxic, making it a healthier alternative for cleaning and deodorizing around your home.
How to Use Baking Soda
My personal favourite uses for baking soda, other than for baking, are:
- Unclog drains: pour 1/2 cup baking soda followed by 1 cup vinegar down the drain, cover drain and overflow for 30 seconds, and rinse with boiled water
- Cleaning my bathtub
It can also be used to deodorize shoes and carpets by sprinkling it over the surface, letting it sit over night, and vacuuming up. One of the most surprising success stories I’ve heard, is making a paste with baking soda and water to clean your oven. It is also an ingredient in natural toothpastes as it neutralizes the acid responsible for tooth decay.
How do you use baking soda?
PS – If you don’t know already, I like to get down into the details when I’m researching a topic. Not everyone wants to know all the details, but for those who do, here’s a description of the Solvay Process used to create some brands of Baking Soda:
Solvay Process: A reaction of sodium chloride, ammonia, carbon dioxide in water. Sodium bicarbonate is a precipitate, converted to sodium carbonate (washing soda) by heating at high temperatures. Ammonia and carbon dioxide are recycled back onto the process. Only major by-product is calcium chloride, which is sold as road salt.