Baking soda is a familiar household product that also goes by the names sodium bicarbonate, bicarbonate of soda and sodium hydrogen carbonate. The baking soda chemical formula – the sodium bicarbonate formula is – NaHCO3. This baking soda formula represents its composition of of sodium ions and bicarbonate ions. It’s a substance known for its alkalizing effects thanks to the ph of 9.
In its most natural form, sodium bicarbonate is also known as nahcolite, a mineral that is found in various locations around the world. It is commercially mined in areas of California, Colorado, Botswana and Kenya. There are also large deposits in Mexico, Uganda, Turkey and Mexico.
Baking soda is a chemical leavening agent and so is baking powder, which means that when used in baking both baking soda and baking powder cause batters to rise. Baking soda is 100 percent sodium bicarbonate; so when mixed with acid, it makes bubbles and gives off a carbon dioxide gas, causing the dough to rise. Baking powder and soda are similar yet different since baking powder is made up of sodium bicarbonate and one or multiple acid salts.
Although baking soda is mainly known as an ingredient for baking and something which helps to keep our refrigerators odor-free, it is also good for your health and your entire home.
Baking soda has been used since ancient times as a deodorizer, soother and cleanser. Baking soda uses range from basic daily hygiene in toothpaste and shampoo. Baking soda health benefits including digestive issues and even kidney problems.
Sodium bicarbonate is sometimes used as a supplement because it provides dietary bicarbonate. When taken orally, it can raise serum levels of bicarbonate. Bicarbonate is typically made by the kidneys, and it acts as an acid buffer in the body.
Baking soda is known to help to neutralize acid and improve pH balance in the body. It is often used internally to calm acid reflux or heartburn. If you have over consumed acidic foods or feel you are in an acidic state, slowly drinking some baking soda in water can help to neutralize acid and get your body’s pH back to normal. (Don’t think more is better when it comes to taking baking soda. It’s important to note that consuming too much baking soda can cause an increase in acid production.)
Baking soda has been shown to kill off bacteria including Streptococcus mutans, which is a type of bacteria associated with tooth decay. It is also effective against various fungal groups including yeasts, dermatophytes and molds that cause skin and nail infections in humans.
A clinical study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology looked at the effects of sodium bicarbonate on 134 patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and low blood bicarbonate levels. The subjects who supplemented with bicarbonate tolerated it well and were significantly less likely to experience rapid progression of their kidney disease. Additionally, there were less patients that developed end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in the bicarbonate group compared to the control group. Overall, the researchers conclude, “This study demonstrates that bicarbonate supplementation slows the rate of progression of renal failure to ESRD and improves nutritional status among patients with CKD.”
According to the CDC, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common infections and as Mayo Clinic points out, women have a higher risk of developing a UTI than men. A scientific study published in 2017 looked at the effects of baking soda on female patients with lower urinary tract symptoms who also had acidic urine pH levels lower than six. After four weeks of taking it orally, the researchers found the urine of the subjects was alkalinized and there was a “a significant level of positive effects on symptoms and symptom scores.”
Overall, baking soda appears to be an easy, inexpensive way to improve UTI symptoms accompanied by acidic urine with little to no unwanted side effects.
For cancer patients, rinsing with a baking soda mixture daily can help to improve unwanted side effects to the mouth and throat. Combine a fourth of a teaspoon of baking soda, an eighth of a teaspoon of sea salt with one cup of warm and rinse your mouth three times per day.
Uses for baking soda
- Natural Deodorant – Create your own deodorant by mixing a teaspoon of baking soda with enough water to create a milky baking soda paste, then rub it under your underarms or even on your feet.
- Face Exfoliator – Remove dry skin from your face by creating your own baking soda exfoliant. Combine one teaspoon with half a cup of water and rub it on your face in a circular motion, then rinse. Using baking soda for face exfoliation is an inexpensive way to refine skin, just don’t use it too frequently because you don’t want it to upset the pH balance of your skin.
- Hand Softener – To scrub away dirt and odors, mix baking soda with warm water and rub it on your hands. It will leave your hands clean and soft.
- Foot Soother – Create your own foot bath with a tablespoon of baking soda and warm water. This baking soda bath will remove bacteria and odors and can help to prevent toenail fungus.
- Itchy Skin Relief – Baking soda can help to reduce discomfort from sunburn, allergic rashes, and skin affected by poison ivy or poison oak. Mix a teaspoon with some water to create a baking soda paste and apply it to the areas of concern. Leave it on for several minutes and then rinse. You can do this a few times per day as needed.
- Splinter Removal – Splinters will come out naturally after a few days of soaking in baking soda (use a mix that includes a tablespoon of baking soda and warm water). Soak the affected area twice a day in the baking soda water.
- Bug Bite Soother – Rub baking soda on your bug bite to relieve the itching. Create a paste with a teaspoon of baking soda and water. Apply the soda paste about three times a day until the bite dissipates.
- Sunburn Relief – Soak in a warm (not hot) bath that includes half a cup of baking soda. You can also mix it into your favorite body lotion to calm a sunburn.
- Hair Cleanser – Add a teaspoon to your shampoo, rub it into your hair and rinse as usual. Baking soda shampoo is ultra clarifying so it’s a great way to remove dirt and oil as well as residue that is left over from hair products.
- Brush and Comb Cleaner – Create a paste by combining two teaspoons of baking soda with one cup of water. Coat your brushes and combs with this paste and then rinse thoroughly.
- Homemade Toothpaste – Baking soda toothpaste is a great way to improve dental health. It is known to increase plaque removal – that is why it’s commonly used in both conventional and natural toothpaste. Straight baking soda has abrasive qualities, and over time it may wear away enamel. Instead, to keep fresh breath, you can add it to your toothpaste, make your own homemade toothpaste, or just dip your toothbrush in baking soda a few times a week.
- Teeth Whitener – Once a week, rub the paste onto your teeth, let it sit for five minutes, and then rinse your mouth. This is a natural way to whiten your teeth and kill bacteria without any harsh and questionable chemicals.
- Heartburn and Indigestion Relief – Conventional manufacturers of heartburn medications include sodium bicarbonate in their formulates. It is a cost-effective way to reduce heartburn and indigestion, as opposed to other options like Tums and Rolaids, which also contain bicarbonate. Simply add half a teaspoon to two cups of water. Drink this mixture an hour after eating.
- Cancer Prevention – When you have a pH imbalance, unhealthy organisms are able to flourish, which damages tissues and organs, and compromises the immune system. Baking soda is known to increase the pH of acidic tumors without affecting the pH balance of healthy tissues and the blood. Scientific research has demonstrated that oral doses of sodium bicarbonate can raise tumor pH and inhibit spontaneous metastases in animal models of metastatic breast cancer.
- Exercise Enhancer – Soaking in a warm warm with a half cup of baking soda added is said to help neutralize lactic acid build up in the muscles after a workout. Some studies, suggest internal use to reduce fatigue post-workout. It also may enhance athletic performance when consumed prior to physical activity.
- Improve Kidney Function – As an alkaline substance, baking soda buffers acids in the body and helps to keep pH levels balanced. Low-functioning kidneys have a hard time removing acid from the body, so consuming baking soda can help with just that and some research has shown it may slow the progress of chronic kidney disease.
- Reduce Ulcer Pain – Because baking soda neutralizes stomach acid, it can helpful for ulcers. Speak with your doctor first, but taking it in water internally may help relieve ulcer symptoms.
- Natural Kitchen Scrub – Sprinkle baking soda on the surfaces in your kitchen and use a sponge or rag to scrub. You can add a few drops of lemon, lavender or peppermint essential oil to add a natural fragrance to this DIY cleaning product.
- Pots and Pans Cleaner – Baking soda can be used to hand wash pots and pans. Just let them soak in baking soda for 15 to 20 minutes and the grease or baked-on food will dissolve.
- Carpet Cleaner – Many carpet cleaners include chemicals that can be harmful to your pets or children, so use baking soda to give your carpet a good cleaning and neutralize odors. Sprinkle your carpet with it; let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes, and then vacuum.
- Gentle Baby Clothes Cleanser – Baking soda can be used as a natural cleanser, detergent booster and even a fabric softener. Add one cup to your load of laundry.
- Fruit and Veggie Scrub – Make your own natural scrub by adding a teaspoon to water. The pasty mixture is a perfect way to remove bacteria from your fruits and veggies.
- Silverware Cleaner – Create a paste that is three parts baking soda and one part water. Rub the paste onto your silverware and let it sit in a large tray or bowl. After 15 to 20 minutes, rinse the silverware.
- Oven Cleaner – Don’t use harmful chemicals to clean your oven; instead, just add a teaspoon of baking soda to a damp sponge or rag. This combination will wipe away food and grease easily.
- Drain Cleaner – Mix baking soda and vinegar to create your own drain cleaner. A vinegar and baking soda mixture is a much safer option than the harmful chemicals that are typically used to clear drains. Let the combination bubble for 15 minutes, then rinse with hot water.
- Dish-Washer Helper – Add to your regular dish washing cycle; it will help to eliminate unwanted grease and grime that builds up on your dishes.
- Fire Extinguisher -Use baking soda to extinguish minor grease fires in your kitchen. Pouring it on a small pan fire will stifle the flames quickly.
- Shoe Deodorizer – Sprinkle it inside your shoes to deodorize them.
- Coffee and Tea Pot Cleaner – To remove coffee stains and funky tastes from your coffee or tea pot, make this quick mixture: one-fourth cup of baking soda with one quart of warm water. Rub the mixture on and in your pots; if you are battling tough stains, let it sit for a few hours first and then rinse.
- Shower-Curtain Cleaner – Get rid of stains on shower curtains by rubbing baking soda onto them.
- Closet Freshener – To freshen your closet, place a box or cup of baking soda inside. Periodically change it.
- Wash Your Car – Create a paste with one-fourth cup of baking soda with one cup of warm water. With a sponge or rag, rub the paste onto your car (tires, lights, seats, windows) and then rinse. Or dilute in a gallon of water to remove dirt and grime off your paint as well. Make sure to thoroughly dissolve as baking soda is abrasive in its powdered state.
- Kitty-Litter Deodorizer – To naturally deodorize your cat box, cover the bottom of the box with baking soda first, and then fill it in with kitty litter as usual. After cleaning out the liter, give the box some extra deodorization by sprinkling baking soda on top. It will not hurt your cat.
How to Buy
Many co-ops have baking soda in bulk bins. It is available year-round on grocery shelves in the baking section.
How to Store
Once you open a new box of baking soda, transfer it to an airtight container to help it stay fresh. Don’t keep it in its cardboard box because it isn’t resealable. Since one of the best uses for baking soda is absorbing odors, leaving it open in your pantry will just allow it to absorb the odors in the cabinet.
While the expiration date on the box may be up to a year or two from the date of purchase, the potency of the baking soda starts declining six months after you open it. An airtight container can help maximize its shelf life.
If you’re unsure whether the baking soda is still fresh, place 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in a cup and add 2 teaspoons vinegar. If the baking soda doesn’t bubble, it’s old and should be replaced.
How to Cook
Leaving baking soda out of recipes will prevent it from rising.
If you are out of baking soda, you can try these substitutes:
- Baking powder is another leavening agent that can replace baking soda, but its effect isn’t as strong. Use about three times the amount of baking powder as you would baking soda.
- Potassium bicarbonate is an effective substitute for baking soda and can be replaced in a 1:1 ratio. Because it doesn’t contain sodium like regular baking soda, you may want to add more salt to your recipe to account for changes in flavor.
- Baker’s ammonia can be used in a 1:1 ratio for replacing baking soda. It is best for baked goods that are thin and crispy like cookies and crackers.
- Self-rising flour contains baking powder and salt, so it may be used to replace baking soda in some recipes. Keep in mind that you’ll need to adjust certain ingredients.