What is baking soda?

I often receive enquiries  asking where to buy, or what is, baking soda. For those that don't know, baking soda is also known as Bicarbonate of Soda, or Bicarb.



When searching for green or eco-friendly cleaning options, or even in certain recipes, there will be a reference to baking soda. In South Africa, we refer to baking soda as bicarbonate of soda. Generally used as a raising agent, bicarbonate of soda can be added to batter to aerate the mix for a fluffy batter, or used in baking to help mixes to rise.

When combined with an acidic agent, such as vinegar or lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda fizzes. and it is this fizzing process that assists when used as a cleaning agent.

As an eco-friendly Cleaner

◊ As an alternative to chemical cleaning products, bicarbonate of soda can be combined with other household ingredients to make your own eco-friendly cleaners. Here are just a few examples:

◊ A paste from baking soda can be very effective when used in cleaning and scrubbing. However, avoid using bicarb on aluminium, as it attacks the thin unreactive protective oxide layer. A solution in warm water will remove the tarnish from silver when the silver is in contact with a piece of aluminium foil. 

◊ A paste of bicarb and water is useful in removing surface rust, as the rust forms a water-soluble compound when in a concentrated alkaline solution. Cold water should be used, as hot water solutions can corrode steel.

◊ Bicarb is commonly added to automatic washing machines as a replacement for softener, and to remove odours from clothes.

◊ Use bicarb to remove heavy tea and coffee stains from cups. Apply to a sponge wet with warm water to run and clean.

Disinfectant and Deodouriser

◊ Bicarbonate of Soda [bicarb] has mild disinfectant properties, as well as being an effective fungicide. Bicarb is also ideal for absorbing musty smells, which is why it is often used to deodourise carpets and mattresses, and even upholstered furniture. Simply sprinkle bicarb onto the carpet, leave overnight and then vacuum up.

◊ Sprinkle bicarb in musty cupboards and cabinets to remove musty smells and freshen up.

Use to extinguish small fires

◊ Bicarb can be used to extinguish small grease or electrical fires by being thrown over the fire, as heating of sodium bicarbonate releases carbon dioxide. However, it should not be applied to fires in deep fryers, as the sudden release of gas may cause the grease to splatter.

Medicinal and Personal Hygiene

◊ A teaspoon of bicarb mixed with in half a glass of water can be used as an antacid to treat acid indigestion and heartburn.

◊ Make a paste of bicarb and water to treat an allergic reaction to plants that cause rash or itching to relieve some of the discomfort.

◊ Toothpaste containing bicarb has, in several studies, been shown to have a better whitening and plaque removal effect than toothpastes that do not contain bicarb. It is also used as an ingredient in some mouthwashes due to its anti-caries and abrasive properties. It works as a cleanser on the teeth and gums, neutralises the production of acid in the mouth, and also acts as an antiseptic to help prevent infections.



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