Is Baking Soda the Same as Bicarbonate Soda?

Baking soda and bicarbonate soda are two terms that are often used interchangeably. This leading to confusion among many people. Understanding the difference between these two substances is crucial, especially for those who frequently use them in cooking, cleaning, or personal care. So Is baking soda the same as bicarbonate soda? The answer is Yes, baking soda and bicarbonate soda are the same substance. They are both referring to sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO₃).

What is Baking Soda?

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate or bicarb soda, is a white crystalline powder with the chemical formula NaHCO₃. It was first discovered in 1791 by French chemist Nicolas Leblanc and has since become a staple in households worldwide.

Baking soda is a versatile substance with a wide range of applications, from cooking and baking to cleaning and personal care.

Fun Fact: In ancient times, Egyptians used natron, a naturally occurring mixture of sodium carbonate and baking soda, for cleaning and preservation purposes.

What is Bicarbonate Soda?

Bicarbonate soda is simply another name for baking soda. The term “bicarbonate” refers to the chemical compound HCO₃⁻, which is the main component of baking soda. Therefore, when you see the term “bicarbonate soda,” it refers to the same substance as baking soda.

Other common names for baking soda include:

  • Sodium bicarbonate
  • Sodium hydrogen carbonate
  • Bicarb soda
  • Bread soda

Chemical Properties of Baking Soda (Bicarbonate Soda)

Baking soda has the chemical formula NaHCO₃, which stands for sodium hydrogen carbonate. It is a white solid that appears as a fine powder. When dissolved in water, baking soda forms an alkaline solution with a pH of around 8.5. This alkalinity is what makes baking soda useful in various applications, such as neutralizing acids and odors.

Chemical FormulaNaHCO₃
AppearanceWhite crystalline powder
pH (in solution)8.5 (mildly alkaline)
Solubility in Water9.6 g/100 mL (at 20°C)
Melting PointDecomposes at 50°C
Density2.20 g/cm³

Uses of Baking Soda (Bicarbonate Soda)

1. In Cooking and Baking

Baking soda is commonly used as a leavening agent in baked goods. When combined with an acidic ingredient like yogurt, buttermilk, or vinegar, baking soda reacts to produce carbon dioxide gas. This gas creates bubbles in the batter or dough, causing it to rise and resulting in a light, fluffy texture. Some popular recipes that use baking soda include:

  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Pancakes
  • Muffins
  • Cakes

Tip: When using baking soda in recipes, make sure to mix it thoroughly with the dry ingredients before adding any liquids to ensure even distribution and prevent clumping.

2. In Cleaning

Baking soda is a natural cleaning agent that can effectively remove stains, neutralize odors, and dissolve grease. Its mild abrasive properties make it useful for scrubbing surfaces without causing damage. Some common cleaning uses for baking soda include:

  • Removing coffee and tea stains from mugs and cups
  • Deodorizing refrigerators and trash cans
  • Cleaning ovens and stovetops
  • Brightening laundry and removing odors from fabrics

DIY Cleaning Solution: Create a paste using 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water. Apply the paste to the surface you want to clean, let it sit for a few minutes, then scrub and rinse away.

3. In Medicine

Baking soda has been used as an antacid for decades. Its alkaline properties help neutralize stomach acid, providing relief from heartburn and indigestion. To use baking soda as an antacid, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon in a glass of water and drink it slowly.

However, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before using baking soda for medicinal purposes, as it may interact with certain medications or cause side effects in some individuals.

Warning: Baking soda is high in sodium and may not be suitable for people on a low-sodium diet or those with certain health conditions. Always consult with a healthcare professional before using baking soda for medicinal purposes.

4. In Personal Care

Baking soda is a popular ingredient in many personal care products, such as toothpaste and deodorants. Its mild abrasive properties help remove plaque and whiten teeth. Its odor-neutralizing abilities make it effective in controlling body odor.

Some people also use baking soda as a gentle exfoliant for the skin. This can help remove dead skin cells and unclog pores.

DIY Toothpaste: Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with a few drops of peppermint essential oil and enough coconut oil to create a paste. Use this mixture to brush your teeth for a natural, whitening effect.

Differences Between Baking Soda and Soda Ash

1. Chemical Composition

Although baking soda and soda ash may sound similar, they are different compounds with distinct chemical compositions.

  • Baking soda: NaHCO₃ (sodium bicarbonate)
  • Soda ash: Na₂CO₃ (sodium carbonate)

2. pH Levels

The pH levels of baking soda and soda ash also differ:

  • Baking soda: pH 8.5 (mildly alkaline)
  • Soda ash: pH 11.6 (strongly alkaline)

3. Uses and Applications

Due to their different chemical properties, baking soda and soda ash have different uses and applications.

  • Baking soda: Primarily used in cooking, baking, cleaning, and personal care products.
  • Soda ash: Mainly used in industrial applications, such as glass production, water treatment, and as a pH regulator.

Did You Know? Soda ash is also known as washing soda and is sometimes used in homemade laundry detergent recipes.

Differences Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder

1. Chemical Composition

While baking soda and baking powder are both used as leavening agents, they have different chemical compositions.

  • Baking soda: Pure sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO₃)
  • Baking powder: A mixture of baking soda, acid salts (like cream of tartar), and cornstarch.

2. Reaction Mechanism

The reaction mechanisms of baking soda and baking powder differ:

  • Baking soda: Requires an acidic ingredient to activate and produce carbon dioxide gas.
  • Baking powder: Contains both the base (baking soda) and the acid (usually cream of tartar). It activates when moistened with liquid and heated.

3. Usage in Recipes

Understanding the differences between baking soda and baking powder is crucial for successful baking.

  • Recipes that include acidic ingredients like yogurt, buttermilk, or citrus juice often call for baking soda.
  • Recipes without acidic ingredients typically rely on baking powder for leavening.

Tip: If you’re unsure whether to use baking soda or baking powder in a recipe, look for the presence of acidic ingredients. If the recipe includes acidic ingredients, use baking soda. If not, use baking powder.

Can You Substitute Baking Soda for Baking Powder?

In some cases, you can substitute baking soda for baking powder, but you must make adjustments to the recipe. To replace 1 teaspoon of baking powder, use 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar.

Alternatively, you can use 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 cup of buttermilk or yogurt to replace 1 teaspoon of baking powder. Keep in mind that substituting baking soda for baking powder may affect the taste and texture of the final product.

Conversion Table:

Baking PowderBaking Soda + Cream of TartarBaking Soda + Buttermilk/Yogurt
1 teaspoon1/4 tsp + 1/2 tsp1/4 tsp + 1/2 cup
2 teaspoons1/2 tsp + 1 tsp1/2 tsp + 1 cup
1 tablespoon3/4 tsp + 1 1/2 tsp3/4 tsp + 1 1/2 cups

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can I use baking soda instead of baking powder?

You can use baking soda instead of baking powder, but you must make adjustments to the recipe. Baking soda requires an acidic ingredient to activate, so you’ll need to add an acid like cream of tartar or buttermilk to the recipe.

2. What happens if I use too much baking soda?

Using too much baking soda can result in a soapy, metallic taste in your baked goods. It can also cause the batter to rise too quickly and then collapse, leading to a dense, unappealing texture.

3. How do I store baking soda?

Store baking soda in a cool, dry place, away from moisture and heat. Keep it in an airtight container to prevent it from absorbing odors and flavors from other foods.

4. Can baking soda go bad?

Baking soda has an indefinite shelf life when stored properly. However, over time, it can lose its potency. To test if your baking soda is still active, place a teaspoon of baking soda in a bowl and add a few drops of vinegar. If it fizzes vigorously, it’s still good to use.


In conclusion, baking soda and bicarbonate soda are indeed the same substance. This versatile compound has a wide range of applications. So go ahead and experiment with baking soda in your daily life – you might be surprised by its many benefits!