Sodium bicarbonate or sodium hydrogen carbonate, better known as baking soda is a chemical compound with the formula NaHCO3 . It is primarily used in cooking and baking as a leavening agent, and as a very effective cleaning agent.
It is mined in its natural form, nahcolite, as a white or colorless carbonate mineral. As something so simple at its core, sodium bicarbonate can be rather amazing, so let’s take a look at some of its many uses:
How does baking powder work? Baking powder is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and a weak acid, usually cream of tartar or sodium aluminum sulfate. It makes cakes and breads rise, and is superior to yeast because the chemical reaction is instant. When baking powder is mixed with a liquid, these two ingredients react to form bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. Since the reaction occurs immediately, it is best to complete your meal right away before the bubbles disappear. It’s very important to never over-mix your recipe, so that the bubbles are not stirred out of the mixture.
There are two types of baking powder: Single-acting and Double-acting. The first makes carbon dioxide bubbles as soon as you make the mixture, while double-acting produces additional bubbles when your mixture is heated in the oven. This is because of the calcium acid phosphate, which lets out a small amount of carbon dioxide when the water is added, but much more when the mixture is heated.
Personal hygiene. You probably know that sodium bicarbonate is found in many toothpaste formulas. That is because it has whitening properties and plaque-removal properties as well. Since it has anti-caries and abrasive properties, it is commonly used in some mouthwashes as well. There is a neat trick if you run out of toothpaste and need to brush your teeth: use plain baking soda with water. Because it acts as an antiseptic and neutralizes the production of acids in the mouth, it can be used as a replacement for toothpaste.
Since sodium bicarbonate is gentle, it doesn’t strip your skin of it’s protective oils like most soaps do and can be used as a substitute to soap or shampoo. If you combine three parts baking soda to one part water, you can make a gentle cleanser, yet powerful enough to eradicate even the strongest smells such as onion and garlic.
Sodium Bicarbonate as a cleaning agent. If made into a paste, combined with water, sodium bicarbonate can serve well as a cleaning agent. Whether it’s unclogging a drain, removing stubborn stains from laundry, or even acting as a deodoriser (instructions), baking soda makes a great cleaning agent because it is a mild alkali, and it can react with acids without causing any damaging reactions. This is also why it reacts erratically when combined with vinegar. Since it’s gentle, it is a good cleaning agent for chrome, steel, glass, enamel and plastic. It is great for removing tarnish from silver if mixed with warm water, and if mixed with cold water, great for removing surface rust from steel.
Because sodium bicarbonate is a natural product and practically food, it is superior to other household cleaning agents because it is non-toxic. Therefore, it is the best substance to use when cleaning food-related items, as there is no fear of accidentally poisoning your children or pets! Here are some additional instructions on how you can clean practically any item in the house using baking soda and other non-toxic cleaning substances.
Invisible ink. If you want to have some fun with sodium bicarbonate, there’s a little trick you can try: Mix equal parts baking soda and water to create the “ink”. Dip your your quill, toothpick or a similar writing tool into the mixture and draw on a sheet of paper. Allow the paper to dry then you can make the letters or the drawing appear by using one of the two ways: either hold the paper close to a heat source, such as a light bulb or above a lighter flame; your writing will appear in a brown color. The other way is to cover the entire paper in grape juice, and the secret message will appear in a different color.
Video by LaneVids & TheFunnyrats
Black snakes. This is probably the most fun thing to do with sodium bicarbonate. To make black snakes, or glow-worms as they are sometimes called, you only need these simple household components: Baking soda, alcohol or fuel oil, powdered sugar and sand. Combine 4 parts powdered sugar with 1 part sodium bicarbonate; make a mound with the sand, making a depression in the middle; pour alcohol or fuel oil onto the mound to wet it; pour your mixture of sugar and sodium bicarbonate into the depression; and for the last step: light it on fire. At first you’ll see some flame and some blackened scattered balls, then, when the reactions sets in, the carbon dioxide will puff up the carbonate into a “snake” that keeps extruding continuously while smoking.
What happens is that sodium bicarbonate breaks down into sodium carbonate, water vapor, and carbon dioxide, while the sugar has its own reaction, burning in oxygen produces water vapor and carbon dioxide gas.
We have seen that a simple and common ingredient available in almost every kitchen can prove to be surprisingly fun and remarkably useful, proving that sometimes there is no need to buy expensive products when you have a little bit of a knowledge.