Bicarbonate of Soda, or Sodium bicarbonate, or Baking Soda, or Bread Soda, or carb soda, is a chemical compound composed of a sodium cation and a bicarbonate anion. It is a white solid that is crystalline, but often appears as a fine powder. Slightly salty in taste, its natural mineral form is nahcolite and components of this mineral are often found in many natural springs. Naturally occurring deposits of nahcolite are found in the Green River formation in Colorado, US. It is deposited as ‘beds’ during periods of high evaporation, ie drought. It is commercially mined using common mining techniques, such as used in coal mining. It can also be a solution, mined by pumping hot water through previously mined beds, and reconstituting dissolved nahcolite through a natural cooling crystallisation process.
There are so many ways in which we can use Bicarbonate of Soda…
Used as a leavening agent in baking, it causes the expansion of batter in quick breads eg soda bread. Acidic materials that induce this reaction include cream of tartar, lemon juice, yogurt, buttermilk, cocoa, and vinegar. Heat by itself causes bicarbonate of soda to act as a raising agent because of thermal decomposition – it releases carbon dioxide at temperatures above 80 degrees celcius/180 degrees Fahrenheit. It is sometimes used in the cooking of green vegetables, giving a bright green colour, as it reacts with the chlorophyll in the leaves, but also affects the taste and nutritional content. It is used to soften peas and pulses, and is used to make the traditional ‘mushy peas’. It is used to tenderise meats, and enhance the crispness in fried foods as it allows passages of steam to escape.
As a fungicide it controls fungal growth and many of us use it for cleaning the fridge. It can be added to swimming pools, spas and garden ponds. But it also removes dirt and wax from vegetables, eg carrots, clogged drains, oil spills, mildew, grimy toys, and dirty sponges. It can be used to freshen and clean smelly plastic containers, musty upholstery, smelly trainers, smelly pet beds, and generally all musty smells e.g. old books, wardrobes and linen cupboards. It is recommended that you keep an open box of bicarb. in place until the smell has gone. To deal with dingy laundry, add 200g of bicarb. to the load to brighten the wash. To clean jewellery, mix 3 parts bicarb. to 1 part water, and apply with a soft cloth.
Medical / Hygiene
Mixed with water, it can be taken orally as an antacid to relieve heart burn and indigestion. It can also act as a laxative. It relieves the pain of insect bites and stings. We can find it in many brands of toothpaste, used for whitening and plaque removal. It can be found in mouthwash because of its antiseptic qualities and used neat or mixed for mouth infections. It is also present in some deodorants.
My mother taught me to use a tablespoon of bicarb. of soda in a bowl of water for cleaning the fridge, but I am amazed at the number of uses I have discovered for this natural, easily obtainable, and cheap product I wrote a while back, that I wanted to make a ‘recipe’ book for natural products that can be used for cleaning, to help reduce my carbon footprint. Now I have made a start, but I’m sure there are many other products out there. I would love some ideas from the membership.