April 26th, 2012

What is Baking Soda?

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Baking Soda

Lately I’ve been receiving oodles of amazing green questions from Groovy Green Livin readers through Facebook, Twitter and email.  I love that so many of you are reaching out. While I try to answer each and every question individually, there are times when it’s impossible. There are also many times when your fabulous questions deserve to be shared. So in light of all of the above, I’ve decided to create a weekly post dedicated to your questions!

This weeks question comes from a longtime groovy green friend and was raised during our monthly book club.

Baking soda is touted as an all natural cleaner and we use it for so many things, but I have no idea what it is and where  it comes from. Can you help?

What is baking soda?

Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate. In its natural form, baking soda is called nahcolite, taking its name from its chemical formula.

Where does it come from?

It comes from Green River, Wyoming. What a claim to fame! The Green River area is known as the “Trona Capital of the World.” Trona is mined underground. So what is trona?

It is a naturally-occurring mineral that is chemically known as sodium sesquicarbonate. Trona is the raw material which is refined into soda ash. Soda ash, in turn, is used to make glass, paper products, laundry detergents, and many other products. It also is used in the manufacturing of other chemicals, such as sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and sodium phosphates (detergents).

All of the baking soda used in the US, and 25% of baking soda used worldwide, comes from the vast trona mines of Green River, WY.

Is baking soda non-toxic?

Baking soda is considered very safe and non-toxic. So many foods contain baking soda. I use it to bake with constantly. It doesn’t taste very good straight up, but you technically could take a teaspoon of baking soda and eat it.

Any environmental issues with baking soda?

My friend Umbra over at Grist raises an interesting environmental issue with regard trona mining:

“…the wastewater is very salty, and when it is piped away to a holding pond, it can make the birds that visit said pond fall sick, and sometimes drown.”

What’s the difference between baking soda and baking powder?

Baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate (the only ingredient in baking soda), but it includes the acidifying agent already (cream of tarter), and also a drying agent (usually starch). You can substitute baking powder for baking soda, but you can’t use baking soda in place of baking powder.

Baking soda uses

There are so many amazing uses for baking soda. I use it for everything from baking to cleaning. Think outside of the cookie box and the baking soda options are endless. Here are a few great resources to help find ways to use baking soda that may not have crossed your mind.

How do you use baking soda?

Now I need some help from you: I would like to name my weekly Q & A post with a catchy title-something like Dear Groovy Green Livin (but much more creative!). Let me know if you have any ideas! Also, send your groovy green questions to me and you could be featured as next weeks question of the week!

[Photo used under Creative Commons from Deb Nystrom/Flickr]

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25 Responses to “What is Baking Soda?”

  1. Love baking soda. I use it for all sorts of cleaning. The best one so far is a stain remover for really tough stains. Mix 1 part hydrogen peroxide, 1 part dish detergent 1/2 part baking soda. Make it into a paste, rub on a tough stain, and let sit for a few hours. Works amazingly! Only mix up what you will use in one application since hydrogen peroxide loses its effectiveness when exposed to light.

    As far as a name – Groovy Questions Groovy Answers????

  2. I’m so glad baking soda has your seal of approval! (other than the concern regarding the birds). Fun to learn where it comes from :) I’m also happy you’ll be answering questions. I have one, how dangerous do think nano particles? I haven’t found a lot of info on this but I always look for products without since there is speculation that they could harm organs.
    ~Kelly

  3. I also love baking soda as an odor eliminator. I sprinkle it in the bottom of the trash bin and also keep a small dish of it mixed with a couple of drop of lemon essential oil in the the trash cupboard to cut down on odors.

  4. Groovy & Green Q & A? Love Baking Soda!

  5. […] here? Get more useful information by subscribing for free to the RSS feed ← What is Baking Soda? | Older April 27th, […]

  6. Thanks Deirdre! I’m not coming up with anything on my end. That could work!

  7. Great idea Amanda-I’m going to have to try that. My trash bin smells horrible!

  8. Thanks for the stain remover tip Kristina. Baseball season over here and there are so many grass stains. I’ll give it a try. Love the Q & A name! You rock :)

  9. Thanks so much for your question Kelly. I’m compiling a list and I’ll try to answer as many as possible. Keep ‘em coming!

  10. I use baking soda to wash my face. I put a light sprinkle in my palm, a few squirts of jojoba oil, mix it into a paste, and put it on damp skin. I have super sensitive, acne-prone, easily offended skin that has rejected dozens of cleansers. The baking soda seems to perform about as well as the one $25 cleanser that did seem to work, although it doesn’t smell quite as nice.

  11. I wash my clothes using baking soda and vinegar!

  12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baking_powder#Substituting_in_recipes

    It can be done! The benefit to trying the substitution would be that baking powder goes bad, whereas baking soda is a simple chemical compound and if you keep it dry should last forever. Also, not sure if I can get baking powder in bulk bins anywhere.

  13. Hi Jennifer, What a fantastic suggestion-washing your face with baking soda. My less expensive than the alternatives!

  14. Hi Rona! Do you have a specific amount that you put into each load of laundry? Or do you guestimate each time?

  15. Wow-thanks for the link Robert. I’ve never seen baking powder in bulk bins.

  16. Here’s a name suggestion for your weekly question segment…
    “Green Q&A.” Or “Simply Groovy Q&A”
    After all, we like to keep things simple, right? :)

  17. You are the best Lori! Thanks so much. I like them…..

  18. Green questions- Groovy answers? I was fascinated to read this post and such a well researched on at that. Thank you for sharing this with us at Seasonal Celebration-I will link up this article next time I include anything with baking soda in it! Rebecca @ Natural Mothers Network x

  19. I love this Rebecca! Thank you. Thanks for having your weekly Seasonal Celebration. There are always so many wonderful posts.

  20. Nothing is without its flaws. However, bakin soda is undoubtedly more environmentally-friendly than many of the alternatives. If the world used this stuff rather than the alternatives it would be a better place. ;)

    I use it for all sorts of cleaning tasks. It’s the best thing to clean the sink!

  21. Hi Paul,

    Baking soda is pretty incredible. There are so many uses for such a simple product. I have a dog and baking soda is my best friend when it comes to stains, odors etc…. Thanks for stopping by!

  22. […] are so many amazing uses for baking soda. I use it for everything from baking to cleaning. Think outside of the cookie box and the baking […]

  23. […] week I’ve been talking a lot about baking soda and all of its incredible uses. Here’s yet one more use: removing splinters. The pin of the […]

  24. I use baking soda to kill moss on my patio. It works great! I also use it for cleaning and teeth brushing.

  25. Great idea Cindy.

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I hope you'll join me as I embark on a journey to live a healthy life. Along the way I might make a few pit stops to fight for issues that affect the health and safety of our families. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us. Together we'll discover that simple, small changes can lead to a healthier lifestyle and a greener planet.

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