If you’ve been inspired to take up baking in lockdown or have started looking into chemical-free cleaning methods, you will have likely come across guides that need either bicarbonate of soda or baking soda.
If you have found yourself wondering what the difference is between the two, then this guide is for you.
Is Bicarbonate of Soda the Same As Baking Soda?
Yes, baking soda and bicarbonate of soda are one and the same. Bicarbonate of soda is the British term, while baking soda is the American term.
Recipes and guides from America will often refer to the powder as baking soda, whereas those originating from the UK will use bicarbonate of soda, or bicarb for short.
What Is Bicarbonate of Soda?
Regardless of whether it is marketed as bicarbonate of soda or baking soda, this powder is simply sodium bicarbonate. The powder is an alkali substance, that is commonly found in soda breads or cake recipes.
When bicarbonate of soda is activated, it gives off carbon dioxide, which will expand in the mixture. This carbon dioxide is what will give a cake or bread it’s airy structure.
Bicarbonate of soda needs both an acid and moisture to activate, so in baking it is used alongside liquids such as buttermilk, and in cleaning, it is often used with lemon or vinegar.
Besides cleaning and baking, you can also use bicarbonate of soda to make bath bombs or modelling clay for the kids.
What Is Baking Powder?
Baking powder contains bicarbonate of soda alongside cream of tartar, and sometimes cornstarch, or cornflour. Cream of tartar is a dry acid, and this reacts with the bicarbonate of soda. This means that baking powder can be used in recipes without an additional acidic ingredient.
This mixture of ingredients means that baking powder offers dual leavening. The first occurs when the baking powder is mixed into the wet ingredients in a recipe, and the second is when the baking powder is heated in the oven.
What About Soda Crystals?
Soda crystals are chemically similar to bicarbonate of soda, but they are not interchangeable. Soda crystals are sodium carbonate decahydrate, whereas bicarbonate of soda is sodium bicarbonate.
Soda crystals should not be used in baking, but they are an incredibly useful cleaning tool for a variety of tasks.
Uses for Bicarbonate of Soda
You might assume that bicarbonate of soda is just for baking, but that certainly isn’t the case. There are a whole host of cleaning tasks that bicarbonate of soda can help with, alongside personal hygiene and so much more.
Baking remains the most common use for bicarbonate of soda. You can often find bicarb in recipes for soda bread, pancakes, cakes, some biscuits and more.
You can also easily make honeycomb by stirring bicarbonate of soda into caramel before leaving it to set.
2. Whitening teeth
Multiple studies have shown that toothpaste that contains bicarbonate of soda offers improved whitening performance compared to toothpaste without the chemical included.
It is no surprise, therefore, that bicarbonate of soda is a popular home remedy for whitening teeth.
3. Neutralising nasty smells
If your fridge or bin, for example, has started to smell nasty, you can easily fix this with bicarbonate of soda.
For the fridge, fill a cup with bicarbonate of soda and place it in the back of the fridge. To achieve this same effect with waste bins, simply spread bicarbonate of soda in the bottom of the bin.
You can also use bicarbonate of soda to neutralise the smell from old shoes. Simply put a couple tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda in a thin piece of fabric, and tie securely with a rubber band or string. Place one in each shoe, and just remove them when the shoes are needed.
4. Cleaning the kitchen
Bicarbonate of soda can be used to make a whole host of different kitchen cleaning chores so much easier. Depending on the task, the bicarbonate of soda may need to be mixed into a paste with water, or it may be mixed into a solution with vinegar or lemon juice.
Tasks that you can tackle with bicarbonate of soda include cleaning the oven, cleaning stained cups, cleaning kitchen tiles and so much more.
In the same way, you can use bicarbonate of soda to clean the bathroom too!