Author

Wendy Graham

Home and Garden, Natural Cleaning

Is Baking Soda The Same As Bicarbonate of Soda?

Wondering if baking soda is the same as bicarbonate of soda, or if it’s something else entirely? Read on, as I will explain it all.

There are so many reasons why people take up an interest in green cleaning. From reducing the number of harsh chemicals you use in your home to saving money or living a little lighter on the earth, and everything in between. In fact, there are myriad reasons to want to try making your own natural cleaning products.

If you’ve been inspired to make your own natural cleaning products, then no doubt you’ll have come across green cleaning recipes either online or in books that list either bicarbonate of soda or baking soda as a key ingredient.

If you have spent some time wondering what these are, and if they are the same thing or not, then don’t worry. I have all the answers for you.

Is Baking Soda The Same As Bicarbonate of Soda?

Bowl of baking soda on wooden table with blue text box that reads is baking soda the same as bicarbonate of soda?

Baking soda is exactly the same as bicarbonate of soda. It’s just a different name for sodium bicarbonate that is used in different parts of the world.

Baking soda tends to be what Americans refer to as bicarbonate of soda. Meanwhile, people in the UK and Australia tend to refer to baking soda as bicarbonate of soda. This is often shortened to bicarb. It’s the exact same substance, just with a different name. So when you see the words ‘baking soda’ in an American cleaning recipe then go ahead and use bicarbonate of soda. The results will be exactly as intended.

What Is Bicarbonate of Soda?

Bicarbonate of soda comes in the form of a white powder. As a naturally occurring mineral salt, it’s completely non-toxic and entirely safe to use in baking and in natural home cleaning products.

Initially, fishermen used bicarbonate of soda in the early 1800s as a preservative. They found it helped to prevent freshly caught fish from going off. Then in around 1846, it was discovered that bicarb could be used in baking to make the perfect loaf of bread. Whilst just a few years later it became well known as a cleaning product. It’s certainly one of these natural products that can do almost anything!

When it comes to cleaning, bicarbonate of soda has great scouring and deodorising properties. And when it comes to your laundry, it can help keep your white clothing whiter for longer.

Want to know more? Here’s almost everything you could ever need to know about cleaning with bicarbonate of soda.

What About Washing Soda – Is That The Same As Bicarbonate of Soda?

As baking soda/bicarbonate of soda is commonly used in cleaning, then it’s a common assumption that washing soda is the same thing – just a different name. However, washing soda is not the same as baking soda/bicarbonate of soda. Washing soda is the US English term for what we in the UK call soda crystals.

The chemical name of soda crystals is sodium carbonate. This is very similar to the chemical name of bicarbonate of soda – sodium bicarbonate. As white powders, both look visually similar too.

However, you should never put soda crystals in your food. Despite the similar name and appearance, soda crystals have a different chemical composition than bicarbonate of soda. Whilst bicarbonate of soda can be used in cooking and baking, soda crystals/washing soda can be harmful to your health if consumed.

Soda crystals are much more alkaline. This means when it comes to cleaning, this product is much better for removing stains and grease. Just keep it away from your food! Here are 15 uses for soda crystals to help get you started.

What About Baking Powder?

It’s a common mistake to make as the name is so similar, but baking powder is not the same as bicarbonate of soda/baking soda. Baking powder is a mix of bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and cornflour that is used in baking only.

Whilst baking powder does contain bicarbonate of soda, it is the presence of these other ingredients that render baking powder completely ineffective at cleaning as soon as you add water. In short, keep the baking powder for your baking!

See my full post on can you clean with baking powder for the full explanation, if you would like to know more.

For more green cleaning recipes (written in British English) then check out my guide to natural cleaning products to DIY. It’s packed full of natural cleaning recipes, tips for beginners, and information on ingredients, to help demystify the world of green cleaning.

Resources

Green Products – Do They Make A Difference To The Environment?

Does using green products actually make a difference? Sudina Manandhar from Earthandhuman explains why making the switch to using green products is vital for both the health of people and the planet and the pitfalls to watch out for in the process.

Going green involves incorporating a lifestyle that benefits not only the people who live on the planet but also the environment itself. With coastal flooding, global rising temperatures, and severe weather changes, people are becoming more conscious of their lifestyle decisions.

And for good reason. Humans have absorbed more resources in the last 50 years than at any other point in human history.

With the rise of cheap materials such as plastics and petrochemicals and increasing knowledge of the impacts of these materials on the environment, the interest in green products has never been greater.

With more and more people looking to green their lifestyle, there are increasing discussions on how this impacts our biosphere. Many of us care about making environmentally friendly choices and want to use products that are both self-sustaining and cause the least damage possible. But how do we make sure the green products we do buy actually make a difference?

What Is A Green Product?

Wooden toothbrushes next to eucalyptus stems with blue text box that reads does using green products actually make a difference to the environment?

First, we must understand what a green product actually is.

Green products are typically distinguished as being made with non-toxic ingredients in an environmentally friendly manner, and which can be disposed of responsibly at the end of their life.

Many green products are also certified by reputable organisations. These include Energy Star for electrical items, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for wood-based items, the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) for textiles, as well as many other accredited labelling schemes.

Some of the characteristics of a green product are that they are:

  • Cultivated without the use of harmful chemicals and under sanitary conditions.
  • Recyclable, reusable, and biodegradable.
  • Packaged in an eco-friendly manner.
  • Utilising the fewest resources.
  • Has a low carbon footprint.
  • Has a low or no plastic footprint.

Why Buy Greener Products?

When items are produced in a non-environmentally friendly manner, there are a host of consequences. From toxic exposures to air pollution, water contamination, global warming, natural resource depletion, improper disposal, and ecosystem damage. These are all potential hazards to both human health and the environment.

These impacts can occur at any point in the product’s life cycle. This includes the extraction of raw materials, and during the production and labelling processes. It can also include the impacts of transportation to retail units and the selling of these items. It even extends to product use and the product’s end of life.

Buying greener products – especially those made from renewable resources – can help mitigate some of these impacts, as well as benefit both the environment and local communities.

The Green Consumption Effect

Whilst there are environmental benefits to buying eco-friendly products, researchers have interestingly found that buying green products can enhance a shopper’s wellbeing. It was found that buying a green product makes customers feel good – giving them a warm glow – and makes them feel like responsible and upstanding citizens.

This is a phenomenon known as the green consumption effect.

However, the same study found that the green consumption effect vanishes when the environmentally friendly component of the item has a low or negligible environmental benefit.

Be Aware Of Greenwashing

The trouble is that many unscrupulous brands try to take advantage of this green consumption effect. As such, numerous companies seek to distinguish themselves in a highly competitive marketplace by over-exaggerating their eco-friendly credentials to encourage customers to buy their products.

Greenwashing is the phrase used to characterise the process when a company exaggerates how environmentally-friendly its product actually is. 

Falsified sustainability assertions, such as in the ethical jewellery sector, are the number one reason customers say they would avoid purchasing a product. That is, greenwashing is more offensive than having a terrible online presence or terrible reviews.

But how do you know if the so-called green products you are using are genuine or phoney? Here are a few things to do to avoid being greenwashed by a brand:

Is The Green Product Able To Back Up Its Claims

If a product alleges to be compostable, biodegradable, or sustainable, then the brand should provide more details on how or why. Preferably the brand should provide external certifications to back up these claims.

Read The Small Print

Food packaging is a prime example of how some environmentally friendly statements, such as ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable,’ may not be as beneficial as they appear.

Plastic wraps may be labelled as compostable. However, do read the packaging or contact the manufacturer if advice is missing. The wrapper may be home compostable, which is good. In other cases, it may require to be composted commercially. In this case, it’s considered greenwashing, as few people have access to commercial composting facilities.

Look For Accreditation Or Buyer’s Guides

Several third-party environmental credentials aim to ensure specific benchmarks are met by brands. This includes accreditations such as Fairtrade, B Corp, and Rainforest Alliance Certified.

While accreditations are not a panacea, they indicate whether businesses are making an effort to help the environment. Buyers’ guides, such as those for ethical shoppers, can also assist by doing some of the analysis for you.

False Claims Should Be Reported

If there are no details on the tag or website about how a product is green, consult the brand directly. False or deceptive environmental claims are against Advertising Standard Agency guidelines. Businesses that make misleading claims may face fines.

The Future Of Green Consumerism Looks Promising

It is tough to persuade consumers to pay more for goods. However, brands can encourage consumers toward making more environmentally friendly choices by making things convenient and incentivising green behaviours.

UK supermarket chains already charge for plastic shopping bags to encourage the reuse of bags. Many supermarkets also offer single-use plastic recycling terminals. These often include recycling incentives, such as money off your grocery shopping.

In some instances, simply providing a price reduction for reusing old bags, containers, or cartons can make a difference. As can providing a discount for cafe customers using their own cups.

As green living is not accessible to everyone, brands must consider how they can bridge the information gap and assist consumers with a behavioural change, regardless of their circumstances.

It’s also important to remember that green consumerism is more than just buying environmentally friendly products. It can also include recycling, preserving, and taking public transport instead of driving a private car, where possible.

Don’t Be Fooled

We are all accountable, not only for our individual well-being but also for the health of everyone and the planet. As the sustainability movement gains traction, many people are looking for simple ways to green their lifestyles.

However, this leaves us at risk of greenwashing by unscrupulous companies, driven by profit rather than genuine environmental concern. Distinguishing between genuinely green products and greenwashing can help ensure the products we buy do genuine good to both people and the planet.