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?
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.