Natural Cleaning

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.

Home and Garden, How-To Eco Cleaning Guides, Natural Cleaning

How to Remove Tea Stains From Cups And Mugs Naturally

Don’t let brown tannin stains ruin a perfectly good cup of tea. Here’s how to remove tea and coffee stains from cups and mugs naturally.

Years ago I had this colleague who was prone to black tea in a very particular cup. However, he never washed out the cup – instead just rinsing it with water each time. I would always shudder when it was my turn to make the tea for everyone. The thing was so badly stained with tannins from the tea, that the white cup was completely dark brown on the inside – almost like a coating of fur. It was SO disgusting.

Whilst my colleague claimed the tannins in the mug contributed to the perfect cup of tea, I completely disagreed! I’m definitely of the mindset that to make the optimum cup of tea you need to start with a clean cup or mug.

Whenever I made the tea I’d secretly scrub out his cup with hot soapy water to make it a little more hygienic to handle. Yet even hot soapy water and a scourer were never enough to touch the sides of that cup. Those brown tannin stains seemed to be an integral part of that cup.

I am partial to a cup of tea – particularly plastic-free tea. And I’ve found that no matter how well – and how often – you wash your cups and mugs, they do often develop these tannin stains. Over the years I’ve found the best ways to remove tea stains from cups, cheaply, naturally and easily in just 30 minutes.

How To Remove Tea and Coffee Stains From Cups & Mugs

White cup next to a plant with blue text box that reads how to remove coffee and tea stains from cups and mugs naturally.

To remove stains from tea cups and coffee mugs, all you need is some soda crystals – also known as washing soda.

Simply add one teaspoon of soda crystals, and then fill the cup or mug with boiled water straight from the kettle. Stir to dissolve the soda crystals, and leave the solution to soak in the cup for at least half an hour. After half an hour, pour out the solution, and wash the cup in your sink, using a scourer or scrubbing brush to remove any residue.

For particularly stubborn stains, try soaking your cups overnight. Then scrub and wash them as before to shift these stains.

It’s such a simple and non-toxic way to remove stains, that I don’t recommend any other method. Nothing else I’ve found is as effective as soda crystals. Next time I’m cleaning my cups, I’ll be sure to post some before and after photos to this post. Right now my cups are sparkly clean so I have no good photos to share.

What Are Soda Crystals Exactly?

If you are wondering what soda crystals then, soda crystals are a simple one ingredient product – sodium carbonate. In plain English, this is a salt that contains no other additives.

Historically, soda crystals were extracted from areas where trees that had grown in sodium-rich soils had burned down. However, due to the versatility of soda crystals – they’re used in the soap, textile, and glass industries – soda crystals have long since been made commercially. Here sodium chloride (saltwater) reacts with limestone to form soda crystals.

Wondering where to buy soda crystals? You can buy soda crystals in hardware shops, in the cleaning aisle of the supermarket, or online very cheaply*.

If you don’t want to buy a bag of soda crystals just to clean your tea cups, then worry not. Soda crystals have heaps of uses around the home. From naturally unblocking drains to cleaning your washing machine and more. In fact, here are 15 uses for soda crystals. I am never without a bag!

I’m a huge fan of natural cleaning methods like this simple method of cleaning tea cups. I hope that by demonstrating just how effective natural products can be at cleaning, then you might be convinced to give products such as soda crystals and bicarbonate of soda a go at cleaning the rest of your home. If you’re inspired, do check out my complete guide to natural cleaning products.