What’s baking soda doing in your toothpaste, deodorant, antacid and refrigerator?
Also known as sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda, baking soda is often employed as a leavening agent, since it’s involved in the chemical reaction that causes dough to rise. But this household staple has hundreds of uses. Baking soda is somewhat alkaline—that is, it has a pH above 7 and thus helps neutralize acids, including acidic scent molecules. That’s why baking soda comes in handy in the following (and surprising) ways:
- An open box of baking soda can help deodorize a refrigerator or room. You can make an air freshener by mixing baking soda and water in a spray bottle.
- It has various uses in cooking, not just baking. Adding a pinch to the soaking water of beans speeds the cooking process and helps reduce compounds that cause flatulence. A pinch added to tomato sauce while cooking, or coffee while brewing, reduces acidity. It’s also an effective meat tenderizer, since it breaks down proteins.
- Because it’s a mild abrasive and deodorizer, baking soda is a gentle, inexpensive cleanser for sinks, tiles, toilet bowls and ovens. And it’s a good ingredient in toothpastes, underarm deodorants and denture soaks. Environmentally safe, baking soda can be used in place of potentially toxic products.
- When added to laundry water—about half a cup—it can improve the effectiveness of detergent. Added to the rinse cycle, it can neutralize odors.
- Added to bath water, baking soda soothes dry skin, sunburn and itching due to poison ivy or mosquito bites. Or, it can be applied as a paste (one part water to three parts baking soda).
- Added to swimming pools, it can balance the pH and help keep water clear.
- Sodium bicarbonate is an effective antacid, but is not recommended because it’s so high in sodium: 1,250 milligrams per teaspoon, and 1,100 milligrams in two tabletsof Alka-Seltzer. And it may cause acid rebound effect, in which case you end up with worse heartburn.
And by the way: Some websites recommend taking sodium bicarbonate to bolster or restore your body’s acid/alkaline (pH) balance. This is nonsensical advice.
Some athletes consume sodium bicarbonate (also known as baking soda) hoping to neutralize the lactic acid that builds up in blood and muscles during intense exercise and thus causes fatigue and impairs performance. Does it boost athletic performance?
Published June 01, 2011