Active Ingredients In Baking Soda: See What It Contains

Baking soda has a range of uses. It’s used as a leavening agent for baking, for cleaning tough stains, as medicine, and more. So, you may ask what are the active ingredients that make up the baking soda, and how come it is so significant in use.

Surprisingly, baking soda has only a few active ingredients which are carbon, sodium, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules. The combination of these molecules in different proportions is what gives us the multifunctional baking soda that we all use today.

This article talks further about the uses of baking soda, and how these active ingredients react together when met with other ingredients like water.

What is baking soda?

Baking soda also known as sodium bicarbonate is a chemical compound composed of two active ingredients which are sodium cation (Na+) and a bicarbonate anion (HCO3−). Sodium cation is a monatomic monocation derived from sodium which performs the function of metabolism. Bicarbonate on the other hand is an anion that reacts with acids to produce carbon dioxide.

Additionally, sodium bicarbonate or baking soda is basically a crystallized white solid that often appears as a fine powder. It has a fairly salty and alkaline taste which is similar to sodium carbonate.

Uses of baking soda

Baking soda has a variety of uses both in the kitchen and outside the kitchen. Here is a list of the many uses of baking soda:

1. Cooking

Baking soda is a leavening agent. For baking, it is mixed with acidic materials like buttercream, cream of tartar, and lemon juice. When mixed with these acid components, there is a reaction that causes the release of carbon dioxide to make batters expand.

Bakers use it together with these acid components to make cakes and bread batters light and rise for a fluffy and airy result.

SEE: Can You Use Arm and Hammer Baking Soda For Baking

2. Cleaning agent

Sodium bicarbonate is an effective cleaning agent. It is used in soda blasting to remove paints and corrosion from aluminum, copper, and timber. It can also clean off the rust from steel and silver pieces.

Additionally, car washes use it to replace water softeners and it is included in soaps to remove odors from cloths and clean off heavy tea and coffee stains from cups.

SEE: Transformative Techniques to Clean Your Kitchen

3. Fire extinguisher

If you experience a little grease or electrical fire in your home, sodium bicarbonate can help quench the fire. Simply throw the baking soda over the fire and the carbon dioxide released will act as a fire extinguisher.

It is also used in large-scale fire suppression systems in commercial kitchens. Baking powder alkaline agents have a mild saponification effect on hot grease and form a soapy foam when used as an extinguisher. However, be careful when using it with fires from deep fryers because the gas released can cause the oil to spatter.

4. Disinfectant and odor removal

Baking soda acts as effective odor removal and mild disinfectant. It’s potent for cleaning the mouth and gums, neutralizing acid production in the mouth, and preventing infections as an antiseptic.

Perfume-making brands mix sodium bicarbonate with other materials to make deodorants and it is said to absorb musty odor from the fridge and even books.

5. Medical and health uses

Drug makers find sodium bicarbonate effective for treating acid indigestion and heartburn when mixed with water. It’s also added to local anesthetics to make injection or surgery less painful and speed up the effect of injections.

Doctors use it to treat hyperkalemia, aspirin overdose, and tricyclic antidepressant overdose. It’s also effective in relieving swelling or pains from insect bites and stings. Baking soda is used in eye clinics to treat blepharitis too.

SEE: Uses of Lined Baking Sheet

6. Agriculture

Baking soda is associated with the prevention of fungi growth in plants. However, excessive use can result in discoloration of fruits and loss of chlorosis.

Can you use baking soda alone for baking?

No. Using baking soda alone in the batter without the presence of an acidic component would result in the release of only half of the available carbon dioxide. As a result, the batter wouldn’t give the authentic airy and fluffy texture that baked food should have.

Additionally, it will result in a baked product with a bitter and metallic taste and yellow color. Thermal decomposition of sodium bicarbonate produces sodium carbonate which is strongly alkaline thereby causing this result. 

SEE: Can You Make Dough With Just Flour And Water

How to use baking soda for baking

Baking soda is a leavening agent but in base form. It has to be mixed with an acid component like cream of tartar or buttercream for a reaction that causes the release of carbon dioxide in the form of bubbles. This reaction is what causes the batter to expand, and rise in the oven.

Baking soda is great for recipes that require a higher acidity level. But for food like cakes or muffins, you want your dough to rise extensively for a fluffier result, so baking powder is usually a better option.

SEE: Here’s How You Can Tell If Baking Powder Is Acid or Base

Baking soda vs baking powder

Baking soda and baking powder are both leavening agents; the difference is what they contain and react. Sodium bicarbonate is a base that needs to meet with any acid component for a chemical reaction that forms carbon dioxide. Baking powder on the other hand is a mix of baking soda, cream of tartar, and sometimes cornstarch.

Sodium bicarbonate is at least three times stronger than baking powder but that doesn’t mean that adding an excess of it to your batter will make it rise even more. In fact, you need to decrease the amount of sodium bicarbonate used in your recipe compared to baking powder.

Baking soda reacts just once when it comes in contact with acid. In contrast, baking powder is double acting and has components that react at every baking stage. Baking powder contains two acids which are monocalcium phosphate and sodium acid pyrophosphate.

Monocalcium phosphate reacts with sodium bicarbonate only when wet; like when stirred in wet dough or batter while sodium bicarbonate reacts when put in the oven causing the dough to rise for a longer period of time and resulting in a fluffier and better result.

SEE: Is Cornstarch Baking Powder

Does baking soda expire?

Yes. Baking soda has a shelf life of 3 months. After then, it may lose its ability to react with acid. So, it is best that you label your baking soda with dates so that you can always check from time to time.

You can also test to know if your baking soda has expired or not. Simply pour 3 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar into a bowl, add ½ teaspoon of baking soda and stir lightly. If the mixture bubbles, then the soda isn’t expired. If otherwise, it is expired.

SEE: Does Cream of Tartar Go Bad and Changes Its Color


Is baking soda healthy?

Yes. It is used as an antacid for treating indigestion and heartburn and it treats blepharitis.

What are the side effects of too much baking soda?

Taking sodium bicarbonate in excess is poisonous and can lead to constipation, convulsion, diarrhea, irritability, and so on.

Where does sodium bicarbonate come from?

Baking soda is made from soda ash.

What is the pH of baking soda?

It has a pH of 8 since it is naturally alkaline.

Can you eat baking soda?

Absolutely. Baking soda is used as a leavening agent for baking bread, cakes, and the like.


Baking soda has sodium and bicarbonate as active ingredients. These two molecules are combined in proportions to form a fine powder called baking soda. It is used in cooking, cleaning, personal and health care, and agriculture.

When cooking, baking soda acts as a leavening agent in the batter. However, baking soda is a base so it must be mixed with an acid component like cream of tartar, honey, buttercream, yogurt, and the likes for a reaction that enables the release of carbon dioxide. This is to ensure that the batter expands and rises to give the baked food its characteristic consistency.

Baking soda is not risky to the health; however, it can pose some threats when taken in excess. For instance, it may lead to convulsion, diarrhea, constipation, and many health issues.

I’d advise that you read this article to know if you can use cornstarch instead of baking powder.

I hope this article was helpful. Thanks for reading.