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The difference between baking powder/soda and bicarbonate of soda

You will often see ‘baking soda’ or ‘baking powder’ recommended for use in cleaning, as well as….you guessed it, baking. But what’s the difference between it and bicarbonate of soda (aka Sodium Bicarbonate, or ‘bicarb’ for short)?

The waters are muddied because American websites use the two almost interchangeably and many UK sites/people use the same terminology. As far as the UK goes, the difference is that Baking Powder is Bicarbonate of Soda PLUS cream of tartar which acts as a raising agent in baking. But bicarbonate of soda can also be used in baking; it still acts as a raising agent IF the recipe has an acidic ingredient (eg lemon) Once the two meet in a mix with moisture, the two react giving off bubbles. In the UK, you may well see Arm & Hammer Baking Soda on shelves – that is what we’d refer to as Bicarbonate of Soda.

We are often asked whether our bicarbonate of soda can be used for baking. Our version is exactly the same product that is used in the (more expensive) pots that you find in the baking aisle, but it has not been packed on a ‘food safe’ line. That means that it’s packed on a line that may also be packing citric acid or borax substitute, so we can’t officially recommend it for culinary purposes. Many people use it to make elderflower cordial and other drinks.

What it does mean though, is that there’s no point paying for the expensive cooking bicarb when you’re using it for cleaning & laundry purposes; you get 500g in each box!

37 thoughts on “The difference between baking powder/soda and bicarbonate of soda

  1. I use soda crystals for cleaning already, but I’ve seen a video on youtube where baking soda is mixed into a paste with vinegar then applied to the dirty oven. The oven is then heated to 100C for 45 minutes and the grease just wipes off. Is it safe to do this with soda crystals please?

      1. There’s little point. Soda Crystals are alkali and great at dissolving grease. Vinegar is acidic and the two will simply counteract each other.

        The best approach is to turn off the power and scrape off any solid residue. Then make a paste with Soda Crystals and hot water and apply to the surfaces and leave to ‘work’ for at least 10 minutes. Then rinse off with a brush or cloth regularly dipped in clean hot water. You could also try Liquid Soda Crystals.

        Be careful not to get water on heating elements.

  2. Not quite right on the explanation, at least for America; Baking Soda (i.e., Arm & Hammer) is bicarbonate of soda…Baking POWDER is bicarbonate of soda AND an acid, usually Cream of Tartar.

    1. Although bicarbonate of soda can be used in baking, then normally, no – you should use baking soda as it has extra raising agents.

  3. I saw a listing for the Soda Crystals product that listed the ingredients as Sodium Carbonate Decahydrate. Can somebody please tell me if that is different from Sodium Carbonate and if so, how?

    Would they be different once placed in water?


    1. Sodium Carbonate (anhydrous) does not disperse well in water. As the title suggests, decahydrate is 10H2O bound up in the crystal and being 60% water disperses much more readily. Sodium Carbonate will try to absorb water from the atmosphere so must be kept in a dry sealed environment.

  4. Dear Dri-Pak,
    Do you think you will ever have a Food Safe Line? It would be good for the other producers of Bicarbonate Soda to have some competition. 🙂
    Grace McCarron

    1. Yes – this is something we are currently investigating. Stay tuned for updates, by signing up to the newsletter or following us on Twitter or Facebook.

  5. Home remedies said baking/bicarbonate of soda can be used as a face musk,is it true? beacuse i do not want to see my face damaged

    1. At the moment Dri-Pak bicarbonate of soda is not sold for personal care or food use. The product is actually ‘food grade’ but it is packed on lines that may have packed other traditional cleaning products. Although the lines are cleaned down between different runs, there may be residue.

      As for using bicarb for personal care, it is used in many products, including toothpaste. When used as advised and sensibly, it should be fine. It would make sense to test a small area first. If in any doubt, check with a competent medical or skincare professional.

    1. What purpose are you using it for? The simple answer is:
      If for cleaning – bicarbonate of soda
      If for baking: If the recipe already has an acidic ingredient eg lemon, then bicarb will be fine. If it doesn’t, it needs to be ‘baking powder’ which has cream of tartar (usually) added.

    1. Hi Heather – it depends what is causing the blockage. Unlike sink drains that tend to get blocked by grease and food debris, toilets usually get blocked by objects such as toilet paper. Sanitary towels and other items should never be disposed of down the toilet. Is it TOTALLY blocked or just slow filling/draining?

      The things you could try are:

      1. Make a strong solution of Soda Crystals and dissolve in hot water. Pour quickly into the pan (unless the pan is full and not flowing) and leave to drain. Repeat the process if necessary.
      2. Use a plunger; if you don’t have one, try a toilet brush or mop and agitate vigorously so that the pressure dislodges the blockage.

      If all that fails, you may want to try some rods or call a plumber.

      Once unblocked, keep toilets clean by a regular treatment of soda crystals and a toilet brush scrub. Many toilet cleaners are extremely harmful to aquatic life.

      If you have limescale, use citric acid.

    1. Although there are lots of articles on the internet describing how cancer can’t survive in an alkali environment, that’s in a petri dish! As soon as any foodstuff is ingested, it is affected by our body. For example, lemons are acid, but once ingested, is alkalising within the body.

      You should always discuss such things with your GP or other medical professional eg oncologist/dietitian.

      The general advice is to eat a healthy balanced diet.

      Here are a couple of posts we wrote on the topic: http://www.dri-pak.co.uk/tag/cancer/

  6. For teeth wash/cleaning, should i use baking soda or baking powder?
    Can i use either of the two when one is not available?
    Which is more preferable?

    1. Our bicarb is designed for cleaning. It is actually food grade, but not packed on a food packing line. With regard to your question, we can’t really comment. It’s largely the mild abrasive properties that will be doing the cleaning, so possibly either, but there may be other sites that can advise.

    1. Hi Rosie – many people take bicarbonate of soda to settle an acid stomach/heartburn. People with high blood pressure should check with their GP because it contains sodium.

      Although our bicarb IS food grade, it isn’t packed on a ‘food safe’ line, so technically, we can’t recommend it for such use.

  7. We have a septic tank and so I have been using bicarbonate of soda in my laundry however would I be just as well using your soda crystals in the laundry instead? does it do exactly the same job as using bicarbonate of soda?

  8. Just read about soda crystals in a magazine then looked at your website – really excited and I am now off the shops to buy your product – I think I was a lundry maid in a past life as I love to see white washing on the line blowing in the wind. Thankyou.

    1. Hi Ritty, technically we can’t advise the use of our bicarb for ‘personal care’. Although it is food grade bicarb, it isn’t packed on a food safe line. But seeing as you’d notice any foreign objects anyway, then you can use your own judgement. With regard to ‘eye bags’, we’ve not heard of that one. We’ve heard slices of cold cucumber work wonders.

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