Baking soda - The wonderful uses of sodium bicarbonate.
Updated: May 29, 2020
Sodium bicarbonate or more commonly known as baking soda has been traditionally used for baking (hence the name). Due to its ability to produce carbon dioxide, this white powder-like substance is used to make dough rise.
This wonderful product is not limited just to baking and can be used for multiple non-toxic purposes around the house, including cleaning, healthcare, and deodorizing.
The Chemistry and production of Bicarbonate of soda
Chemically structured as NaHCO3 - made up of Sodium, Hydrogen, Carbon, and Oxygen this salt is a component of the mineral Natron and Trona. Refined into soda ash (calcium carbonate) and the turned into baking soda, the salt is said to be environmentally friendly and in no danger of running out.
“According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Wyoming alone contains 56 million tons of pure layered trona, plus 47 billion more tons mixed with other minerals. We’re only tapping trona at the rate of 15 million tons per year; the Wyoming Mining Association estimates that we have enough on hand to last more than 2,000 years.”
Most of the world's supply comes from the United States where the largest Trona deposits can be found in Wyoming. Nahcolite (a component of Natron) is commercially mined in Colorado as well as in Botswana and Kenya. There are also sizable deposits in Uganda, Turkey, and Mexico.
A Brief history
According to "A Brief History of Baking Soda" the use of Natron (primarily made up of sodium carbonate) can be traced back to 3500 BC. It is believed that Ancient Egyptians used Natron as a cleaning agent, similar to how we now use soap. There is no surprise that we now use it for the same purpose.
Another interesting use for Natron in the ancient world is mummification. Due to its dehydrating capabilities, natron 'packs' were placed inside dead bodies (after fast decaying organs were removed). These packed would absorb moister from the body and leave it dry. Once the moisture was removed, so were the packs and a cleaning process was carried out.
In 1843 the first use of baking powder like we know it was created as an alternative to yeast. Alfred Bird, a British chemist created what we call sodium bicarbonate for his wife as she was allergic to yeast. It was not long after this, that in 1846 the world-famous 'Arm and Hammar' brand was created. From here many uses of the substance we discovered and rediscovered over the decades to come. Here is a list of some of the wonderful uses for Baking soda that we know of so far:
What to use it for
#1 Brushing your teeth
Most of us have heard of the micro-plastics in our toothpaste. This is good for neither us or the environment. Baking soda is an absolutely wonderful alternative. Due to its slightly abrasive qualities, it is great to scrub and whiten our teeth - not to mention it is a great anti-bacterial.
#2 Body wash
Because of baking sodas amazing anti-bacterial properties it makes an amazing body wash/ defoliant. You can simply put some in your hands and scrub away! Another nice trick if you want to use it for a SHAMPOO REPLACEMENT is to mix a few teaspoons and equal parts white vinegar into 1L of water. The vinegar balances the ph of the soda and makes your hair silky soft - and no, you will not smell like vinegar, trust me, I use this method!
Sweat only starts to smell when it is old and bacteria start to break it down - Because Baking soda has a basic ph it reduces the acidity of our sweat which reduces the smell. You can put a small amount of baking soda under your arms in the mornings or when you feel the smell coming on and it will make a huge difference.
#4 Clean fruits and vegetables
Wax polish and pesticides on our precious produce - all so it can look nice and shiny. This is not what we want when we are trying to live a healthy life. Rubbing baking soda on our produce quickly removes these waxy coatings leaving only the deliciousness beneath.
Acid reflux or heartburn is commonly caused from overeating, stress, and eating greasy and spicy foods. When the stomach becomes too acidic the acids push up into the esophagus and sometimes into the throat and mouth. Sodium bicarbonate can help neutralize the pH of our stomach. Simply mix a teaspoon into a glass of water and drink it. It doesn't taste wonderful but it will do the job.
#6 Sooth canker sores
Canker sores are small, painful ulcers that can form inside your mouth. Unlike cold sores, canker sores do not form on the lips and aren’t contagious, however, they are just as uncomfortable and disrupting. Some research has shown that a simple mouth wash with bi-carb can reduce and or eliminate these sores.
#7 Sooth itchy skin
Taking a bath with baking soda in the water can help reduce itchy skin. This is especially effective for bug and insect bites. Simply add 1-2 cups to a warm bath and soak the skin. This method is known to be more effective when combined with cornstarch or oatmeal.
You can also create a paste by simply adding a small amount of water to the powder and then covering the irritated area of the skin.
#8 Improve anaerobic exercise
During high-intensity exercise, muscle cells start producing lactic acid. Lactic acid lowers the pH inside your cells, which may cause your muscles to tire. This also produces that burning feeling we know so well. As sodium bicarbonate has a high pH it may help delay this effect and therefore increase anaerobic exercise time.
#9 Homemade non-toxic weed killer
Weeds can become annoying when they turn up on our walkways and in the cracks of gutters. Baking soda can be an amazing alternative to poisonous weed killers as it is high in sodium. Simply sprinkle the powder over the problem areas and watch the weeds disappear.
This method should only be used in paved areas and not in flower beds as it may cause damage to flowers and other plants.
#10 Household cleaning
Bicarbonate of soda can replace ALL your household chemicals. It is truly amazing. You can use it for sinks, toilets, stove grime, pots, and pans, to shine cutlery... the list is endless. If you have a particularly stubborn stain just place some baking soda on it and add some vinegar. Watch it bubble and scrape off with ease. GO BAKING SODA!
As it stands there is no major negative environmental impact on our bodies or animals. The only side effect, according to The Spruce is that of the mining process.
Trona is mined with a 'room-and-pillar system' where the mineral is mined underground and then sent to the surface. According to Wyoming public media, there are two main environmental concerns when it comes to the mining process.
The first being the loss of habitat of the near endangered Sage Grouse and the second being air quality. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a regional haze management plan to address visibility issues.
These 'unseen' environmental issues significantly take away from the 'environmentally friendly' name that sodium bicarbonate has made for itself. However, there is an amazing project called Skyemine which is a machine that takes carbon dioxide waste from factories and turns it into usable baking soda.
Although, just like any commercially produced product there are some concerns this white salt still seems to be one of the better options when it comes to cooking, cleaning, and deodorizing.
Harsh chemicals floating around our house just for the purpose of keeping things clean and healthy seems a bit contradictory. What about all those body products we use to keep our skin smooth and wash with daily? Chemicals, chemicals, chemicals. Bicarbonate of soda could be the answer to many household problems and should definitely be included in every home.
It is up to each of us to make a difference in the world around us. The choice is yours.
BE THE CHANGE.
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