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Is Bicarbonate Of Soda The Same As Baking Soda ?

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bicarb of soda in bowl

If you’ve been looking up cleaning hacks during the days, weeks, and months we’ve spent in and out of lockdown, you’re not alone.

You might also have found yourself wondering if bicarbonate of soda is the same as baking soda, and the quick answer is yes. 

Bicarbonate of soda and baking soda are the same.

In the UK, we use the term bicarbonate of soda. Sometimes, you may even see it written as bicarb for short. In America and other places, they call it baking soda. 

So, if you’re looking into chemical-free cleaning or a way to get rid of smelly odours, bicarbonate of soda is a great product to keep in your cleaning cupboard. 

What is Bicarbonate of Soda?

bicarb of soda in a glass

Bicarbonate of soda (NaHCO3) is a popular ingredient used in baking. It dissolves easily in water to form bicarbonate and sodium and is a natural acid neutraliser because of its alkaline nature. 

The bicarbonate of soda creates carbon dioxide once it is mixed with something acidic. The carbon dioxide gas creates protrusions that enable the final product to rise and give it a crisp texture.

You will find it a common ingredient in recipes containing acidic components. These ingredients are natural cocoa powder, buttermilk, molasses, yoghurt, brown sugar, lemon juice, cream of tartar, vinegar, honey, and apple sauce.

In addition to its use in popular baking recipes, bicarbonate of soda is a great cleaning product. Since it needs both acid and liquid to activate, you’ll often find people recommend using it with lemon or vinegar.

5 ways to use Bicarbonate of Soda for your laundry

1. Fight Odours

Sweat is acidic. So are other unpleasant things like urine and vomit, but you’ll probably clean these out of your clothes a little less frequently. Since bicarbonate of soda is an alkaline, it works to neutralise acids.

You can soak particularly smelly clothes in warm water and bicarb to avoid lasting odours. Alternatively, you can add a few tablespoons of bicarb with your regular washing detergent.

2. Fight Stains

Bicarb can combat the dreaded oil stain remarkably well. Simply sprinkle the powder over the stain and let it sit.

For other tough stains, you can mix some bicarbonate of soda with a little bit of warm water to make a thick paste. Apply the paste to the stain and leave it for a few hours.

In both cases, remove the bicarb before putting the item into the washing machine. 

3. Use instead of bleach

If you’re looking for a non-chemical way to make your whites a little bit brighter – try adding some bicarbonate of soda to your next load of lights.

The soda helps lift lasting grime from your clothes and can help them come out smelling fresher and looking cleaner than with just your normal detergent alone. 

4. Gently clean baby clothes

It’s recommended to wash any new clothes for babies to remove any chemical, starch, sizing, or dye residue from the manufacturer.

If these come into contact with the baby’s skin, they can sometimes be harmful.

Bicarbonate of soda is a great way to sanitise new baby clothes. You can wash clothes with a mild non-bio detergent and about half a cup of baking soda to help remove any residual nasties. 

5. Undo a red sock disaster

Don’t panic if you’ve accidentally pulled a Rachel and left your red sock in with all your whites. Bicarbonate of soda can help reverse the colour transfer.

Soak the affected garments in a warm bath of bicarb and salt. This should help remove the tinge. You can then rewash as normal in hot water. 

Is Bicarbonate of Soda the same as Baking Powder?

While bicarbonate of soda and baking soda are the same, baking powder is not.

baking powder being used

Baking powder is a mixture of a dry acid known as cream of tartar, baking soda, and cornflour. The addition of cornflour, an inactive ingredient, often prevents them from reacting when liquid is added.

In addition, cream of tartar adds acidity to recipes that do not require acidic ingredients.

Most of the baking powders on the market today are double-acting. This means they work once you add them to wet ingredients and then react again in the oven when exposed to heat.

Single-acting baking powders are also available but are not as popular as the former and can be interchanged.

Since baking powder does have some bicarbonate of soda in it, it can sometimes be used to the same effect depending on the situation. However, it’s worth noting that since baking powder is a combination of ingredients, the bicarb is less potent.

Still, you can use baking powder in some instances, like soaking up a spill to help prevent smells and stains. 

What About Soda Crystals?

Another useful product for cleaning around the house is soda crystals. These act similarly to bicarbonate of soda, perhaps because they are chemically almost the same.

However, soda crystals are sodium carbonate decahydrate. Comparatively, bicarbonate of soda is sodium bicarbonate.

You can’t use soda crystals in place of bicarb for baking, but you can use soda crystals for cleaning up. In fact, soda crystals are becoming more and more popular as an eco-friendly cleaner as they contain no harsh chemicals. 


Now you have the answer to this big question. Bicarbonate of soda and baking soda are exactly the same. However, even though they seem similar, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder are different.

For pastries to rise, bicarbonate of soda needs acid and liquid to be activated. On the other hand, baking powder already includes sodium bicarbonate and acid and only needs liquid to be activated. 

The wonderful thing about bicarbonate of soda, or baking soda, is that you can use it for other purposes apart from creating recipes.

For instance, you can use it as a mouthwash, drain cleaner, odour neutraliser, and jewellery cleaner. Therefore, whether you are a baker or not, bicarbonate of soda is a must-have in your kitchen cupboard.

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Meet our reviewer

Jimmy Pearce is our resident expert on domestic cleaning appliances. Having managed a large electrical retail store for over 10 years and with a family that includes 3 kids, there is little Jimmy doesn’t know or hasn’t seen when it comes to domestic cleaning. When he’s not spending time with the family or reviewing domestic appliances, Jimmy is often found in his man cave jamming on his bass guitar.

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