Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spotlight on Baking Soda #1: What, where, and how

What is baking soda?
Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, a naturally occurring crystalline compound. Another name for baking soda is bicarbonate of soda.

Where does baking soda come from? How is it made?
All of the baking soda used in the US, and 25% of baking soda used worldwide, comes from the vast trona mines of Green River, WY.  Trona is a naturally-occurring mineral that is chemically known as sodium sesquicarbonate. Trona is the raw material which is refined into soda ash. The soda ash is then dissolved in water and bubbled with carbon dioxide, and voila, baking soda!

Trona mine
What makes baking soda so special?
With a pH of 8.4, baking soda is a mild alkaline (base). This means it's great at neutralizing acids. Lots of smelly things are acidic. For example, most healthy dogs' and cats' urine has pH of 5.5 to 7 and sour milk has pH of 4.3 to 4.5. Baking soda neutralizes the pHunk. Ha ha!

The fine crystal texture of baking soda makes it mildly abrasive. This is good for scrubbing jobs when you need something to remove grime without scratching gentle surfaces.

Baking soda is a popular leavening agent in baking, especially vegan baking since eggs (also a leavening agent) are absent. In combination with a liquid and an acid-- lemon juice, milk, vinegar-- baking soda undergoes a chemical reaction that releases bubbles of carbon dioxide. Trapped in batter or dough, these carbon dioxide bubbles enable the baked good to rise.


Olivia Lane is a Blogger, Green Living Educator, and Health Coach trained at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She's also author of Baking Soda & Bliss: The Healthy & Happy Guide to Green Cleaning 
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