Is baking soda the same as baking powder? The KEY difference

TikTok user shows off baking soda hack for cleaning headlights

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Baking soda, scientifically known as sodium bicarbonate, has been used for centuries for a whole range of things. The salt was used by Ancient Egyptians around 3500BC as both a soap-like cleaning agent and to bind mummies. Today, we use it for baking and as a cleaning agent that removes acidic stains and neutralises bad smells. But is baking soda the same as baking powder?

Baking soda, also known as bicarbonate of soda or ‘bicarb’ is something most of us have in our kitchen cupboards, but it can be used for much more than making baked goods rise.

The salty powder is an ingredient in a range of household products, from toothpaste and deodorant to laundry detergents and cat litter.

Nowadays we use baking soda as a cheap and cheerful cleaning agent for a wide range of tasks, but is baking powder a suitable replacement if we’ve run out of baking soda?

Is baking soda the same as baking powder?

Baking soda and baking powder look exactly the same and the name is nearly identical, but they’re not interchangeable.

The two products are not the same and one should not be used instead of the other in baking.

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate whereas baking powder simply includes sodium bicarbonate.

Baking soda is typically used when a recipe uses acidic ingredients such as citrus juice or cream of tartar, whereas baking powder can be used without acidic ingredients.

This is because baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) requires acid and a liquid to activate and help baked goods rise.

Baking powder, on the other hand, has an acid in it (cream of tartar) already so only needs liquid to become activated.

If a recipe doesn’t have an acidic ingredient in it you’ll use baking powder because the powder has acid in it, which is needed to produce carbon dioxide.

If you’re trying to clean with sodium bicarbonate, you must not get baking soda/bicarbonate of soda and baking powder mixed up.

As mentioned, the two are chemically different and cleaning is very scientific.

The main reason baking soda is useful in cleaning is because it is alkaline, so it is great at neutralising acids.

For example, leaving baking soda in the fridge will absorb the smell of old food (which is normally acidic) and neutralise it.

When you mix baking soda with white vinegar (an acid) down a blocked sink, the fizzy reaction will dislodge a blockage.

Baking powder is a mixture of acidic and basic components, so its pH isn’t very useful in cleaning.

If you use baking powder and acid, you won’t have much luck getting rid of any acidic stains or trying any other baking soda cleaning hacks.

Stick to using baking powder in recipes that need it and use baking soda for cleaning.

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