Sodium bicarbonate (IUPAC name: sodium hydrogen carbonate) is a chemical compound with the formula NaHCO3. It is a salt composed of sodium ions and bicarbonate ions. Sodium bicarbonate is a white solid that is crystalline but often appears as a fine powder. It has a slightly salty, alkaline taste resembling that of washing soda (sodium carbonate). The natural mineral form is nahcolite. It is a component of the mineral natron and is found dissolved in many mineral springs. It is among the food additives encoded by the European Union, identified as E 500. Since it has long been known and is widely used, the salt has many related names such as Sodium bicarbonate, bread soda, cooking soda, and bicarbonate of soda. In colloquial usage, the names sodium bicarbonate and bicarbonate of soda are often truncated. Forms such as sodium bicarb, bicarb soda, bicarbonate, bicarb, or even bica are common. The word saleratus, from Latin sal æratus meaning "aerated salt", was widely used in the 19th century for both sodium bicarbonate and potassium bicarbonate.
The prefix "bi" in "bicarbonate" comes from an outdated naming system and is based on the observation that there is twice as much carbonate (CO3) per sodium in sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) as there is carbonate per sodium in sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) and other carbonates. The modern way of analyzing the situation based on the exact chemical composition (which was unknown when the name "sodium bicarbonate" was coined) says this the other way around: there is half as much sodium in NaHCO3 as in Na2CO3 (Na versus Na2).
In cookery it is an alkali which is used to raise soda breads and full-flavoured cakes such as gingerbread, fruit cake, chocolate cake and carrot cake. It needs an acid (as well as moisture) to activate it so is often combined with cream of tartar, yoghurt, buttermilk or milk. Bicarbonate of soda works by giving off carbon dioxide which expands the mixture. Once the mixture is cooked, the carbon dioxide is replaced by air leaving a light cake or bread.
Sodium bicarbonate has been used in countless ways, it helps regulate pH—keeping a substance neither too acidic nor too alkaline. When Sodium bicarbonate comes in contact with either an acidic or an alkaline substance, its natural effect is to neutralize that pH. Beyond that, Sodium bicarbonate has the ability to retard further changes in the pH balance, known as buffering. This dual capability of neutralizing and buffering allows Sodium bicarbonate to do things such as neutralize acidic odors (like in the refrigerator) as well as maintain neutral pH (as in your laundry water, which helps boost your detergent’s power). It’s a simple reaction, but one that has far-reaching effects for a number of cleaning and deodorizing tasks.
Here are just a few ways Sodium bicarbonate can be used:
A paste made from Sodium bicarbonate and a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution can be used as an alternative to commercial non-fluoride toothpastes. (Or here’s a formula for a minty version.) You can also just dip your toothbrush with toothpaste into Sodium bicarbonate for an extra boost.
Freshen Your Mouth
Put one teaspoon in half a glass of water, swish, spit and rinse. Odors are neutralized, not just covered up.
Soak Oral Appliance
Soak oral appliances, like retainers, mouthpieces and dentures, in a solution of 2 teaspoons Sodium bicarbonate dissolved in a glass or small bowl of warm water. The Sodium bicarbonate loosens food particles and neutralizes odors to keep appliances fresh. You can also brush appliances clean using Sodium bicarbonate.
Use as a Facial Scrub and Body Exfoliant
Give yourself an invigorating facial and body scrub. Make a paste of 3 parts Sodium bicarbonate to 1 part water. Rub in a gentle circular motion to exfoliate the skin. Rinse clean. This is gentle enough for daily use.
Use as an Antacid
Sodium bicarbonate is a safe and effective antacid to relieve heartburn, sour stomach and/or acid indigestion. I have used this for years and can tell you that it works in seconds. Add 1 tea spoon of Sodium bicarbonate to a glass of water, stir until the water clears and drink.
Treat Insect Bites & Itchy Skin
For insect bites, make a paste out of Sodium bicarbonate and water, and apply as a salve onto affected skin. To ease the itch, shake some Sodium bicarbonate into your hand and rub it into damp skin after bath or shower. For specific tips on bee stings, see Bee Stings: Prevention and Treatment.
Make a Hand Cleanser and Softener
Skip harsh soaps and gently scrub away ground-in dirt and neutralize odors on hands with a paste of 3 parts Sodium bicarbonate to 1 part water, or 3 parts Sodium bicarbonate to gentle liquid hand soap. Then rinse clean. You can try this honey and cornmeal scrub for hands too.
Help Your Hair
Vinegar is amazing for your hair, but Sodium bicarbonate has its place in the shower too. Sprinkle a small amount of Sodium bicarbonate into your palm along with your favorite shampoo. Shampoo as usual and rinse thoroughly–Sodium bicarbonate helps remove the residue that styling products leave behind so your hair is cleaner and more manageable.
Clean Brushes and Combs
For lustrous hair with more shine, keep brushes and combs clean. Remove natural oil build-up and hair product residue by soaking combs and brushes in a solution of 1 teaspoon of Sodium bicarbonate in a small basin of warm water. Rinse and allow to dry.
Make a Bath Soak
Add 1/2 cup of Sodium bicarbonate to your bath to neutralize acids on the skin and help wash away oil and perspiration, it also makes your skin feel very soft. Epsom salts are pretty miraculous for the bath too; read about the health benefits of epsom salt baths.
Soothe Your Feet
Dissolve 3 tablespoons of Sodium bicarbonate in a tub of warm water and soak feet. Gently scrub. You can also make a spa soak for your feet.
Clean Coffee and Tea Pots
Remove coffee and tea stains and eliminate bitter off-tastes by washing mugs and coffee makers in a solution of 1/4 cup Sodium bicarbonate in 1 quart of warm water. For stubborn stains, try soaking overnight in the Sodium bicarbonate solution and detergent or scrubbing with Sodium bicarbonate on a clean damp sponge.
Clean the Oven
Sprinkle Sodium bicarbonate onto the bottom of the oven. Spray with water to dampen the Sodium bicarbonate. Let sit overnight. In the morning, scrub, scoop the Sodium bicarbonate and grime out with a sponge, or vacuum, and rinse.
Remove dirt and grime (without unwanted scratch marks) from no wax and tile floors using 1/2 cup Sodium bicarbonate in a bucket of warm water–mop and rinse clean for a sparkling floor. For scuff marks, use Sodium bicarbonate on a clean damp sponge, then rinse. Read Natural Floor Cleaning for more tips on avoiding toxic floor cleaners.
Remove Oil and Grease Stains
Use Sodium bicarbonate to clean up light-duty oil and grease spills on your garage floor or in your driveway. Sprinkle Sodium bicarbonate on the spot and scrub with a wet brush.
Sodium bicarbonate can be used to neutralize battery acid corrosion on cars, mowers, etc. because its a mild alkali. Be sure to disconnect the battery terminals before cleaning. Make a paste of 3 parts Sodium bicarbonate to 1 part water, apply with a damp cloth to scrub corrosion from the battery terminal. After cleaning and re-connecting the terminals, wipe them with petroleum jelly to prevent future corrosion. Please be careful when working around a battery–they contain a strong acid.
To deodorize your sink and tub drains, and keep lingering odors from resurfacing, pour 1/2 cup of Sodium bicarbonate down the drain while running warm tap water–it will neutralize both acid and basic odors for a fresh drain. (This a good way to dispose of Sodium bicarbonate that is being retired from your refrigerator).
Sodium bicarbonate has been found to have no effect on the blood pressure of several types of rat models susceptible to salt-sensitive hypertension, in contrast with sodium chloride. This was ascribed to the high concentration of chloride, rather than the sodium content in dietary salts.
Sodium bicarbonate can be used to treat an allergic reaction to plants such as poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac to relieve some of the associated itching.
Bicarbonate of soda can also be useful in removing splinters from the skin.
Some alternative practitioners, such as Tullio Simoncini, have promoted Sodium bicarbonate as a cancer cure, which the American Cancer Society has warned against due to both its unproven effectiveness and potential danger in use.
Sodium bicarbonate can be added to local anaesthetics, to speed up the onset of their effects and make their injection less painful. It is also a component of Moffett's solution, used in nasal surgery.
There seems to be no end to uses this incredible chemical compound can be used.
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