Please, don’t reach for your box of baking soda until you read this article. If I hadn’t become aware of the dangers of GMOs and other poisons in our food supply, I would have never asked, “What is baking soda and where does it come from?” Learn all you need to know about baking soda for the health of your family.
While baking soda is a natural product, they are not all equal. It’s baking soda, there wouldn’t be a reason for anyone to mess with that, right? Wrong.
As we continued to make the transition into a non-Gmo, organic, no processed food life, I began to wonder about the base ingredients I was using to prepare our food and make our hygiene products.
I began researching baking soda and what I found shocked and befuddled me!
What is Baking Soda?
True natural baking soda is a naturally occurring mineral found in evaporated lake beds. Its use dates back at least as far as the ancient Egyptians who used it for mummification, medicinal purposes, personal hygiene, and household tasks.
In its natural form, baking soda is called nahcolite.
We usually think of cooking or cleaning when we think of it. It reacts with liquid releasing carbon dioxide making that bubbling action we’re all familiar with. This is why it is used as a raising agent in baking.
All Baking Sodas are Not Created Equal
So where does baking soda come from? Most of the world’s baking soda is made by chemical reactions! Shocked? I know I was.
Naturally mined baking soda is not the mainstay on our grocery shelves, but it is available if you know how and where to look for it.
how is baking soda made?
Almost all of the baking soda in the United States and about 1/4 of the world, comes from Green River, Wyoming. In Wyoming, trona ore is mined from the earth as a raw material. It is then “refined” using chemicals to get soda ash.
Then the soda ash is treated with heat and carbon dioxide to create sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and sodium phosphates (detergents). Ta-Da! You now have chemically created it! The kind that comes in the “orange box….”
This blows my mind! Why go through all that trouble to chemically create it when it can be mined straight from the earth in its natural form?
Baking Soda Uses
As one of the most useful products in our homes, there are many jobs it does excellently. Here are just a few of them:
- a rising agent in cooking
- taking some of the gas out of beans while cooking
- scrubbing agent for cleaning
- deodorizer and odor absorber
- personal hygiene
- fungicide and insecticide in the garden
- abrasive agent for scrubbing
Natural baking soda is not a health risk to animals or humans. However, chemically created baking soda brings risk simply because of the way it’s created.
To be cost-effective, I do use the “orange box” for cleaning tasks instead of natural baking soda. Since I wear gloves to scrub things, it doesn’t come into contact with my skin.
Is there such a thing as organic baking soda?
I’ve been asked this question a lot. My answer surprises almost every person who asks, “No, there’s no such thing as organic baking soda. There may be a label that reads ‘organic’ but that would be a marketing ploy.”
Read the labels, know the company as best you can, and be certain you are purchasing a 100% pure natural product.
Choices for Buying Natural Baking Soda
You will be glad to know that there are some sources for the 100% Pure thing. I buy Bob’s Red Mill. They mine it in Colorado, directly from the ground in its natural state of nahcolite (sodium bicarbonate). There are no chemical reactions needed or used, just pure sodium bicarbonate.
There are a few other choices out there like Frontier Brand. You need to do your research and make a purchase you have confidence in.
We do all that we can to avoid chemicals and unnatural products. It really isn’t that much more expensive and the peace of mind I get when cooking our food, or brushing our teeth is worth a couple of dollars to me.
The Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder
This is a common question I get when I share a recipe or help someone who is learning to cook from scratch.
Baking soda and baking powder are both leavening agents used in bread, pies, cakes, cookies, pastries and various other kinds of baked goods.
Baking soda starts to work as soon as it comes in contact with liquid. Because it’s alkaline, it’s used in recipes that have an acidic liquid such as apple cider vinegar, buttermilk, or lemon juice which makes it more effective. When activated, carbon dioxide is released causing the fluffy rise you desire in baked goods.
Baking powder is considered a “complete” rising agent because it is made of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and is an acidic agent. It comes in single-acting and double-acting. What you will find in most grocery stores is double-acting which means it has two stages of rising, one when liquid is added and a second from the heat of cooking. Single-acting is almost always used in commercial baked goods and as its name implies, reacts only once when they’re exposed to the heat of cooking.
I hope this clears up your questions about what it is and whether all baking sodas are created equal. As we see, they definitely are not!
As with all the things we talk about, you must decide what’s best for you and your family. You are the one who has to feel good about the decisions you make for your home.
As always, I’m here to help.
MC Dildey says
When you say, “Why go through all that trouble to chemically create baking soda when it can be mined straight from the earth in its natural form?” it’s pretty clear that the answer is why ignore this source that can be minimally processed to get the same product.
Further down you say, “However, chemically created baking soda brings risk simply because of the way it’s created.” That’s a pretty big assumption, with no backing evidence provided.
You do a disservice to the public by making these unsubstantiated claims.
I hope – and urge – you to re-think your approach
Thank you for sharing your opinion. At The Farmer’s Lamp, we share information and encourage our readers to make their own decisions which is what we did in this article. We appreciate that you have a different point of view from us, but we stand by our beliefs about natural, non-chemical foods and living.
Very informative; answered all my questions. I have heard that the baking soda in the orange box is toxic, thus my online research where I found you and your website. Thank you.
Hi Dawn, I’m so gland you found the information you were looking for. Thank you for sharing it with me!