Simple Facts About Baking Soda

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We're told that baking soda is safe and natural, but what is it? Simple facts about what it is, what it's used for and why.

Safe, natural... but what is it? Where does baking soda come from and... what is it?

Baking soda starts its life as a natural mineral mined from the earth as "trona," (sodium sesquicarbonate) which is then processed into soda ash. This is dissolved in water into which carbon dioxide is added to cause the formation of sodium bicarbonate crystals. This solution is then allowed to dry and it becomes the familiar white powder we know. That's a very simple look at how common baking soda comes to life.

Although baking soda feels and looks like a soft powder, tiny crystals make it an excellent but gentle scrubber - good for fragile human skin and tough linoleum floors alike.

Since it's completely water soluble, adding water to it soon dissolves those crystals and it loses it's scrubbing ability. Without that property, it probably would not be gentle enough for your face. These baking soda crystals can be used in many simple personal care applications, and, indeed, are in many commercial products.

Water is the enemy when you store baking soda. If your climate is humid or if there's a chance that moisture may be present, keep it in an airtight container. If it's stored properly, baking soda will last indefinitely.

Another very important enemy of baking soda is acid in any form. When you add vinegar or other acid to baking soda and it foams up, (this is the baking soda giving up its carbon dioxide) they're neutralizing each other - hitting a pH balance which may or may not be a neutral pH, depending on the acidity of the vinegar.

This alkaline nature makes it invaluable as a simple cleaner and deodorizer as many of our cleaning and odor problems are acid based. It can be used to thoroughly clean bathrooms and sickrooms.

Some fun facts:

On the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty on July 4, 1986, New York, USA, more than 100 tons of simple baking soda. was used to clean the interior copper walls.

Baking soda used in the United States was imported from England at first, but in 1846 scientist Austin Church and farmer John Dwight joined forces to produce what became an American icon - Arm and Hammer Baking Soda. The familiar yellow box hasn't changed much since then although the company has evolved over the years into a modern and sophisticated one.

Most of the baking soda now used in the United States comes from western Wyoming, an area reminiscent of the moon at times, with its strikingly pale and stark landscapes. Trona is mined underground in the southwestern corner of the state.

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