What is Baking Soda?
The chemical name for baking soda is NaHCO3 because it's a combination of sodium hydroxide, an alkali, and carbonic acid. Alkalinity (high pH) and acidity (low pH) are two opposing states, and substances that are neither alkaline or acidic are considered to have a neutral pH. Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate to chemists, is a mildly alkaline, gently abrasive substance that has the ability to break down dirt and grease, so they can be easily rinsed away.
How is Baking Soda Made?
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a natural element that's mined from deposits in the earth, and it can also be created by combining sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide. It's widely used in cooking, cleaning, health and beauty products. Its natural state is rock-like, and baking soda is ground into a powder that's used for a multitude of purposes.
What Does It Do?
Because baking soda is a slightly alkaline compound, it foams when it comes in contact with an acid like lemon juice or vinegar, releasing bubbles of trapped carbon dioxide. That's what gives it the ability to make bread rise, lift tartar from teeth and remove oil and grime from your skin. It also manually removes debris and polishes hard surfaces because of its gritty texture. Baking soda is useful for maintaining hair, skin, and teeth, along with other health and beauty applications.
Baking Soda for Hair
Dandruff/Oily Scalp/Itchy Scalp Relief
Baking soda is useful for removing dandruff and for drying up an oily scalp, and it can also help soothe an itchy scalp. The instructions are the same for each condition.
- Add a tablespoon of baking soda to a squeeze bottle of water and mix well. For dandruff, you might want to use a paste instead.
- Use your fingers to gently massage the solution into your scalp. Don't draw the baking soda down the shaft of your hair because it could make it too dry.
- Leave the baking soda and water solution in your hair for a couple of minutes and then rinse.
- Follow up with your regular conditioner.
If you have a lot of product buildup on your hair, a clarifying shampoo once a month will remove it. Just add a half-teaspoon of baking soda to your shampoo and work it into all parts of your hair. It will strip all the remaining conditioner, gel and hairspray away, along with some of your hair's natural oil. Just be sure and use a nourishing conditioner right afterward.
Vinegar & Baking Soda Treatment
When you use baking soda on your hair as a clarifying shampoo, for an itchy scalp, or to remove dandruff, you'll be doing your hair a favor if you follow it up with apple cider vinegar. Not only does the vinegar hold in moisture, but it also has antibacterial properties. The acidic vinegar and the slightly alkaline baking soda balance each other, and your hair is left shiny and healthy.
Squeeze the water from your clean hair, and use a spray bottle with a 1-to-4 ratio of vinegar and water to completely cover it. Rub the apple cider vinegar in well and let it sit for a couple of minutes, then rinse. Yes, you'll smell like vinegar for a couple of hours, but the smell does dissipate. Be careful not to get any vinegar in your eyes, because it will sting.
Baking Soda for Skin
Baking soda is a gentle, mildly alkaline exfoliator for your skin that costs only pennies. You can also add other ingredients to a paste of baking soda and water. A drop of essential oil for aromatherapy and a drop of vitamin E oil to nourish your skin are two of my favorite recommendations. Don't use a baking soda scrub more than once a week, though. Skin is naturally slightly acidic, and that helps it stay moist and fight bacteria.
If you're allergic to deodorant products or don't want to use chemicals, baking soda is another option as an underarm deodorant. One way to apply it is by adding a few drops of water to about 1/8 of a teaspoon, mixing it lightly, and then rubbing it on. A dry version can be created by mixing baking soda and cornstarch in a 1-to-6 ratio and dusting it under your arms. Either of these methods can be used to combat foot odor as well.
This is a handy use of baking soda's antibacterial and antifungal properties. Soaking your feet in hot water with baking soda added to it can eliminate foot odor, remove bacteria, and prevent toenail fungus. While you're at it, add your favorite essential oil or tea tree oil, another antifungal, antibacterial product.
Because it's a drying, alkaline substance, baking soda dissolved in water can soothe sunburned skin. The antiseptic properties discourage infection and the drying properties help minimize blisters that may form. Soak a clean cloth in a solution of 2 cups of water and two tablespoons of baking soda, and press it gently to the sunburn as a compress.
When you need to wash heavy stains and strong odors from your hands, reach for the baking soda. The rough texture will scrub off stains, and baking soda absorbs strong odors like fish or onions. You'll have the added benefit of the mild antibacterial action of the sodium bicarbonate. It's better for your skin than antibacterial soap, which has been implicated in promoting resistance in germs.
Skin is naturally slightly acidic, and baking soda is mildly alkaline. Besides scrubbing dirt and oil from your skin, baking soda lifts it from the pores with the foaming action that occurs when it comes in contact with an acidic surface. Since it gets into the pores, it also allows your skin to benefit from its antibacterial properties. Since dirt, oil and bacteria are what cause acne in the first place, using a product that actively removes them this way is a smart move.
Acne inflammation is associated with excess skin acidity, so using a baking soda scrub can help prevent outbreaks from occurring. It also has drying properties and can absorb some of the oil from your face. Sodium bicarbonate is mild enough that it shouldn't cause irritation in normal skin, but everyone's skin chemistry is different, so it's best to try it on a small area instead of your whole face at one time.
- Baking Soda
- Lemon Juice
This treatment takes only a couple of minutes to put together and fifteen minutes from start to finish. It cleanses your face while it fights bacteria, and it feels great!
- Wash your face with your usual cleanser and pat dry with a soft cloth.
- Mix equal parts water and lemon juice with enough baking soda to make a paste.
- Smooth the mixture onto your face, taking care to avoid the eye area.
- Read a magazine or meditate for 15 minutes while the mask works its magic.
- Rinse your face with lukewarm water to remove all traces of the paste.
- Follow up with your usual moisturizer.
Health and Beauty Applications
Bright and Shiny Teeth
Baking soda is beneficial for teeth because its mildly abrasive texture helps scrub away tartar and stains that can build up if not taken care of right away. The bubbling action is also helpful in lifting minuscule pieces of food that get stuck in the teeth. Baking soda kills bacteria, including the kind that causes tooth decay, another reason to brush with it. If you don't like the taste, there are toothpaste brands with baking soda that have a minty flavor.
Some mouthwash brands list baking soda as one of the ingredients. The antibacterial benefits of sodium bicarbonate are probably one reason. Its alkaline pH also neutralizes odors caused by food and bacteria, and the chemical effervescence may prevent plaque from forming. If you don't like the strong taste of mouthwash, 1/2 of a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of warm water is a good alternative.
Scrubbing under your nails with a soapy brush is a good way to eliminate germs and bacteria that could otherwise be transferred to your skin and the foods you eat. Next time, try adding some baking soda as well. The antibacterial properties will help with cleaning, and the buffing action of the baking soda granules will whiten your nail tips as well.
Since baking soda interacts with acids and neutralizes them, it's helpful for heartburn, also called acid reflux. All you need is a quarter-teaspoon in a full glass of water – any more can actually cause more acid production. Don't drink it within two hours of taking other medicines, though, because it can affect their absorption, and this remedy isn't recommended for kids under 6 years old.
Insect Sting Treatment
A paste of baking soda and water will provide some relief from the sting from an insect bite. Apply it three times a day until the inflammation and itching subside. The antibacterial properties of baking soda, combined with its drying properties, act to minimize infection and swelling. Not only that, the paste prevents you from scratching!
Relief for Sore Muscles
Some athletes take baking soda in water before a heavy workout. The idea is that ingesting an alkaline substance will counteract the soreness caused by lactic acid buildup in muscles that are overworked. Another way to relieve aching muscles from exercise is to take a hot bath with one-half-cup of baking soda dissolved in it. Hot water pulls toxins from your body anyway, and the baking soda helps relax muscles that have been stressed.
In a 2009 study of 171 people over 50 years old, the results strongly suggested that a small amount of baking soda taken daily can reduce the amount of bone loss in older people. Recent research has also suggested that it can reduce the body's inflammatory response. That's why it's part of the treatment for people suffering from kidney disease and autoimmune disorders.
As you might have guessed from the name, salt is part of the compound that we know as potassium carbonate or baking soda. Too much salt intake is a factor in high blood pressure, so if you have this or any other conditions, check with your doctor before taking baking soda orally. Ingesting too much baking soda can also upset your body's acidity/alkalinity balance, and potassium carbonate has an effect on the metabolism of some drugs.