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Are Baking Soda & Baking Powder Different? Here’s What You Need to Know

Adriana Aziz
June 14, 2023
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A lot of people use baking powder and baking soda as if they are the same or interchangeable, but are they? Let’s find out.

The first thing you need to know is that both of these are, and can be used as leavening agents. This is, perhaps, the most common reason as to why people often ask what the difference is between baking soda and baking powder. Well, although they serve the same purpose in baking, they are, in fact, different. 

The difference, however, isn’t that major with both types merely containing slightly different ingredients. This is why the ways in which they release gas or cause bubbles and react with other ingredients also differ. So, if you were wondering whether you can substitute baking soda for baking powder (or vice versa), the answer is yes and no! If you are not sure of the correct ratios to use when baking cakes, muffins, or bread, it can either lead to flat baked goods, or an overflow in your baking pan!

What Makes Baking Soda & Baking Powder Different?

baking powder and scrubbing brush on a blue background

As we mentioned above, both ingredients produce a similar outcome (in baking) which is to make the baked item rise and become fluffy by creating air in the dough or batter. So then, what are the major differences between baking soda and baking powder? Read on for everything you need to know about that!

Baking Soda Explained

Also known as sodium bicarbonate,bicarbonate of soda, or simply ‘baking soda’, this chemical compound is basically an alkaline salt compound. On its own, it cannot create carbon dioxide which is what gives rise to the dough/batter. Instead, baking soda must be combined with another ingredient that is acidic; this creates the reaction needed for carbon dioxide bubbles to be released. A few common acids used for this purpose include buttermilk, lemon juice, molasses, sour cream, yoghurt, and honey. 

Unlike yeast that takes time to work on the dough and make it expand, the reaction between baking soda and acidic ingredients is instant. Therefore, when using baking soda in recipes, it is recommended that you place the pan into the pre-heated oven immediately, or else, the airy bubbles will dissipate and the ingredient will lose its ability to make the dough or batter rise.

Baking Powder Explained

The key difference between baking powder and baking soda is that the former contains acid in the form or dry acids or acidic salts. It most commonly contains cream of tartar, and cornstarch, making this the perfect combination to create carbon dioxide without the need to add a separate acid ingredient. 

At this point, you should know that baking powder can be categorised into two specific types – single action and double action. The former works in a similar way to baking soda by simply releasing carbon dioxide bubbles when moisture (in the form of water, milk, etc) is introduced to the batter. This reaction also occurs quickly, therefore, the dough/batter must be baked soon after mixing the ingredients.

Double action baking powder, on the other hand, creates air bubbles when combined with moisture, and again when a specific temperature is reached in a heated oven. Many find this type of baking powder to be more effective and reliable for achieving the desired airiness and fluffiness in the final product, making it more popular than single action baking powder.

NOTE: Baking soda is approximately 3-4 times stronger than baking powder; therefore, it is important to keep this in mind when attempting to substitute one product for the other.

Baking Soda vs Baking Powder in Cleaning

blue scrubbing brush next to baking soda and 3 microfibre cloths on a red background

If you didn’t already know this, baking soda is one of the best natural household cleaning agents, especially when combined with distilled white vinegar. On the other hand, baking powder is not nearly as effective when it comes to cleaning purposes, often requiring around 4 times the amount when compared to baking soda. For example, if you are required to use 1-part baking soda, you will need to substitute it with 4-part baking powder. 

Aside from this, it should be noted that baking soda is a crystalline salt which makes it far more superior as a cleaning agent. In fact, it also acts as a deodoriser, something baking powder cannot do. Moreover, sodium bicarbonate can break down stains, grease, and grime quicker and more effectively than baking powder. 

Tips to Use Baking Soda for Cleaning

If you have never used baking soda to clean different areas of your home, the results of these tips will leave you speechless! Check them out below.

Clean Your Oven

With just water and baking soda, create a paste that you can apply over the inside of the oven door, and the sides and bottom of the oven. Do this when the oven is cold, and avoid using the paste on the heating elements. After 6-8 hours, take a damp cloth, and wipe the surfaces clean.

Clean Drains

 Add half a cup of baking soda to the drain, and pour in a cup of distilled white vinegar. This will create a bubbly/fizzy reaction, cleaning and clearing out the drain. After about 15 minutes, pour boiling hot water down the drain to rinse the pipes. 

Clean Burnt Pots

 Cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of baking soda, add enough water to cover the powder and burnt stains, and then bring it to a boil. Once cool to touch, you should have no trouble scrubbing away the burnt stains.

Remove Stains

 For stains on hard surfaces such as counters, stovetops, and bathroom surfaces, combine baking soda (1 cup) and Borax (¼ cup), dip a clean, damp cloth or sponge into the powder, and scrub the stains away.

Deodorise Carpets

To get rid of bad carpet odours or musty smells, sprinkle a good amount of baking soda all over the carpet or affected area, leave it overnight, and vacuum thoroughly the next day.

With that, you are now aware of every noteworthy thing there is to know about baking soda vs baking powder! Whether you are using the ingredients for baking or cleaning, knowing the differences and what makes them more suitable for different purposes will help you get the most out of them.

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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