Homemade cleaning remedies often recommend the use of soda crystals or bicarbonate of soda to get rid of stains, grease or grime. These products have a similar sounding name, which could lead to confusion. Are soda crystals the same as bicarbonate of soda?
Long story short, soda crystals are not bicarbonate of soda. However, the two chemicals are related, and they can often be used for similar purposes.
The main difference is the alkalinity of each compound. Soda crystals are much more alkaline and not suitable for human consumption. Bicarbonate of soda is often used in cleaning, but it is also an ingredient in numerous recipes and can be used as an antacid.
Apart from these differences, there are many things that set soda crystals and sodium bicarbonate apart. Here’s a rundown.
3 Differences Between Soda Crystals and Bicarbonate of Soda
People sometimes mistakenly use soda crystals and bicarbonate of soda terms interchangeably. However, the two are very different substances.
Let’s have a look at the differences between the two.
1. Chemical Composition
While soda crystals and bicarbonate of soda are related compounds, they are fundamentally different. As its name suggests, the bicarbonate of soda contains a bicarbonate ion (HCO₃) and sodium. This compound has only one ion of sodium in its formula and a relatively low molecular weight.
Due to the hydrogen element in its formula, bicarbonate of soda is often called sodium hydrogen carbonate.
Soda crystals – sodium carbonate in their scientific name – have a similar formula, but they lack the hydrogen element and have an extra ion of sodium. Both substances are soluble in water, but soda crystals typically dissolve faster.
2. pH Levels
Sodium bicarbonate and sodium carbonate are two alkaline substances. However, the former is only mildly alkaline, with a pH between 8 and 9. It can be safely handled with bare hands or even ingested in small quantities.
Due to its reactions with acidic substances, sodium bicarbonate is a common baking ingredient – it is used as a leavening agent.
Soda crystals are highly alkaline, with a pH between 11 and 12. At this pH value, the substance acquires caustic properties.
This means that it can cause burns if it comes in direct contact with your skin. It can also damage surfaces, and the reactions with acidic substances are usually more aggressive.
With two different formulas and pH values, soda crystals and bicarbonate of soda are used differently around the household.
Soda crystals are commonly used as a cleaning agent. They are effective against limescale, grease and stubborn stains. These crystals can also be used in laundry, either alone or combined with detergents.
Bicarbonate of sodium is primarily used as a leavening agent or antacid. However, this substance also has some antibacterial properties and it can absorb odours.
For these reasons, sodium bicarbonate is often used in cleaning, especially to help remove foul smells from plumbing pipes, freshen up the air in your home or scrub grime off the pots and pans.
10 Ways to Use Soda Crystals
Soda crystals are similar to bicarbonate of soda, but more alkaline and typically used in cleaning rather than cooking.
Here are the various ways you can use this substance.
Soda crystals are effective for cutting through grease and can be used to clean greasy stovetops, oven trays, range hoods, kitchen surfaces and more.
- To use the compound, make a paste by mixing soda crystals with a small amount of water.
- Apply it to the greasy area and wait for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Gently scrub the surface with a sponge and rinse off.
2. Stain Remover
Acting as a soap, soda crystals can help remove stubborn stains from clothing, carpets and upholstery.
For clothing, dissolve a small amount of soda crystals in warm water and use it as a pre-soak solution for stained fabrics before washing.
To clean upholstery and carpets, you can create a cleaning solution by adding soda crystals to warm water. Apply the mixture to the stained area with a sponge.
Scrub gently with a soft cloth or sponge and rinse with clean water.
3. Limescale Remover
As mentioned, soda crystals have a high pH and are caustic. This means they can dissolve substances with a lower (more acidic) pH, such as limescale.
Dissolve the crystals in warm water and soak the affected parts in the solution. Scrub with a stiff brush and rinse thoroughly.
You can use this method to remove limescale or hard water stains from kettles, coffee makers, showerheads and sink fixtures.
4. Drain Cleaner
In addition to limescale on fixtures and cookware, soda crystals can also remove scale deposits from pipes. Likewise, they can clear clogged or smelly drains.
Simply pour a handful of soda crystals down the drain, followed by boiling water. Let it sit for a few minutes, then flush with more hot water. The soda crystals can help break down grease and remove odours.
5. Laundry Boost
Soda crystals can be used in stain spot treatment, but also to boost the power of classic laundry detergent.
To do this, you can mix soda crystals with powder laundry detergent or add a scoop of crystals directly into the drum before starting a wash cycle.
Not only can it help remove stains and brighten your whites, but soda crystals can also help soften the water.
6. General Household Cleaning
If you’ve run out of general household cleaner, you can turn soda crystals into a multi-purpose detergent.
Dissolve some crystals in warm water and use the solution to clean tiles, floors, countertops and other hard surfaces. Just remember to rinse thoroughly when you’re done.
7. Cleaning Outdoor Furniture
Garden furniture, especially white coloured items, are notorious for staining easily under the elements. Mould and mildew can also be an issue, especially if you don’t have an indoor area where to store them during winter.
This is where soda crystals step in. They can remove stains and discolouration, restoring the visual appeal of your outdoor items.
Mix the crystals with a bit of water and scrub the stains. Rinse thoroughly with clean water and repeat if necessary.
8. Tile Grout Cleaner
Soda crystals can be effective in cleaning and brightening tile grout.
Make a thick paste with soda crystals and water, and apply it to the grout lines. Use a small brush or toothbrush to scrub the grout, then rinse with clean water.
9. Paint or Wallpaper Glue Scraper
If you’re dealing with old paint or leftover wallpaper glue, soda crystals can be helpful in softening and removing these residues.
Dissolve soda crystals in warm water and apply the solution to the affected area. Let it sit for a while, then scrape or peel away the softened residue. Rinse with clean water when you’re done.
10. Rubbish Bin Deodoriser
To eliminate odours from bins and trash cans, dissolve soda crystals in warm water and pour the solution into the container. Let it sit for some time, then rinse thoroughly with clean water.
Soda crystals and bicarbonate of soda are related, but they are two distinct substances. The former is a caustic cleaning agent. The latter is primarily used as a cooking ingredient, but it can also be used for cleaning or freshening up surfaces, fabrics and interior spaces.
Regardless of which one you have to use, we hope this guide can help you pick the right cleaning product.