What is Sodium Bicarbonate?

Surely you’re familiar with sodium bicarbonate, that good old, all-purpose product for cooking and cleaning. But its applications are so diverse we’re pretty confident we can surprise you with a few uses you didn’t suspect, especially with regards to summer activities.

5-amazing-uses-of sodium-bicarbonate

Sodium Bicarbonate (or Sodium hydrogen carbonate) has been a staple in households worldwide for decades. Whether for baking, curing a stomachache or cleaning, its most common applications are well known by most – probably more than the chemical processes behind them, owing to the properties of its sodium and bicarbonate ions. But as the summer is upon us, we at Solvay (a company that happens to be one of the world’s main producers of sodium bicarbonate, under the brand Bicar ®) figured we would dig up a few summertime applications you probably didn’t know about for the nifty white powder.


Swim in a cleaner pool

Sodium bicarbonate can also contribute to making the water in your swimming pool clearer. It has a regulation effect on the water’s pH - keeping it at optimum values - as well as its alkalinity: only 16 grams of sodium bicarbonate per cubic meter of water will significantly boost your pool’s alkalinity, which will, in turn, make for a more stable pH.  It’s, of course, advised to rely on a professional for exact dosages, but keep in mind that regularly adding sodium bicarbonate to your pool water will improve its maintenance at virtually no cost and with total safety for your health and the environment, since it’s a totally harmless product.

Oh, and while you’re lounging by the pool, you’ll also probably be happy to enjoy bath towels that don’t smell like a wet dog or chlorine. Just add two tablespoons of sodium bicarbonate to your laundry detergent to make sure they always smell fresh and clean!


Cleaner vegetables for your summer salads

Another use for sodium bicarbonate you might not have heard about is cleaning fruits and vegetables. Add a tablespoon (about 25 grams) of it per liter of water to wash leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach or soft-skinned fruit like cherries and grapes, and soak them for 10 minutes. You’ll notice the water becomes cloudy, which means the treatment is working, as it eliminates impurities, residues and surface treatments such as wax. Just rinse before you eat them, of course.

For non-leafy fruits and vegetables (tomatoes, courgettes, peaches, apricots…), the treatment is slightly different: rub them with a mixture of 3 parts of sodium bicarbonate for 1 part of water, with a sponge or directly with your hands, and rinse.

Finally, sodium bicarbonate is also great for other cleaning purposes around the kitchen such as washing delicate surfaces without scratching them (pans, cutlery, etc.).


Experience the joys of camping without the smelliness

For many people, summer holidays are unconceivable without going camping. But as we all know, after a year of storage in a basement or garage, camping equipment tends to smell like an old damp carpet. To refresh your tent, sleeping bag and all other kinds of camping equipment, simply sprinkle them with some sodium bicarbonate and let them sit for 24 hours before shaking them out or vacuuming them – unpleasant smells will be efficiently neutralized. And if you do the same thing before you put your equipment back into storage, you will prevent stuffy smells for next year!

You can also use sodium bicarbonate to eliminate smells from other outdoor accessories such as picnic boxes, coolers and ice buckets. Simply let them soak for 20 minutes in warm water with 2 tablespoons of powder per liter, and your sandwiches won’t acquire that unmistakable “left-sitting-in-the-fridge-for-too-long” aroma.


Eco-friendly garden maintenance

Did you know sodium bicarbonate was an efficient way of getting rid of certain parasites in your garden? As for the other uses listed above, the treatment is unbeatably easy: make a paste by mixing a tablespoon of powder with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and add two tablespoons of this mixture to a spray bottle containing water. Spray your plants – avoiding the flowers – every 3 weeks to rid them of unwanted parasites while keeping a healthy environment.

But that’s not all: sprinkling sodium bicarbonate on your terrace, patio or stone footpath will limit weed growth. And its cleaning properties are also useful for your garden furniture and barbecue: its slight abrasiveness is extremely efficient for eliminating burnt residues on your BBQ grill without scratching it, and it’s great for removing stains from plastic chairs and tables: just rub them well with warm water containing 2 tablespoons of powder per liter. And, just like for camping equipment, you’ll easily get rid of smells accumulated during a long winter of storage by sprinkling sodium bicarbonate directly on your chair cushions.


Softer, cleaner and better-smelling laundry

Summertime is associated with the pleasure of freshly washed laundry drying in the sun. It just so happens the chemical properties of sodium bicarbonate increase the efficiency of your laundry detergent by increasing the water’s pH. A high pH value increases the repulsion between the fibers and dirt, which makes for more efficient stain removing: just add a tablespoon of sodium bicarbonate during the wash cycle. And if you’re dealing with particularly smelly laundry like sportswear or baby clothes, add a tablespoon of powder during the rinse cycle. You can also sprinkle some on top of your dirty clothes to get rid of laundry basket smelliness – no need to remove the powder before stuffing them into the washing machine.

Sodium bicarbonate in your washing machine will also make your laundry softer. In fact, these softening properties are also great when hand-washing your delicates – just avoid using it on wool and silk.  

So these are our sodium bicarbonate summer tips; we hope you found them useful. Now that you know all this, we can only wish you a great summer holiday enjoying a crystal clear pool, fresh smelling laundry, clean fruits and vegetables and a healthy garden… And last but not least, sodium bicarbonate is completely harmless for the environment. Talk about a miracle powder!


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