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Difference Between Bicarbonate and Baking Soda

Bicarbonate vs Baking Soda

Bicarbonate and Baking Soda are two substances closely related due to the presence of both carbon and oxygen molecules in their chemical formulas. When one mentions bicarbonate, baking soda almost always comes to mind first. It is a very popular and very useful household product. There is, however, a glaring difference between bicarbonate and baking soda.


Bicarbonate is formed with the combination of three oxygen molecules, a hydrogen molecule and a carbon molecule, with the result being an ion, or a compound with more electrons than protons. It can be best described in the chemical formula HCO3-. This compound is a crucial part of the body’s pH buffering system, in lay man’s terms: it is responsible for keeping your blood not too acidic or too basic. It also serves as a way to keep your digestive juices in check once the stomach has finished digesting your food. Carbonic acid in rainwater also forms bicarbonate ions when it hits rocks. This flow of bicarbonate ions is important in keeping the carbon cycle going.

Baking Soda

Baking soda, when translated to chemical parlance, is sodium bicarbonate. Sodium bicarbonate is a crystalline, naturally occurring substance, commonly found dissolved in mineral springs as part of the mineral neutron. It can also be formed artificially. Baking soda’s primary use is a leavening agent, making the dough rise. Another use is found in laboratories where a bottle of it is kept handy because it reacts with acids and bases. It can also suppress small fires. It is also a good alternative for personal hygiene products; some companies have even used sodium bicarbonate as an ingredient in their deodorants, toothpastes and shampoos. Do you have a smelly fridge? Open up a box of baking soda and let it air out. Experiencing some heartburn? Drinking baking soda dissolved in water can help that.

Similarities and Differences between Bicarbonate and Baking Soda

There are similar applications of bicarbonate and baking soda. One good example is being a neutralizing agent. Baking soda works like an antacid, alleviating acid indigestion and heartburn, while bicarbonate is responsible for keeping the blood’s pH level normal. Another similarity between the two is the presence of the chemical formula HCO3. Bicarbonate, however, is an anion. Basically it’s a negatively charged substance. It’s just not a complete substance yet. Through chemical processes, like the Solvay process, sodium bicarbonate can be formed. Sodium bicarbonate is less likely to have another chemical reaction compared to bicarbonate; this is due to the evening out of the protons and electrons in its chemical structure. In addition, bicarbonate is only a component of baking soda. Bicarbonate, although useful in itself, has a very high tendency to have a chemical reaction because of its extra electron. In contrast, it takes a power chemical reaction to break up baking soda.

In brief:

1. Bicarbonate and baking soda help keep pH in check, bicarbonate mostly in our body and baking soda in laboratories.

2. Bicarbonate and baking soda both have HCO3 in their chemical formulas.

3. Bicarbonate, however, is an anion. Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a complete compound.

4. Baking soda has less likelihood of a chemical reaction compared to bicarbonate because its ions are now partially resolved with the addition of sodium. It takes a more powerful reaction to break up the bonds in baking soda.

5. Baking soda can be thought of as an all-around substance with its numerous uses. Bicarbonate on the other hand, needs to be part of a chemical reaction to form another substance for it to be useful for other purposes.


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