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Difference Between Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate

Sodium Carbonate vs Sodium Bicarbonate

Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate are two sodium salts that are commonly in many products we use at in homes. Sodium is a metallic element represented by the symbol Na. It is a soft, white in color, reactive metal that is not found naturally and is mostly found in the form of its oxides. It makes oxides when it comes in contact with air and also reacts quickly with water. The element sodium is essential for all living things and is used in opposition to potassium ions. It allows for transmission of nerve impulses and is thus considered to be essential for human beings. Sodium is highly reactive and makes various compounds such as common salt (NaCl), Baking Soda (NaHCO3), soda ash (Na2CO3), caustic soda (NaOH) etc. This article intends to find the difference between sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), also known as soda ash and washing soda, and sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), also known as baking soda.

Sodium Carbonate

It is a sodium salt of carbonic acid, also commonly called as washing soda or soda ash. People recall it as a water softener as it is frequently used in homes. It has a alkaline taste (with a cooling sensation). Na2CO3 can be extracted from the ashes of many plants. When required in large quantities, it is made from common table salt, also known as NaCl through a process called Solvay process.

Among its many industrial uses, Na2CO3 is used in manufacturing glass. When Silica and calcium carbonate are heated along with sodium carbonate and cooled suddenly, glass is manufactured. This is a special type of glass aptly named soda lime glass.

As sodium carbonate is a strong base, it is used in swimming pools to neutralize the effect of chlorine. It is also used as a lying agent in making lye rolls. When making some dishes, sodium carbonate is used to change the pH of the surface of the food and to give it a brown color.

In biological studies, sodium carbonate is added to boiling water to wash the skulls and boney parts of bodies to remove flesh from the bones.

Sodium carbonate is used as an electrolyte in chemistry because it is a very good conductor and aids in electrolysis process. Acid-base titrations also make heavy use of sodium carbonate.

As described earlier, in homes it is used as a water softener. Hard water contains ions of magnesium and calcium that add to the detergent disallowing formation of lather. Sodium carbonate soaks up these ions making water soft and ideal for washing clothes. It is called washing sodas because of its ability to remove stains, oil and grease spots from clothes.

Sodium carbonate is used as a food additive in food industry on a large scale as an acidity regulator. In the brick industry, it is used as a wetting agent and in casting industry, it is used as a bonding agent. It is used in toothpastes to work as a foaming agent. It is even used to clean silver ware.

Sodium Bicarbonate

It is another salt of sodium known as baking soda. It is actually sodium hydrogen carbonate as an hydrogen atom is added while one sodium ion is deleted. It is a white solid but mostly found as a powder. It has the same alkaline taste of sodium carbonate and is highly soluble in water which is why it is commonly found in spring waters. It is so commonly used that people refer to it as just sodium bicarb or even only carb.

The primary use of sodium bicarbonate is in cooking as leavening agent. It reacts with other substances causing CO2 to be released which makes making dough easier. This is why it is also called bread soda. In fact sodium bicarbonate can be substituted for baking powder if acidic reagents are added. In earlier times, sodium bicarbonate was used for cooking as it made vegetables softer but now it is not used as it destroys many vitamins and acids that are beneficial to us.

Sodium bicarbonate is an excellent exfoliating agent and hence it is widely used for cleaning. It is commonly used in soaps and mouthwashes. It neutralizes acid formation in mouth and prevents teeth and gum decay.


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