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Sodium Carbonate vs. Sodium Bicarbonate — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on November 3, 2023
Sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) is commonly known as washing soda. Sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) is baking soda, often used in cooking. Both differ chemically and in uses.
Sodium Carbonate vs. Sodium Bicarbonate — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate

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Key Differences

Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate are both sodium salts, but they have distinct chemical structures and uses. Sodium Carbonate, also termed washing soda, is a salt of carbonic acid, represented by the formula Na2CO3. In contrast, Sodium Bicarbonate, familiarly known as baking soda, has the formula NaHCO3 and is utilized extensively in the culinary world.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 03, 2023
In the realm of household chores, Sodium Carbonate is a potent cleaning agent, particularly for laundry, owing to its alkalinity. Sodium Bicarbonate, meanwhile, is a mild alkali that can neutralize acids and break down proteins, making it effective in baking to help dough rise.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 03, 2023
From a medicinal viewpoint, Sodium Bicarbonate is often taken as an antacid to treat heartburn and indigestion. Sodium Carbonate, on the other hand, is not typically ingested due to its stronger alkaline nature.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 03, 2023
Environmentally, Sodium Carbonate is used in the glass, soap, and textile industries. Sodium Bicarbonate boasts a more diverse application range, from fire extinguishers to personal care products, highlighting their distinct characteristics and purposes.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 03, 2023
In summary, while Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate might share sodium as a component, their chemical makeup, properties, and applications set them apart in noteworthy ways.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 03, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Chemical Formula

Na2CO3
NaHCO3
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Nov 03, 2023

Common Name

Washing soda
Baking soda
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Alkalinity

Strong alkali
Mild alkali
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Primary Use

Cleaning, particularly for laundry
Baking, antacid
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Medicinal Use

Not typically ingested
Taken as an antacid
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Nov 03, 2023

Compare with Definitions

Sodium Carbonate

Compound with the formula Na2CO3.
The reaction of sodium carbonate with acid yields salt and carbon dioxide.
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Oct 07, 2023

Sodium Bicarbonate

Commonly referred to as baking soda.
A pinch of sodium bicarbonate in the batter ensures fluffy pancakes.
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Oct 07, 2023

Sodium Carbonate

Alkaline substance also known as washing soda.
Sodium carbonate can remove stubborn stains from clothing.
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Oct 07, 2023

Sodium Bicarbonate

Employed in fire extinguishers due to its ability to release CO2.
The sodium bicarbonate in the fire extinguisher suffocated the kitchen flames.
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Oct 07, 2023

Sodium Carbonate

Can be derived from the ashes of certain plants.
Historically, sodium carbonate was extracted from the ashes of seaweeds and other plants.
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Sodium Bicarbonate

A white crystalline compound used for baking and as an antacid.
She added sodium bicarbonate to the dough to make it rise.
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Sodium Carbonate

Used in the manufacture of glass and soap.
Sodium carbonate lowers the melting point of sand in glass production.
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Oct 07, 2023

Sodium Bicarbonate

Mild alkali that can neutralize acids.
Taking sodium bicarbonate can provide relief from heartburn.
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Oct 07, 2023

Sodium Carbonate

A white crystalline salt used primarily as a cleaning agent.
Many laundry detergents contain sodium carbonate to enhance their cleaning power.
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Sodium Bicarbonate

Chemical formula is NaHCO3.
When sodium bicarbonate reacts with acid, it releases carbon dioxide gas.
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Common Curiosities

Can sodium carbonate soften water?

Yes, sodium carbonate can act as a water softener, particularly in laundry.
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Is sodium bicarbonate the same as baking powder?

No, while sodium bicarbonate is baking soda, baking powder contains additional acidifying agents.
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Nov 03, 2023

Can sodium carbonate be used as an antacid?

Sodium carbonate is too alkaline and not typically used as an antacid; sodium bicarbonate is more suitable.
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Nov 03, 2023

What's the primary use of sodium bicarbonate in the kitchen?

Sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, is mainly used as a leavening agent in baking.
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Nov 03, 2023

Is it safe to ingest sodium carbonate?

Sodium carbonate is not meant for ingestion in large amounts; it's too alkaline.
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Nov 03, 2023

Can I use sodium carbonate in baking?

No, for baking, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) is the appropriate choice.
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Nov 03, 2023

What happens when sodium bicarbonate is heated?

Sodium bicarbonate decomposes into sodium carbonate, water, and carbon dioxide when heated.
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Nov 03, 2023

Is sodium carbonate used in the food industry?

Yes, but sparingly, primarily as a food additive or pH regulator.
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Nov 03, 2023

Does sodium bicarbonate have cleaning properties?

Yes, sodium bicarbonate can be used as a gentle cleaning agent for surfaces and odors.
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Nov 03, 2023

How does sodium bicarbonate affect pH levels?

Sodium bicarbonate is a mild alkali, so it can raise pH levels by neutralizing acids.
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Nov 03, 2023

Can sodium bicarbonate whiten teeth?

Yes, many believe sodium bicarbonate can help in teeth whitening, but it should be used cautiously.
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Nov 03, 2023

Can I replace baking soda with washing soda in recipes?

No, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and sodium carbonate (washing soda) have different properties and shouldn't be interchanged.
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Nov 03, 2023

How is sodium bicarbonate produced commercially?

It's usually produced by the Solvay process or from natural deposits of nahcolite.
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Nov 03, 2023

Where can sodium carbonate be naturally found?

Sodium carbonate can be derived from the ashes of certain plants or from mineral deposits.
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Nov 03, 2023

Can I use sodium carbonate to adjust pool pH?

Yes, sodium carbonate can raise the pH level in pools by neutralizing acidic conditions.
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Nov 03, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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