Does Baking Soda Go Bad: A Guide to Baking Soda’s Usage, Shelf Life, And Storage
Does baking soda go bad? When it comes to baking soda, “bad” implies losing its potency—which means it might be ineffective for baking if it sits for too long in your kitchen cabinet. But it shouldn’t go straight to disposal! Find out its shelf life and how to determine if it’s still good for baking.
What Does Baking Soda Do?
Baking soda seems to be everywhere—in your pantry, cleaning products, refrigerators, and recipes.
Sodium bicarbonate, popularly known as baking soda, is a naturally occurring crystalline chemical compound in a powder form. It’s highly versatile, with a variety of uses. Just to clarify, baking soda is different from baking powder, though they both serve as leavening agents for baked goods.
Baking soda activates when it’s combined with both an acidic ingredient and a liquid, producing carbon dioxide. This makes baked goods light and fluffy. Baking powder, on the other hand, is a complete leavening agent. It contains both the sodium bicarbonate and acid needed for bread or pastry to rise.
Unlike baking powder, baking soda has uses beyond baking. It can also be used for cleaning, deodorizing, skincare, dental care, insect bite relief, killing weeds, and so much more.
Does Baking Soda Expire?
Baking soda is inexpensive, so it’s tempting to buy a big box. So does it expire? Not really. Baking soda is a powder, so it doesn’t spoil on its own like most food products, but its potency as a leavening agent does deteriorate over time. If moisture gets into the container, wet clumps and mold will start to form, making it unsafe to consume.
The best-by date on most baking soda packages doesn’t mean it’s unsafe to use after that date.
As long as it hasn’t been contaminated with moisture and air impurities, accidentally using old baking soda will not make you sick, although your cookies might not look quite right.
How Long Does Baking Soda Last?
Baking soda can be used two years beyond its best-by date if unopened, and six months from the day you open it if stored in an airtight container.
Baking soda absorbs impurities in the air, which is why it can also be used as a deodorizer. If you use it for that purpose, it does the job for thirty days. But if you accidentally leave the pack open, it’s better to replace it for the same reason.
If your baking soda is in an airtight bag or container, and it’s approaching its best-by date, check its potency first before using it for baking.
How to Test Your Baking Soda’s Potency
Some baking recipes call for baking soda to make the goodies fluffy and soft. Only potent or still-active baking soda can give you the ideal result.
To determine if your baking soda is still potent, you need some acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice. When baking soda meets acid, it produces carbon dioxide gas, which fizzes and bubbles.
Follow this simple test to find out if your baking soda is still effective for baking.
- Place ¼ teaspoon of baking soda in a bowl.
- Splash a teaspoonful of vinegar or lemon juice over the powder.
- If the mixture instantly fizzes heavily, your baking soda is still good for baking. If you get only a little fizz, it’s no longer useful for baking, but you can still use your baking soda for cleaning.
How Can You Use Your Old Baking Soda for Cleaning?
If you have a box of unopened or resealed baking soda in your pantry, and it doesn’t pass muster in the fizz test above, don’t toss it in the trash just yet. It can still be good enough for certain cleaning tasks.
You can use it for:
- Cleaning your pots, pans, and counters. Just sprinkle it on the surface and scrub with a sponge. Be gentle on delicate surfaces. Baking soda won’t leave scratches.
- Removing foul smells in your fridge. Place a small bowl of it in the refrigerator.
- Deodorizing your shoe cabinet and garbage bins. Similar to the above
- Removing soap scum and mildew from bathrooms. Sprinkle baking soda over the spots and scrub away
However, for tough jobs like unclogging a drain or cleaning an oven with caked-on bits of food, you need active baking soda. The chemistry between the baking soda and an acid (vinegar or lemon juice) helps loosen things up for easier cleaning.
For unclogging, just pour baking soda down the drain, followed by vinegar and hot water.
For cleaning ovens, spray the surface with vinegar or lemon juice, sprinkle with baking soda, let it stand for a few minutes, and scrub away with a scratch-free scrub sponge.
So you see, even expired baking soda can still be useful. Its leavening effects might be gone, but it’s still a fine abrasive and a good deodorizer.
How to Store Baking Soda
Anything powdery in your pantry can be contaminated or ruined if you leave the packages open. Always keep baking soda in an airtight container in a cool, dry place like a cupboard or pantry.
If it comes in a paper or plastic bag that isn’t resealable, transfer the powder to an airtight container. Seal it tightly after every use to avoid air circulation. Not only does this keep your baking soda potent for as long as possible, but it also makes sure it doesn’t absorb impurities in the air.
With its long shelf life and many uses, you can stock a big box without worrying about waste. Craving some pastries? Try these mouth-watering StreetSmart recipes.
About the Author
Sharon Chen is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, an author and a sous vide fanatic who believes food not only brings healing but also connection. As the creator of StreetSmart Kitchen, she's on a mission to help you find balance, ease, joy, and simplicity in the kitchen as you improve your well-being.