I don’t bake, but I have baking soda in my house.
What the heck is baking soda?
And why is it used in baking?
I had never pondered these questions before, but as I was about to recycle that empty, ubiquitous, orange Arm & Hammer baking soda box, some impulse prompted me – for the first time ever – to read it.
Box top, back and sides.
According to the box of Arm & Hammer, there are dozens of reasons to have baking soda around besides baking.
And a long history to go with it.
This long, says ArmAndHammer.com:
Here’s the back of the box, with just some of the ways to use Arm & Hammer baking soda:
But wait – there’s more. The internet abounds with articles about uses for baking soda – I found 10, 30, 50, and topped out at 101:
Let’s go back to – what the heck is baking soda?
My research says it’s this:
“Sodium bicarbonate (IUPAC name: sodium hydrogencarbonate), commonly known as baking soda or bicarbonate of soda, is a chemical compound with the formula NaHCO3. It is a salt composed of a sodium cation (Na+) and a bicarbonate anion (HCO3−). Sodium bicarbonate is a white solid that is crystalline, but often appears as a fine powder. It has a slightly salty, alkaline taste resembling that of washing soda (sodium carbonate). The natural mineral form is nahcolite. It is a component of the mineral natron and is found dissolved in many mineral springs.”
That formula looks like this:
And if you understood all that, you get an “A” in chemistry today.
As to – why do we use baking soda in baking?
Because somewhere, someone somehow acquired the ingredients of NaHCO3, experimented by trying them with some other ingredients, and discovered…
“Look at how soft and fluffy my bread is!”
They may not have understood why, but – as the HomeMadeSimple.com website explains it:
“… baking soda releases a carbon dioxide gas which helps leaven the dough, creating a soft, fluffy cookie.”
And not just cookies, but bread and cake as well.
Arm & Hammer didn’t invent baking soda, and they make no claims to that on their website. Instead, they say:
“…in 1846 brothers-in-law Dr. Austin Church and John Dwight began preparing bicarbonate of soda for commercial distribution. They proudly packaged this simple, yet versatile product by hand into paper bags in their first factory: Mr. Dwight’s kitchen.”
John Dwight and Company was officially formed in 1847 to sell Dwight’s Saleratus, saleratus being Latin for aerated salt, another term for baking soda.
In 1867, says the website, the Arm & Hammer “logo was born”:
“It symbolizes the myth of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire, who would strike his mighty hammer on his anvil. Over time, this strong and powerful icon becomes recognized as a symbol of quality all across the world.”
And speaking of myths, this seems like a good place to pause and dispel the myth about Arm & Hammer getting its name from a guy named Armand Hammer – a myth that many people, including me, thought could be true, until several websites clarified:
“It is often claimed that the brand name originated with tycoon Armand Hammer; however, the Arm & Hammer brand was in use 31 years before Hammer was born.”
Over the years Arm & Hammer experimented with lots of other baking soda uses, like in 1972, when they decided that our fridges and freezes stank – and only they had the cure:
As marketing ploys go, this was pretty good – convince people to buy this product specifically made for fridges and freezers BUT that needed to be changed every 30 days, and voila! Millions of boxes going into shopping carts.
As the Los Angeles Times put it 1994:
“By the industry’s own score card, boxes of baking soda are sucking up odors inside nearly nine out of 10 American refrigerators. More refrigerators are likely to have baking soda than working light bulbs.”
Another use: In 1986, says the Arm & Hammer website:
“Lady Liberty Gets a Lift
In preparation of the Statue of Liberty’s 100th anniversary on July 4, 1986, 100 tons of ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda are used to gently clean and beautify her. We remove 99 years of coal tar without damaging the delicate copper interior.”
I wanted to verify this and found some websites confirmed it, while others used words like “apparently,” and others simply referred to generic “baking soda.”
So – can Arm & Hammer can make that Lady Liberty claim?
I think I’ll choose to believe it.
But there’s no doubt Arm & Hammer definitely can claim this – a variety of products:
You’ll notice that one of the products is cat litter, which brings us back around to the title of this post:
What Do My Mouth And A Cat’s Litter Box Have In Common?
Arm & Hammer puts their baking soda in their cat litter. The website says:
“Whether you’re a one-cat or multi-cat home, ARM & HAMMER has the best kitty litter to give all your cats the freshness they deserve. Find your purrr-fect ARM & HAMMER kitty litter below.”
“Below” was by my count was 16 pet products that will help you avoid this:
I love that “Do not attempt” in the lower-left corner.
And here’s what my mouth and a cat litter box have in common:
I put baking soda in my mouth.
My dentist suggested brushing with baking soda because I’m a big-time iced tea and coffee consumer, which can stain teeth.
According to this and other websites:
Can brushing with baking soda whiten teeth?
Yes, it can, because an alkaline solution is made when baking soda mixes with water. This leads to the release of free radicals, which help to break up plaque on the teeth and surface stains. In addition, for anyone experiencing mouth ulcers, baking soda is an effective treatment. It also assists in freshening bad breath by neutralizing acids from leftover food particles.
How often is it OK to use baking soda to brush teeth?
The Journal of the American Dental Association states that baking soda is safe for daily use. It is a good idea to only use baking soda to brush the teeth once per day. Use a good fluoride toothpaste to brush teeth the rest of the time.
Baking soda is an effective teeth whitener when used appropriately to brush the teeth. Keep in mind that it is also important to maintain regular dental visits and continue using a good toothpaste with any baking soda brushing routine. For the best results, consult with a family dentist to find out the best uses for baking soda when brushing teeth.
And yes – I know Arm & Hammer makes a number of oral care products including toothpaste, but I figure…
If plain old Arm & Hammer baking soda was good enough for her…
For sure it’s good enough for me: