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

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 21, 2023
Sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) is a strong base used in laundry detergents. Sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), also known as baking soda, is a mild base used in baking.

Key Differences

Sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), also known as soda ash or washing soda, is a strong alkaline compound. Sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), commonly known as baking soda, is a milder base. While both compounds contain sodium and carbonate ions, sodium bicarbonate also includes a hydrogen atom.
Sodium carbonate is widely used in laundry detergents, water softening, and glass manufacturing due to its strong alkaline nature. Sodium bicarbonate, being milder, is used in baking as a leavening agent, for neutralizing acids, and in fire extinguishers.
Sodium carbonate has a higher pH and is more caustic, making it effective for heavy-duty cleaning and industrial processes. Sodium bicarbonate, with a lower pH, is safer for cooking and household cleaning, as it is less corrosive.
Due to its stronger alkalinity, sodium carbonate requires more caution in handling, as it can be more irritating to skin and eyes. Sodium bicarbonate is widely used in personal care products and is generally considered safe for consumption and use in homes.
Both compounds are derived from natural sources: sodium carbonate is often obtained from trona ore or processed from salt and limestone, while sodium bicarbonate can be produced through chemical reactions involving sodium carbonate.

Comparison Chart

Chemical Formula


Common Use

Laundry detergents, glass manufacturing
Baking, neutralizing acids

PH Level

Higher pH, more alkaline
Lower pH, milder base

Safety and Handling

More caution needed, irritant
Generally safe for consumption and use

Environmental Impact

Used in heavy-duty cleaning and industry
Common in household cleaning, personal care

Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate Definitions

Sodium Carbonate

Key component in glass production.
Sodium carbonate is essential in the manufacture of glass products.

Sodium Bicarbonate

Leavens dough in baking.
I use sodium bicarbonate to make my cakes rise.

Sodium Carbonate

Raises pH in swimming pools.
We use sodium carbonate to adjust the pH of our pool.

Sodium Bicarbonate

Neutralizes acids in cooking and cleaning.
Sodium bicarbonate can neutralize stomach acid.

Sodium Carbonate

Effective in heavy-duty cleaning.
Sodium carbonate is often used for industrial cleaning tasks.

Sodium Bicarbonate

Helps extinguish small fires.
Sodium bicarbonate is in some kitchen fire extinguishers.

Sodium Carbonate

Enhances cleaning power in detergents.
I added sodium carbonate to boost my laundry detergent’s effectiveness.

Sodium Bicarbonate

Cleans surfaces gently.
I clean my kitchen counters with sodium bicarbonate.

Sodium Carbonate

Softens hard water in washing.
Sodium carbonate is used to soften the water in our washing machine.

Sodium Bicarbonate

Used in toothpaste and deodorants.
Many toothpastes contain sodium bicarbonate for whitening.


What industries use sodium carbonate?

Glass manufacturing, water treatment, and cleaning industries.

What is sodium bicarbonate?

A mild base commonly known as baking soda.

Is sodium bicarbonate safe for consumption?

Yes, in appropriate amounts.

Is sodium carbonate harmful to skin?

It can be irritating and requires caution.

Can sodium carbonate soften water?

Yes, it’s effective in softening hard water.

What is sodium carbonate?

A strong base used in detergents and industrial cleaning.

Can sodium carbonate be used in baking?

No, it’s too strong and can alter taste and texture.

How is sodium carbonate produced?

From trona ore or through processing of salt and limestone.

Can I use sodium bicarbonate for cleaning?

Yes, it’s effective and safe for most household cleaning tasks.

Does sodium bicarbonate have health benefits?

It's used for acid indigestion and as a mild antacid.

Is sodium bicarbonate eco-friendly?

Generally, it's considered environmentally safe.

Is sodium bicarbonate used in fire extinguishers?

Yes, particularly in dry chemical extinguishers.

How does sodium bicarbonate react with acids?

It neutralizes acids, producing carbon dioxide gas.

Can sodium bicarbonate be used in swimming pools?

It can be used to maintain the pH balance.

Is sodium carbonate safe for the environment?

It needs careful handling due to its alkaline nature.

Does sodium bicarbonate have industrial uses?

Yes, but it’s more commonly used in household contexts.

What’s the pH level of sodium carbonate?

It has a high pH, making it strongly alkaline.

What precautions should be taken with sodium carbonate?

Wear protective gear and avoid direct skin or eye contact.

Can sodium carbonate be used in personal care products?

Generally, it's not used due to its strength and irritancy.

Can I replace sodium bicarbonate with sodium carbonate in recipes?

No, sodium carbonate is not suitable for cooking.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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