Difference Between Soda Ash & Baking Soda

By Tanya Lee

Commonly found in the pantry or refrigerator, baking soda is produced from soda ash, or sodium carbonate, a naturally-occurring mineral. Baking soda and soda ash are different, though related, substances.

Baking soda leavens baked goods to make them rise.

Soda Ash Deposits

Soda ash deposits form over a long period of time when natural sodium releases from igneous rocks as they break down. The sodium reacts chemically with carbon dioxide in the earth, and soda ash precipitates out. Large deposits of soda ash, or trona, occur in the U.S., China, several African countries, Mexico, Peru, India, Egypt and Turkey. The largest deposit in the world is in Wyoming.

Soda Ash Uses

Soda ash is a principal ingredient necessary for manufacturing glass. It is also used in detergents, photography, medicine and as a food additive.

Economic Importance

Soda ash is one of the most economically important natural resources in the U.S. because it is used in many manufacturing processes. Economists use the amount of soda ash produced in the country as one of the measures of how well the economy is doing.

Soda Ash to Baking Soda

To produce baking soda, soda ash is mined, refined in a process that uses carbon dioxide and purified. Baking soda is known by several other names, including sodium bicarbonate, bicarbonate of soda, bicarb and sodium bicarb.

Baking Soda Uses

Baking soda is used as a leavening agent for baked products, fire retardant, cleansing agent, degreaser and medicine. It also reduces acidity and is used to adjust the pH balance of water. Baking soda is used in the refrigerator because it removes moisture and has deodorizing properties.