Is Your Baking Soda Still Good? Here's How to Tell

The pantry powerhouse can lose its potency, but there's an easy way to tell if it's time to replace that little orange box.

Baking soda is a pantry powerhouse, used in all kinds of recipes and culinary preparations. It also works wonders as a cleaning agent, deodorizer, laundry booster, whitener, and more. Because we rely on it in the kitchen and all around the house, it's important to make sure the content of that familiar orange box are still good. Luckily, there's an easy way to determine whether or not yours needs to be replace.

arm & hammer baking soda on slate surface

First and Foremost, What Is Baking Soda?

As its name implies, baking soda (also known as bicarbonate of soda) is used in baking recipes. This chemical compound acts as a leavening agent, meaning it helps batters and doughs rise as they bake. Because baking soda is alkaline, it reacts with any acidic ingredient in the same recipe, like lemon juice, vinegar, or buttermilk, which creates the carbon dioxide that gives baked goods their lift. Baking soda is also the secret to the crispiest coatings for fried chicken and onion rings.

It's important to note that the fresher the baking soda, the more effective it is in cooking. Once a box of baking soda is opened, it has a shelf life of about six months to a year. If you happen to find an unopened box, chances are it may still be good even if it's past the expiration date (generally about 18 months from the time it went on sale).

How Can You Tell If Baking Soda Still Has Its Power?

Here's the easiest way to test: Spoon some baking soda into a bowl (you don't need to measure it or to add too much) and add a few drops of an acidic liquid, such as lemon juice or vinegar. If it starts to fizz immediately and vigorously, the baking soda will still work well for baking recipes. If not, it has lost its leavening powers, and should be replaced with a new, unopened box. Keep it in a cool, dry place, like in a closed pantry, and don't wait forever to replace that one, either.

But don't toss out the old box! You can still use the soda for myriad cleaning purposes—to gently scrub kitchen and bathroom surfaces (make a paste of three parts warm water to one part baking soda) deodorize the refrigerator, and more. Just mark it clearly so you don't end up using that same refrigerator box to bake with.

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