Baking soda is a naturally occurring compound derived from a chemical reaction between soda ash and carbon dioxide. A known leavening agent, surface cleaner, deodorizer, moisture absorber, antacid, carpet freshener, detergent booster and abrasive -- the list of uses keeps growing. One of the most common places to see a box of baking soda is inside the refrigerator, which may lead you to wonder if the fridge is the best place to store this household staple.
What's Happening in the Fridge
The odor-absorbing powers of baking soda make it a smart choice for keeping your refrigerator smelling fresh. An open box of baking soda in the back of your fridge keeps odors at bay for up to 30 days. But this doesn't mean the refrigerated baking soda will be ready for baking when you need it. Odor absorption aside, baking soda is also an effective moisture absorber. Taking into consideration the odors the baking soda collected during its storage time in the refrigerator, not to mention the moisture that has infiltrated the crystals, it is safe to say that baking with refrigerated baking soda is less than ideal.
If you scan the store shelves. you will notice most manufacturers package their baking soda in a cardboard box. Surprisingly, this is not the best storage container for the product. Stored in a cool, dark place, such as the kitchen cupboard, baking soda has a shelf life of about 18 months. But keeping in mind that baking soda absorbs all odors it comes in contact with, the baking soda could taint the taste of your baked goods with what it has absorbed while inside the cardboard container. To protect the flavor of baked goods and the integrity of the baking soda, U.S.A. Emergency Supply suggests storing baking soda in an airtight, moisture-proof container, in which it should stay fresh indefinitely.
If you are not sure whether your baking soda is still fresh after storage, try a freshness test. Home Baking Association recommends removing 1 teaspoon of baking soda from the container. Drop the baking soda into a cup and pour 2 to 3 drops of lemon juice or white vinegar over top. When the lemon juice or vinegar comes in contact with the baking soda, it should fizz vigorously -- an indication the baking soda is fresh. If you do not see any fizz, do not use the baking soda in your baking.
Recycled Baking Soda
If your baking soda doesn’t pass the freshness test, don’t throw it away. Old, smelly baking soda may not be fit for baking, but it still has a lot of life in it. Baking soda is a mild alkali that works well as a cleaner. Sprinkle some on a damp sponge and scrub away grease and grime on glass, chrome, plastic and the floors, tile and fixtures in your bathroom and kitchen. Baking soda nontoxic, making it a safe alternative to commercial cleaners.