Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is an essential pantry staple every prepper should have in abundance due to its wide spectrum of uses.
Not only is it the requisite leavening agent for most recipes, but it also offers many additional uses, from hygienic to medicinal.
Does Baking Soda Expire?
The short answer is no, baking soda does not expire, nor is it even stamped with an expiration date. Baking soda is considered a nonperishable food, but it is sold with a best-if-used-by date.
According to the FDA, however, this isn’t required and only indicates optimal quality and flavor. While baking soda may lose its efficacy over time, in most cases, it essentially lasts indefinitely as long as it’s stored properly.
Most websites tell you the rule of thumb is two years past the best-by date or six months for an opened package. However, in my half-a-century-plus walk on this planet, I’ve never seen a single instance where my baking soda didn’t work, regardless of its age.
While this guidance stems from the USDA, it only pertains to the best freshness and quality. Per the FDA’s Senior Advisor for Food Safety, the consumer has sole discretionary responsibility to
“routinely examine foods in their kitchen cabinets or pantry that are past their “Best if Used By” date to determine if the quality is sufficient for use. If the products have changed noticeably in color, consistency or texture, consumers may want to avoid eating them. “
Does Baking Soda Go Bad?
Although baking soda doesn’t necessarily expire, there are a couple of caveats worth mentioning.
One area for concern is the fact that baking soda is a hygroscopic substance, and, as such, it absorbs moisture from the air. This is especially problematic in humid environments. Humidity can cause your baking soda to clump and mold, which can be harmful if consumed.
Even so, I’ve lived in many humid climates and have never seen moldy baking soda.
Ideally, you should store your baking soda between 30 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You should also keep it away from high-risk areas, such as your sink, dishwasher, coffee pot, or stove, where rising steam can increase the risk of moisture and subsequently contribute to molding.
Odors and Tastes
Baking soda is frequently used as a deodorizer and commonly used in refrigerators to absorb foul smells. For this reason, I don’t recommend storing baking soda you intend to cook with in the refrigerator.
Aside from the fact that there’s no need for it, your baking soda can take on the smells of the food in your fridge, and you could actually end up sabotaging your supply.
Baking soda has odor-grabbing molecules that can alter the flavor of your food. Whatever molecules the baking soda grabs from your fridge could permeate your food, leaving you with a less desirable result.
It’s best to store your baking soda in a cool, dry location in an air-tight container.
If you have a separate box of baking soda that you use for deodorizing, it’s a good idea to clearly mark your boxes to avoid any confusion.
How to Tell If Your Baking Soda Is Still Good
If you still need a little reassurance that your baking soda is good, you can always test its potency by mixing it with a little vinegar. Some people give you a premeasured amount of one teaspoon of baking soda to one tablespoon of vinegar, but any amount of both will usually react.
If it fizzes, it’s still good!
Will Old Baking Soda Make You Sick?
Even if your baking soda doesn’t fizz, the worst-case scenario is that you end up with unrisen baked goods. If your baking soda fails to produce the expected leavening action, your cakes and pastries might not look pretty, but they’re still safe to eat.
Old or “expired” baking soda isn’t harmful to your health, but some people report it has an unpleasant, bitter taste.
If you’re still a little hesitant about using that old baking soda and aren’t quite comfortable using it in your food, it’s understandable. But don’t toss it out just yet!
What Can You Use Old Baking Soda For?
Even if you feel like your baking soda is unsuitable for human consumption, you can still use it for plenty of other things.
From cleaning bathrooms and kitchens to scrubbing pots and pans, baking soda is great to use as a mild abrasive. One of my favorite uses for baking soda is cleaning my stainless steel pots and pans. For really stubborn areas, add a little vinegar and watch the bubbles work their magic.
Baking soda works well for deodorizing your refrigerator, making DIY deodorants, or even giving your laundry a boost.
Baking soda does an excellent job of killing the very pests that threaten your food supply:
- Snails and slugs
- Mice and rats
- Bed bugs
Putting out fires
Dowse a small kitchen fire with baking soda and let it smother the flame.
Baking soda neutralizes acids. Use it to clean battery acid from your driveway or oil and grease from your clothes or carpet.
Baking soda is useful for a wide spectrum of ailments, including acid reflux. It can also be used as an antifungal, antibacterial, or even as a treatment for bug bites and sunburns.
Marinade your meat in baking soda for three to five hours, rinse, and cook to keep your survival meats tender.
What If My Baking Soda Doesn’t Fizz?
If, for some reason, your baking soda has indeed lost its potency and doesn’t fizz, here are some other things you should have on hand that you can use instead:
Baking powder: Although not as strong as baking soda, three teaspoons of baking powder for every one teaspoon of baking soda ought to do the trick.
Bakers ammonia: Similar to sodium bicarbonate, ammonium bicarbonate is a great alternative.
Self-rising flour: One cup (200 grams) of self-rising flour contains 1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder.
As will all things prepping, proper storage is paramount to long-lasting food preservation. By using air-tight containers and staying away from moisture, your baking soda can last a lifetime.